Architecture News

Michael Pecirno

Architecture Grad Now in London

Architect and former College of DuPage student Michael Pecirno is fascinated by the complexity that goes into planning, designing and building.

“When people think of architecture as a profession, their first inclination is either big skyscrapers or small homes, which are quite opposites,” he said. “Yet my interest in architecture was always more related to the complexity of urban systems – how each piece of architecture built contributes to a greater system in which we live.”

The former Bloomingdale resident and COD graduate is now working on those urban systems in London at Foster + Partners, one of the largest and most prestigious architectural firms in the world. He also was recently selected to participate in the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial, North America’s largest international survey of contemporary architecture that will launch in October 2015.

In his new position at Foster + Partners as a design strategist, Pecirno combines skills in architecture, urban design and economics.

“My work involves designing for both small systems, such as the layout of an office building, and greater environments, such as exploring urban trends, markets and future ambitions,” he said.

It’s the culmination of a decade of schooling and work. However, when he graduated from high school, Pecirno wasn’t ready to commit to tuition and time at a four-year school when he wasn’t sure of what career to pursue.

He already was familiar with College of DuPage. As a youngster, he enjoyed several summer courses through the Youth Education program.

“It seemed natural to return, given the value and prior good experience,” he said. “COD afforded me an excellent opportunity to explore architecture and other disciplines within a flexible and supportive environment. What I found was that COD had a well-organized Architecture program with incredibly passionate professors.”

After finishing his associate’s degree in Pre-Architecture, Pecirno transferred to the University of Illinois at Chicago and earned his Bachelor of Science in Architecture. He then worked for several firms in both the U.S. and Canada before heading across the Atlantic to London, where he received a scholarship to the Royal College of Art to earn his Masters of Arts degree.

“After completing my two-year master’s degree, I really just wanted to work for a bit,” he said. “Two years without working doesn’t seem like much, but architecture is a fast moving and rapidly evolving discourse.”

In addition to his job, Pecirno is excited about being selected to participate in the Chicago Architecture Biennial. Although he cannot discuss the details of his involvement at this time, he is looking forward to working with the more than 100 architects, artists and designers who were selected for this event.  

Pecirno eventually would like to run his own practice that focuses on urban strategy. But right now he’s looking forward to the experience he will gain with Foster + Partners.

And he’s grateful for getting his start in architecture at College of DuPage.

“COD and its Architecture program are an incredible resource for exploring different careers and paths of study,” he said. “In particular, the Architecture program is staffed by wonderful teachers. New students shouldn’t be afraid to explore different courses to find out what they really enjoy doing.

“And my advice to new students is to not be intimidated by perceived discipline boundaries. While architecture can be explored entirely through architecture courses, what makes it really interesting is when other fields and areas of interest and disciplines inspire and drive the evolution of buildings and spaces.”

For more about Michael Pecirno, check out his web site at -- Summer 2015


Andres Pinto


Andres Pinto Named ALA Outstanding Student

College of DuPage student Andres Pinto (far right) recently received a Student Merit Award from the Association of Licensed Architects (ALA) from Architecture professors Mark Pearson (left) and Jane Ostergaard. Pinto, of Wheaton, is the second COD to receive this honor. Pinto earned his Pre-Architecture Associate in Applied Science degree in 2015. He hopes to attend the University of Illinois and is active in the Army Reserves. -- Summer 2015


ArchDaily Features COD Project as One of Best Student Works Worldwide

ArchDaily recently asked readers for the best examples of student work worldwide, and College of DuPage's summer pavilion was selected and featured. Click here to see the story. -- Summer 2015



Architecture Alum Works on Naper Renovation

Khushboo Shah, who earned an associate’s degree in Pre-Architecture from College of DuPage, recently returned to her alma mater as a professional architect, working on plans for the recent renovation of the College’s Naperville Center.

