Chyanne Husar, AIA, set a goal for herself in college: “I want to have an international firm by the time I’m 30.” She was 31 when she attempted to establish a branch of her firm, HUS Architecture, in China. Now, however, she focuses her firm’s efforts on Chicago and serves as the 2018 chair of AIA’s Small Firm Exchange (SFx), all while working on building stronger communities inside the office and within the city she calls home.
As a small firm, it can’t be just about you; it’s all about the little community you’re creating. It’s become a cliché to say that—everyone wants community—but it is really important. Adding one person to such a tight-knit group completely changes the dynamic, and we want to be sensitive and do our best to avoid gossip, balance team dynamics, and find ways to be inclusive by running our firm transparently. I’ve been able to use a small firm to follow my passions, but we need the passions of others as well. My firm is named HUS Architecture, pronounced “whose.” It was originally just a play on my last name but has grown to mean “Whose is it, and how can you make it your own?”
A new employee recently asked, “So how many days off do I get?” and I realized we had yet to develop an official policy. That’s where the Small Firm Exchange is so valuable. As architects we’re trained to interpret client needs and translate that into built space, but as a small firm we need to deal with internal operational questions that are difficult to handle. It helps to know how similar firms tackle similar issues, and the answers aren’t readily available on Google. Within the SFx, we aim to collect and curate the information that matters to architects like us. We’re currently developing a sample business plan, figuring out how to grow future firm leaders, and using our collective power to advocate better healthcare solutions for small firms. Many of us try to use our own struggles and solutions to help others navigate the process more easily.
My experience with the SFx has helped me contribute to my clients’ missions as well. HUS Architecture owes our start to subcontracts through the Chicago Housing Authority and Chicago’s Public Building Commission. We’ve been able to grow our sustainability and affordable-housing expertise by serving as the glue that helps bigger firms provide consistent service. As we grow, we in turn will be helping the next generation of firms and leaders find a foothold in the industry; the SFx has given us the tools to do this effectively. By supporting each other—through guidance, mentorship, and fellowship—we all do better. Our practices do better, our psyches are better, and, hopefully, our communities ultimately benefit as well. —As told to Steve Cimino