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Profile: Christopher O’Hara

Name: Christopher O’Hara
Job title and company: Founding principal and facade director, Studio NYL Structural Engineers | The SKINS Group 
Degree(s): BSCE, University of Notre Dame
Professional interests: Architecture, facades, lightweight structures, new materials

Chris is presenting A27 Pushing the Limits of Design Through the Integration of Architecture and Structure and A08 Skin and Bones: Breaking Structural Façade Design Down to its Essence at ABX.

What are you working on now? 

100-meter-long pedestrian bridge in Queretaro, Mexico; Colorado State University’s Lory Student Center; Denver Botanic Gardens Science Center; Jackson Hole Airport Facade; and Charleston International Airport Facade. 

How do you explain to your mom what you do for a living?

 I try to keep things from falling down.

What inspired you today? 

Building my children’s Hot Wheels Wall Track and the [addition to the] Kimbell [Art Museum] in Dallas by Renzo Piano.

What industry buzzword would you kill?

Value engineering. Very rarely does it have anything to do with engineering, and we never get the value advertised.

When you’re working, do you discuss or exchange ideas with your colleagues?

Constantly. Our whole office is based on it both internally and externally.

What are you reading?

Just architectural magazines. [I] have not had time for free reading in quite some time.

Do you sketch by hand or digitally?

Yes, both. I sketch on all mediums depending on what is available: paper, napkins, iPads, or computers.

Has your career taken you anywhere you didn’t expect?  

I would never imagine we are getting to play with the great projects we do and still live within 30 minutes of skiing. What could be better?

Where is the field of architecture headed? 

Better materials and systems… it is always evolving, and it is our job to not only keep up but [also] help our colleagues do so as well.

Can design save the world? 


What do you hope to contribute from your work? 

We strive to make everything better. We operate on many levels from our pro bono work designing net-zero homes on Pine Ridge to advanced polymers to save the embodied energy in our historic infrastructure.

Who or what deserves credit for your success? 

My mentor, Attila Rona, put me where I am today. He is a brilliant engineer who gave a young kid an opportunity to learn on some crazy projects.

Your least favorite college class? 

Calculus. If you are using calculus, you are doing it wrong.

If you could give the you-of-10-years-ago advice, what would it be? 

Have faith. We started our firm almost exactly 10 years ago, and in that time the firm has grown to be exactly what I wanted it to be but, more important, I met my wife and had two great kids. Most of the decisions of the last 10 years have been good ones.

Your favorite Boston-area structure? 

Institute of Contemporary Art by Diller Scofidio + Renfro—specifically, the Media Room.

Who would you like the BSA to interview next? 

Julian Lineham, (He is a co-speaker with me.)

If you were on a late-night TV show, what would your 30-second plug be? 

It cannot be summed up in 30 seconds.

If you could sum up your outlook on life in a bumper sticker, what would it say? 

Do better. There is enough mediocrity.