As a student, Shah lived in Naperville and took a French language course at the Center as well as several placement tests. This experience served her well while working on renovations to the 20,460 square-foot Naperville Center, which includes a new classroom that will be used as a science lab, as well as new student lounge areas, a multi-purpose conference room and a faculty workroom. In addition, all classrooms have been updated to reflect a state-of-the-art learning environment.

“Having been to the center before, I was able to express to the design team the unfriendly, cold feeling of the building from the perspective of a student,” said the current Bolingbrook resident. “The interior and exterior spaces were dated and unwelcoming. The 1990s classrooms did not function well for current technology, particularly laptops. In addition, the layout of the building was hard for part-time students and visitors to navigate since classrooms were isolated from student areas.

“The reconfigured design of the interior, along with the vibrant colors used in the facility, really brightens up the experience inside and out.”

Shah’s interest in architecture comes from her father, who is in the construction materials business. He saw the dedication and creativity an architect brings to any project and pushed her to pursue it as a career. When her family moved from India to the U.S., she started at College of DuPage based upon her uncle’s advice.

“It was one of the best recommendations I could have taken. Attending COD helped me to adjust to this country since I was able to take courses and live at home,” she said. “Initially, the Architecture program asked for a lot of patience, but the faculty brought the students some fun and challenging projects. Their one-on-one attention with each student and excitement for every project are really what motivated me to continue.”

In addition to living at home and being a full-time student, Shah worked part-time and was able to use those savings when she was accepted into the prestigious Versailles program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She spent her junior year in France and then returned to UIUC, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Architectural Studies and a master’s degree in Architecture.

After graduating in May 2013, she traveled to China for five weeks to participate in the Solar Decathlon China 2013 competition, which was started by the U.S. and Chinese governments to promote sustainable economic and social development while encouraging the use of renewable energy sources. In 2014, she began working at Bailey Edward, which was established in 1991 as a woman-owned firm.

“Since I started there, I have put my education to work on projects for the General Services Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Northwestern University, Argonne National Laboratory, South Dakota State University and the department of Veterans Affairs, in addition to working on this amazing project to renovate the Naperville Center for College of DuPage,” she said.

The Naperville Center renovation also included taking the space for the Cosmetology program, which was relocated to the College’s Addison Center, and converting it to offices, while former offices were converted to classroom space. The front entrance was redesigned into a more defined, welcoming area; the exterior was upgraded to tie into the look of the main campus in Glen Ellyn, with new energy-efficient glazing; and a new HVAC system with digital controls was installed on the roof and the distributed ventilation elements upgraded, which allowed for maximum reuse of existing ductwork and provided for lower energy consumption.

“Bailey Edward gave me the opportunity to work on the project during every phase,” she said. “The majority of my time was spent developing the project through the design development and construction documentation phase and producing the design in AutoCAD,” she said. “I related to the project not only as an alumnus of COD, but also because the fast pace and small team – which focused on creating a beautiful and functional design – was similar to the studio culture in the Architecture program.”

Shah considers College of DuPage one of the best cost-saving schools in Illinois with educational standards that parallel any prestigious university.

“The Architecture program is constantly updated to match what students might need to meet the real-world challenges,” she said. “The school provides an all-around curriculum that includes, but is not limited to, architecture history courses, computer drawing and presentation program courses, introductory structural courses, and more that prepare students to design a project. For example, I was first introduced to AutoCAD in one of my courses at COD and I use it daily for my work at Bailey Edward.

“My education at COD made the transition to the real world smoother.” -- Spring 2015

Paul W. Davidson III Memorial Scholarship

The Paul W. Davidson III Memorial Scholarship Fund has been established in the School of Architecture, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The scholarship fund was created by his family, classmates and colleagues to honor Paul’s memory and life. He started his academic career at College of DuPage before transferring to UIUC.

The fund will allow the School of Architecture to award a scholarship to promising architecture students who have financial need. Click here for more information about Paul and the scholarship fund.

Gathering Pavilion


Architecture Students Design, Build Pavilion

College of DuPage Architecture students have added their touch to the renovated campus by providing an outdoor gathering pavilion.

