Chris Strong

Firm name: Paul Preissner Architects
Location: Chicago
Year founded: 2007
Firm leadership: Paul Preissner, AIA
Education: B.Arch., University of Illinois; M.Arch., Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation
Experience: Philip Johnson Alan Ritchie Architects, Eisenman Architects, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Wood+Zapata (now dissolved)
Firm size: One to four people

Tom Harris Part of the 2016 Chicago Architecture Biennial, the powder blue Summer Vault is a freestanding geometric kiosk in Millennium Park featuring a 12-foot-diameter barrel vault, which Preissner designed in collaboration with Denver-based Independent Architecture. It has since been relocated to Rainbow Park Beach in Chicago.
courtesy Paul Preissner Architects

I believe the primary purpose of architecture is to make the ordinary seem strange. It's the architect's job to help someone reflect on their space and what it means. As such, I think my work and that of my office is to try and make projects that seem knowable but also feel a bit out of place in their environments and encourage some kind of mediation about why things are the way they are in the world as we’ve made it.

First commission:
I designed a shop interior for a triathlon sporting goods store in New York City on 57th Street.

courtesy Paul Preissner Architects Preissner completely restored both the interior and exterior of a four-unit brick apartment building in the McKinley Park neighborhood of Chicago from 1894, which now features whimsical exterior lights and a horizontal gradient of black paint.
courtesy Paul Preissner Architects

Favorite project:
The house I’m working on now with my wife for our home in Oak Park. It’s a renovation of a pretty nice but pretty messed up English Tudor house from 1934 that seems to more or less never have been updated since it was built, other than lot of paint. So, we have had to replace even the sanitary waste lines, which is a bit gross, but other than money, it’s going well. We just want to make it nice and a bit weird, since we expect to live in it for a very long time.

Second favorite project:
I don’t know. I really like and dislike all of them equally. I see all the things I didn’t do right in everything that I’ve done.

I always have trouble with my portfolio, and I always just want to start working on another project right after concluding the previous one.

courtesy Paul Preissner Architects A proposal for a floating passenger ferry terminal on the Han River in South Korea.

Origin of firm name:
My parents came up with my name, and while I used to think it was fun to have some band-name-type name for an office, now I think it just makes the most sense to stand behind one’s work with your own name.

Architecture hero:
Lina Bo Bardi. I've still never figured out her work and wish that I could.

Modern-day architecture hero:
Kazuyo Sejima. I think she’s the first contemporary architect through whom I saw that architecture could be weird and important and weak and profound and personal and significant without being heroic.

courtesy Paul Preissner Architects Also designed with Independent Architecture, this temporary, galvalume-coated, prefabricated steel structure served as an event stage for the 2013 Biennial of the Americas event in Denver; it received a 2014 AIA Chicago Small Project Honor Award.
Two Barns, by Paul Preissner Architects with Indie Architecture.
Paul Preissner Two Barns, by Paul Preissner Architects with Indie Architecture.

Design tools of choice:
A cheap pen, an unremarkable yellow legal pad, my laptop computer, and dumb things.

Memorable learning experience:
When I decided to quit working for Peter Eisenman, FAIA, I gave him six weeks notice because I really liked the office and its work, for all its flaws. On my last day, Peter yelled at me for leaving because he had thought things “had changed.” The office manager had curiously thrown a rare party the night before and left beer bottles around the office, which Peter interpreted as me having a going-away party. I had to listen to him yell at me for 20 minutes before I just decided to take leave of the situation. The elevator was right across from his desk, but I was forced to wait for what felt like a very long time to take exit from an angry man staring at me.

I think I learned that there are a lot of bad people who despite their work (or because of it) feel like they own the lives of those who care enough about their craft to offer their labor.

courtesy Paul Preissner Architects Preissner’s submission for an art complex in Seoul’s Pyeongchang-Dong district includes multiple cubic structures for studio, exhibition, recreational, and social spaces across an 53,820-square-foot campus.

When I’m not working in architecture:
I am probably taking care of our two kids or swimming with them, or cooking for everyone, or watching Adult Swim with my wife before I fall asleep.

Skills to master:
Speaking Spanish.

Morning person or night owl?
Afternoon bear

courtesy Paul Preissner Architects This irregular Tinley Park, Ill., multi-use complex is comprised of three courtyard buildings that include retail and residential space with varying layouts to create what Preissner calls “a much less monolithic chunk on the Earth.”
courtesy Paul Preissner Architects

Social media platform of choice:
I like Tumblr and Instagram because they are just pictures.

courtesy Paul Preissner Architects Preissner’s cantilevered structure featuring an elevated courtyard and geometric exterior pattern is a proposal for the Busan Opera House in South Korea.

I probably buy and subscribe to too many magazines.