We are SCB

Mandhir Chopra

Associate | San Francisco

How long have you been at SCB?

10 years in March 2023.

How did you end up at SCB?

In 2003, while working on my thesis for the graduate program at IIT Chicago, I met Jeff Zdenahlik to discuss SCB’s proposal for the infamous Chicago Block 37 project. After graduating, I joined a boutique design firm and then spent 7 years at VOA Associates (now Stantec).  In early 2013, almost 10 years after our first meeting, Jeff and Pete Noone at SCB Chicago called me in for an interview and the rest is history. It was truly a full circle moment, when a year later I was able to officially work on my thesis project, SCB’s Marquee building at Block 37.

What initially attracted you to study design or pursue a career in design?

Growing up in India, the ‘ideal’ profession from my family’s perspective was to become a doctor or an engineer.  I on the other hand, always aspired to become a pilot. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I didn’t have perfect vision, so I was aware early on that I needed to let go of that dream. Having a keen interest in arts & graphics, and after meeting a distance relative who was a successful architect, I realized that Architecture was a perfect amalgamation of art & engineering. I was intrigued by architects and designers with their eloquent style and their ability to see things from a creative point of view.

While pursuing my undergraduate degree at Sushant School of Art & Architecture (SSAA), our Dean Professor Rana, who was a fellow of Frank Llyod Wright, was a pivotal source of inspiration to me.  He instilled in his students the power of thinking creatively so as not to be limited by the norm. My time at SSAA & IIT Chicago showed me that Architecture is not only a creative profession, but one that can influence the built environ and way people live their lives for the better. Being an architect is rewarding in so many ways that I don’t think could be easily replicated in other professions and I am grateful to have followed my passion and found my way to Architecture/Design.

What do you enjoy most about your job?  What is the best thing about working at SCB?

As a Project Architect, I get to work on a project from concept to completion and I love seeing the transformation from a napkin sketch to a built form. Though at times a slow process, one gets to enhance the art of storytelling, problem solving (in a creative way) and project management skills apart from the daily design and construction processes. It is never static and is constantly evolving, and I am learning new things every day.

The best thing about working at SCB is that the ‘progressive creative culture’ that invites a great group of people to collaborate on innovative design solutions.  I find myself very fortunate to work with such talented designers, architects, consulting engineers who are committed to work towards a common goal of creative project vision.

What was/is your favorite/most rewarding project you have ever worked on and why?  What is the most important thing you have learned in your career?

Undoubtedly, it’s the Chicago Tribune Tower Adaptive Reuse project, one of Chicago’s most treasured historical landmarks. In 2018, Chicago Tribune vacated the building and SCB began to plan the conversion of the 34-story office tower and surrounding buildings to 162 luxury condominium units, while respecting its Chicago landmark status. Whether one is redesigning an existing building or creating a new one from scratch, there will always be challenges to overcome. In this case the challenge was to repurpose an existing office building and create a modern condominium development within the aesthetic of classic gothic style architecture. This project is both my favorite and most challenging, given the scale, complexity, and context. I was fortunate to be involved with this piece of history and have worked with a team of talented Architects, Designer, Engineers, Owner, and Contractor who had the one goal to deliver a remarkable project. Now that the project is complete, its rewarding to have played a vital role in the preservation of this jewel in the Chicago skyline, which will serve a purpose beyond my lifetime.