Fireside Chat with Goettsch Partners’ Scott Seyer

Last week, BuiltWorlds’ journalist, Jim Lichtenwalter, sat down with Scott Seyer, a principal and senior project designer at Goettsch Partners. Their conversation covered topics ranging from the development of Chicago’s skyline to first jobs and iPhone apps. Read their full discussion below:


Tell me about Goettsch Partners.

Goettsch Partners is an architectural firm that focuses on the design of commercial high-rises–office, hotel, residential and mixed-use buildings–in major cities around the globe.

We design bold solutions to complex challenges–buildings that emphasize design and technical sophistication while meeting a developer’s desire for optimal function and efficiency.

You’re obviously speaking to our beliefs. At a high level, what do you plan on talking about at Buildings 2.0?

My presentation will focus on commercial office towers and how they’ve advanced in many ways in the last decade or so. Our buildings from 10 to 15 years ago are not the same as the ones that we’re designing today. There are many similarities that exist and the overall objectives are still relevant. However, there’s a fundamental change in terms of what tenants are looking for, with an emphasis on communal and outdoor spaces. Building technologies and systems have advanced, and they have allowed us to look at some of these same design challenges with a new perspective.

What do you think the future holds for the construction of buildings? I know it’s a field in which a lot is changing very quickly.

Some things are changing and some things remain the same. I think building technologies and design will continue to address the need to be very responsive to the environment. There have already been tremendous advances in materials such as glass coatings. With respect to aesthetics, we’re seeing a lot more wood and even exposed concrete, both in office tenant areas as well as in the ceiling construction. Buildings are evolving in interesting ways that enhance performance, and this evolution is fostering a new design approach.

The skyline here in Chicago has especially changed a lot since the ‘80s. What’s been driving that?

There is an emphasis on energy use that is very different today, and a lot of the change is coming from the tenant market. Every tenant wants as much vision opportunity as possible, and that translates to more glass. However, buildings need to improve their performance as we move forward as well. And so we’re relying on our primary external envelope material, which is glass, to be the driver in how these buildings can become more efficient while still maximizing tenant views. That means more daylight, which, unfortunately, can also result in an increased solar heat gain. We continue to work on developing a building envelope that offers maximum views as well as increased mechanical performance. That combination is a primary difference from a lot of the buildings in the ‘80s, which tended to have more solidity with a “punched opening” aesthetic.

Alright, now moving on to some more fun questions. What was the first job you ever held?

The first job I ever had was being a tennis instructor. I’m an avid tennis enthusiast. However, I started working as an architectural intern while I was in high school, so I’ve been in the architectural studio environment for a very long time.

I worked at Chick-fil-A for five years and I had a lot of fun doing that too so I have a special affinity for my first job. Next up – Who is your favorite leader and why?

As opposed to naming someone specific, I think of this question in terms of what qualities I look for in a leader. Within the architectural industry, I think of someone who is passionate about the work and the process while being mentoring and collaborative in a project’s development.

What is your favorite moment from your entire career?

My first job out of college was at Murphy/Jahn, now JAHN Architects. That first job set the tone for my future development. I was thrilled to get the opportunity, and I enjoyed my time there. A lot of my past and future development can be attributed to things that I learned at that first office.

What app do you use most on your phone and no, you can’t say your email.

I love the app Genius Scan. It allows me to take pictures and combine them easily on my phone into a PDF that I can edit. I rarely have a need to do a flat scan anymore. If there is a document that I want to work with on my iPad, I just take a picture of it. It becomes second nature to have everything digitally.

And to wrap up, one more question in the same vein, what was the last app that you used on your phone?

It was Google Earth. That’s another one of my favorite apps. I can use it to discuss project sites and explain the surrounding context. I even use it to explore sites early on myself, when I’m not able to visit immediately. The app is incredibly powerful in providing perspective–anywhere in the world.


Seyer will deliver a keynote address at BuiltWorlds’ Buildings 2.0 Conference later this month. To hear his remarks, be sure to lock down your tickets to the event here.

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