As part of the summer Architecture 2840 Design Build class, 16 students enrolled in the course designed, built and installed the temporary pavilion just south of the Technical Education Center. The wooden structure consists of five bays that form a unique and inviting space on the west side of campus. Click here for photos and click here for a video.

The project was funded by a $15,000 grant through the College Foundation’s Resource for Excellence program.

“I wanted to see what would happen in a design studio class when students needed to build what they designed,” said Mark Pearson, Associate Professor of Architecture, who chronicled the project on his blog. “It’s a valuable educational tool to simulate a real-world activity with a real-life project that includes a site and a budget.”

Pearson said one challenge was to include all of the students in the final design rather than selecting just one student’s submission. He broke the students into teams, which created 12 different schemes. From there, the class looked at similarities and designed five schemes in greater detail. Finally, all of the students debated the pros and cons and selected one design.

“I tried to get the students to think about the poetics of design and the details of construction and how both reinforce each other,” Pearson said.

Student Francois El-Bittar of Oakbrook Terrace said it was crucial to create something that perfectly fit into the selected site.

“It was important to create something that would be entertaining and eye-catching,” he said. “We wanted to frame the views, especially the lake and the fountain.”

Once the design was finalized, the students conducted a presentation for DuPage County officials. Even though a building permit wasn’t needed, Pearson felt the presentation added to the classroom experience.

The students then constructed the pavilion in the TEC. Click here to watch a time lapse of the construction. After College of DuPage President Dr. Robert L. Breuder gave his approval, the students installed the pavilion.

“Normally, architecture students are most heavily involved in the design aspects of a project,” Pearson said. “Here we added that layer of construction, which added to the depth of the course.”

Although the gathering pavilion is expected to stay in place through the fall months, the strong positive response may extend this into next spring, Pearson said.

El-Bittar, who is transferring to IIT to study architecture, said the class was both fun and interactive. Student Kevin Smith of Winfield, who plans to transfer to the University of Illinois, said the course was an invaluable learning tool.

“It really helped me grow as a designer,” he said. “It was one of the best experiences I’ve had at College of DuPage.” -- Summer 2014

Architecture award

First COD Student to Receive ALA Recognition

Julia Suriano is the first College of DuPage student to receive a Student Merit Award from the Association of Licensed Architects (ALA).

Suriano earned her Pre-Architecture Associate in Applied Science degree in 2014. She was accepted at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and received a presidential scholarship from the Illinois Institute of Technology, where she will attend in the fall.

Suriano (above, third from left) receives her ALA plaque from COD architecture faculty Ted Kulinski, Jane Ostergaard and Mark Pearson. -- Summer 2014

Four COD Students Accepted at UIUC

Four Architecture students from College of DuPage have been accepted at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: Julia Suriano, Ignazio Calabria, Kevin Zeng and Adam Souhrada.

"The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is one of the top architecture schools in the country, so having four of our students gain acceptance is a reflection upon the skills they developed in our program," said Jane Ostergaard, Professor of Architecture and program coordinator. "We wish them the best of luck and look forward to hearing about their future successes." -- Spring 2014

Construction Management Program Receives ACCE Accreditation

The Construction Management program at College of DuPage has received accreditation from the American Council for Construction Education.

The program is the 12th associate’s program in the country and the second in Illinois to receive this designation, said Jane Ostergaard, COD Professor and Program Coordinator.

“This is a reflection on our degree of professionalism,” she said. “The extensive review process consisted of detailed reporting and four-day site visit that included interviews with students and faculty.”

The Construction Management associate’s degree prepares students to work in construction management firms or as office personnel for construction companies. Students can also transfer into a baccalaureate program. Last fall, COD and Purdue announced a 2+2 articulation agreement for COD students to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Construction Management and Engineering Technologies from Purdue’s Calumet Campus. COD also has a long-standing transfer agreement with Illinois State University.

