Architect Patricia Saldaña Natke is a founding partner and president of UrbanWorks, Ltd., an architecture firm dedicated to producing socially and environmentally responsible designs.
Since its founding in 1993, the firm has grown to serve the civic, community-based, private and commercial sectors. It offers a variety of design-related services, such as feasibility studies, master planning, LEED certification services, streetscape design, historic restoration and building design. UrbanWorks was part of a team that worked on Chicago’s bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games and has collaborated with other firms on a variety of planning projects, like the creation of a McCormick Place Master Plan. Building projects have included the La Casa dormitory building in Pilsen that provides affordable housing for local college students and Galewood Elementary School on Chicago’s West Side.
Patricia is a past president of Chicago Women in Architecture and a member of several Hispanic professional groups, including Arquitectos Chicago and the Hispanic American Construction Industry Association. She has also chaired the National Diversity Committee for the American Institute of Architects. Patricia graduated from the University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign and has served as a professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology and the University of Illinois Chicago.
This story originally ran in the Winter/Spring 2012 CAF Member Magazine.
Name your favorite Chicago building.
The new modern wing of the Art Institute of Chicago. Cities are always challenged with modernization and expansion. The refined addition against the backdrop of the historic original structure achieves a perfect balance.
What types of skills have helped you in the profession?
The profession of architecture requires tenacity, perseverance, curiosity and optimism. The building of buildings is a complex task with many individuals involved—from bankers working on the funding to the contractors working on the building. An architect must have the perseverance to weather the changes and the willingness to collaborate.
If you were not an architect, what would you be?
I have wanted to be an architect since the age of nine. It is very difficult to imagine being in any other profession. I suppose if I could not build buildings, I would revert to being an artist, creating objects such as jewelry or other tactile products.
What is Chicago’s biggest built environment challenge?
The air pollutants in our neighborhoods. Revitalizing polluted neighborhoods and the river is essential for Chicago’s ecological health and stability. Our older industrial parts of the city lie in residential areas ill equipped to address the toxic air pollutants in the air we breathe.
What is the one project type you have not worked on yet, but would like to design?
A civic center. Although I have worked on various public projects which have civic components, the idea of a city’s active vibrant civic center is the pinnacle of building types because these are places which enhance the interchange of peoples from varying socio-economic levels. These are buildings to serve the common good and the common man.