Jon Pickard brings exhibit and lecture to Iowa State

Jon Pickard, an ISU alumnus, discusses the work Pickard Chilton has done. He discussed how the relationships the firm builds with people and translate into how they form the buildings.

Victoria Emery

Pickard Chilton is an award-winning architecture firm that was started by two ISU alumni, Jon Pickard and William “Bill” Chilton. Until April 7, 2013, people may visit an exhibition of their work in Gallery 181 in the design building.

“Iowa State Played a huge role in foundation of our firm,” Pickard said.

Pickard and Chilton graduated in the class of 1976 with a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture.

Pickard continued to get his Master of Architecture from the Yale University School of Architecture. Before Pickard Chilton, he collaborated with Cesar Pelli, who was dean of the Yale University School of Architecture from 1977 to 1984.

Working with Pelli, Pickard worked on big projects like the World Financial Aid Center in New York and two of the tallest buildings in the world, the Petronas Towers in Malaysia.

On Wednesday, March 13, 2013, Pickard gave a lecture, entitled “Designing Relationships.” The lecture covered not only his work, but his back-story and inspirations as well.

“There are roots that run deep that, when properly tended, grow,” Pickard said.

Pickard was raised in Des Moines, Iowa. His father was an engineer, so he and his father would spend time together building anything from sailboats to more simple projects.

For years he thought he would be an engineer like his father. After some dabbling in the subject, he realized engineering was too black and white for him. That was when he had the idea to be an architect.

During his time at Iowa State, he spent a lot of time making parade floats. Pickard said it didn’t appear to be a valuable way to spend time as an architecture major, but it turned out running a float project is much like running a firm.

The projects require fundraising, motivating people to want to spend hours of time on the project and collaboration and communication to make the project come together.

His time at Iowa State also created chances to create relationships that would prove invaluable in the future.

“Relationships you make now will end up being profoundly important through your career,” Pickard said at the lecture.

Pickard met Pelli during his time at Yale. When Pelli first started his firm, Pickard was one of his first employees. The first mission was to build the firm with projects done for clients that knew them and trusted their skills.

Pelli’s firm ended up working on several big name projects. One of the last projects Pickard did with Pelli was the Petronas Towers.

When Pickard Chilton was established, the first goal was again to build the firm by doing projects for clients who trusted them. By creating relationships of trust with clients along with other firms, Pickard Chilton grew in popularity.

“Partnership and collaboration are the key to our success,” Pickard said.

Pickard stressed the importance of being able to communicate and work well with others, including professionals from other firms.

“Every one of you is talented, but we all have weaknesses,” Pickard said. “If you think you can do it all, you’re a fool.”

Some of Pickard Chilton’s most outstanding work is in the exhibit in Gallery 181. This includes the Kingdom Tower designed for Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the Petronas Towers, and Wells Fargo in Des Moines, Iowa.

Another one that is featured is the Seattle Tower for 2030. It was designed to be made faster, sustainably and more cost efficient. It is made with plant life being used to provide certain functions, like cleaning water. The ultimate goal for a project like this would be to create a building that is completely self-sufficient.

Pickard’s goal is not just to make a building for the sake of a building, but for the design to improve the lives of those who use it.

“I want people to engage in our buildings,” Pickard said.

Pickard said he wants all of his projects to make people happier, healthier and more productive than that of a regular office building.

The lecture was filled with architecture students and professors alike with 124 people total attending. One of those in attendance was Greg Uhrich, graduate student in architecture.

“It’s cool to see previous alumni come and we can see what they’ve done,” Uhrich said.

Uhrich said he appreciated how much of the lecture that was about the relationships built with people through the years and the importance of them. Uhrich said collaboration is important, and it’s also important not to be close-minded to others’ ideas. He also liked the way Pickard looked at his projects.

“Their projects consider the impression they want to leave on their client and the city,” Uhrich said.

Pickard said he appreciates Iowa State’s incredible program and all the opportunities created because of it.

“You should be grateful to come to Iowa State,” Pickard said.