Ostergaard said the five-year accreditation should facilitate transfer opportunities into accredited baccalaureate programs that include Purdue, ISU, Bradley, Indiana and Ball State.

“We’re really excited to have this accreditation,” Ostergaard said. “Construction management is a field that is relatively new within the academic environment, so it’s important on an associate’s degree level to distinguish a construction management program from a construction trade program. We’ve established a strong Construction Management program and the accreditation validates our efforts.” -- Spring 2013

COD Students Selected for Prestigious U of I 'Versailles' Program

Each year, the University of Illinois Architecture Program selects approximately 40 students to travel to Versailles, France, to study architecture for a full academic year before returning to the Champaign campus to finish their degrees. This year, five students chosen for this prestigious program are from College of DuPage.

Students Jairo Ortega, 21, of Plainfield; Phil Svetich, 20, of Downers Grove; Khushboo Shah, 20, Naperville; and Jeff Nemcher, 39, of Aurora, are recent graduates of the College of DuPage Architecture transfer program. Fellow traveler, James Lenahan, Glen Ellyn, attended COD for one year before transferring to University of Illinois as a sophomore.

Watch a video of students discussing this opportunity.

"Architects have a centuries' long tradition of traveling the world to study architecture," said David M. Chasco, director of the University of Illinois Architecture program. "The students who participate in our Versailles program are a select group of intellectually accomplished individuals. This is a rigorous program for those who want to challenge themselves intellectually in a foreign environment – it's an experience that students will take with them throughout their educational and professional careers."

The University of Illinois Versailles Program is the second-oldest study abroad experience in the country and is one of the few international programs that lasts for a full nine months.

"Our students mature tremendously over the course of this program," Chasco said. "They complete the same courses as junior-year Architecture students in Champaign; however, they are also thrust into the French culture and have the opportunity to experience other cultures in the Middle East, Northern Africa and Europe during travel breaks interspersed throughout the curriculum."

College of DuPage students Nemcher, Ortega, Svetich and Shah said they are "more than ready" to begin their travels due to the skills they acquired at COD  "I would definitely recommend College of DuPage to students who are considering studying architecture," Ortega said. "We designed a small multi-purpose building in Chicago during our second year, which is something that doesn't usually happen in other programs until much later."

Nemcher said the COD Architecture transfer program fully prepares students for junior standing at a four-year institution. "Anyone who completes the COD program is not going to have to take extra classes once they get to a four-year school," Nemcher said. "The curriculum here has really prepared us to go to Versailles and study on the same level as the students who have been at U of I for two years already."

Founded in 1867, the U of I School of Architecture has been regarded as one of the nation's leading institutions in architectural education. According to coordinator Jane Ostergaard, full-time Architecture professor Mark Pearson is a graduate of the Versailles program, as are half a dozen of the College's adjunct faculty.

"This is yet another example of the superior value we offer at College of DuPage," said Jane Ostergaard, who noted that the program will host an informational meeting about the Versailles program in October for others who may be interested. "These students have been able to seamlessly articulate into one of the country's finest architectural programs. We are a desirable but affordable alternative for the first two years of a student's education." -- Spring 2012

DuPage Habitat for Humanity, ComEd and College of DuPage Partner to Help Consumers Go Green, Save Green

DuPage Habitat for Humanity, ComEd, and College of DuPage announced a green partnership in the development of a $3 million Habitat for Humanity residential subdivision in DuPage County. The new homes, built in the Pioneer Prairie neighborhood of suburban West Chicago, will allow 11 limited-income families to purchase attainable, sustainable homes.

Watch a video about the project.

ComEd is playing a central role in providing energy efficiency expertise for construction of the homes of Pioneer Prairie and the working families who will occupy them. Through an innovative new class called Sustainable Design Initiative taught at College of DuPage, architecture and construction management students worked alongside industry professionals and technical experts, like the ComEd Energy Doctor, to evaluate green building strategies for the 11 Habitat homes; and for DuPage Habitat for Humanity in the long-term.

"ComEd is committed to helping all our customers become smart energy consumers, especially in the current economic climate. That's why we're suggesting simple steps our customers can take to shrink their carbon footprints – and their energy costs," said Anne Pramaggiore, executive vice president of Customer Operations, Regulatory, and External Affairs, ComEd. "This creative collaboration allows ComEd to expand our energy efficiency education efforts by providing technical expertise to DuPage Habitat for Humanity and the students of Sustainable Design Initiative."

At the semester's conclusion, the students of Sustainable Design Initiative presented a plan to DuPage Habitat for Humanity detailing money-saving green solutions available to all homeowners and home developers. The plan offered a complete cost-benefit analysis of energy efficiency recommendations for home construction, recycling, and landscaping.

Later in 2009, DuPage Habitat for Humanity, ComEd, and College of DuPage plan to publicize the students' findings through a series of free community events designed to inform area residents of low- and no-cost options for managing energy costs and reducing energy usage.

"This has been a great opportunity for our students to see the real-world applications of sustainable design principles," said Jane Ostergaard, Architecture Coordinator, College of DuPage. "Working with Habitat has pushed the students to look carefully at the cost benefits and consequences of the recommendations they are preparing."

In June, DuPage Habitat for Humanity broke ground on Pioneer Prairie, a three-acre residential subdivision of 11 detached, single-family homes. The neighborhood is located at the intersection of Sherman and Pomeroy streets in West Chicago. In addition to the new homes, the development will provide many benefits to local residents and the surrounding community, including new infrastructure, increased home values, and enhanced aesthetic appeal thanks to new sidewalks, parkway trees, streetscapes, and an expanded, revitalized Pioneer Park.

"DuPage Habitat offers families a hand up, not a hand out. Habitat's model for community-centered development of affordable homes offers community benefits, infrastructure improvements and now energy efficiency solutions through partnerships with local families, donors and volunteers that increase the supply of much-needed, sustainable, attainable homes in DuPage County," said Sarah Brachle, executive director of DuPage Habitat for Humanity.

In August, several of the COD architecture students spent a day working on the homes at the Pioneer Prairie job site.

Watch a video of the students working on the homes.

View photos of the students working on the homes.

DuPage Habitat for Humanity builds and sells homes to qualified hard-working, limited-income families. Families must earn sufficient income to pay their 30-year mortgages to DuPage Habitat. In addition, homeowners complete 250 "sweat equity" hours building their own home and their neighbors' homes, and participating in finance, budgeting, and home repair classes. All Habitat homeowners pay local property taxes and utilities.

DuPage Habitat for Humanity has raised $2.5 million in philanthropic, government, and community support for the 11 Pioneer Prairie homes and five scattered-site rehabbed homes. The donors are not only funding the development of 11 new energy-efficient homes, they are creating a 30-year annuity that continues to help fund affordable home construction in DuPage County for years to come. Donors include: ComEd, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, Ambitech Engineering, Matrex Exhibits, Tyndale House Publishers, Air-Rite Heating and Cooling, Goldman Sachs, Painters and Allied Trades Union, Mark Fessler, Seyfarth Shaw LLP, and Showalter Roofing.

Supporting the development of Pioneer Prairie contributes to Exelon 2020, the comprehensive corporate strategy of ComEd's parent company, Exelon, to reduce, offset, or displace more than 15 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year by 2020.

Green Tip Sheet

For the latest news on DuPage Habitat for Humanity and the Pioneer Prairie project


Contact Information

Jane Ostergaard, Coordinator
Technical Education Center (TEC), Room 1048, (630) 942-2331

David Earl, Program Advisor  
Technical Education Center (TEC), Room 1047, (630) 942-2538

Peter Deeman, Program Advisor    
Technical Education Center (TEC), Room 1047, (630) 942-2548

Kim Groesbeck, Program Support Specialist
Technical Education Center (TEC), Room 1054, (630) 942-2599

Business and Technology Division
Technical Education Center (TEC), Room 1034, (630) 942-2592