Catching Up with 2006 Hines Competition Winner Thomas Hussey

Over 4,000 students have participated in the Hines Competition since its first year in 2003. This is the second in an ongoing series of interviews with past Hines Competition finalists and winners about their experience competing and how both ULI and the competition have had an impact on their professional lives.


Thomas Hussey


Associate Director, Skidmore Owings & Merrill, Chicago (Architect/Urban Designer)

Graduate School:

Harvard University Graduate School of Design

Graduate Degree:

Master of Architecture in Urban Design (MAUD), 2006

Competition Year/Site:

2006, St. Louis

Harvard’s Winning 2006 Entry – ” Bridging Innovation at Grand Crossing”

What field do you work in today?  What kind of path did you take to get to your current career?

Upon graduation from my masters program (in the months following the ULI completion), I began to search for a quality position in urban design.  The ULI/Hines Competition process reinforced my decision to stay within the design field rather than shift to any related disciplines, and the competition win was a nice credential to speak of while interviewing.  I ultimately decided to join SOM in Chicago, due to the quality of work being produced by the office and the international, high-profile nature of the projects.  I have remained with SOM for more than six years, where I now serve as Associate Director, overseeing master planning projects in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

Describe your experience of participating in the competition. Where there any decisions your team made you felt helped you make to the finalist stage?

The competition process was intense in terms of the quick pace and depth of work required.  Nailing the “big idea” early is essential in allowing sufficient time to produce the necessary materials.  As with any completion, clarity of the concept is most important and the ideas should be presented powerfully and simply.  Quality is more important that quantity.

How did the experience of working in an interdisciplinary team help broaden your understanding of real estate development?

The interdisciplinary process exposes individuals to the different angles of real estate development.  As a designer, I learned exactly what information is critical to share (and when) with those performing financial analysis and learned how to factor that information into the design in terms of building typologies, development scale, and phasing strategies.  From urban planning students, I learned more about the public policies and initiatives that can help to promote development in depressed urban areas.

Any advice for current Hines Competition participants, most of whom are also soon-to-be graduates starting their careers in real estate, urban design, and related fields?

Students participating in the ULI/Hines Competition are often exposed to several fields related to real estate development, and a number of opportunities may arise upon graduation. I recommend that, in selecting a job, students not only follow their true passions but also consider what is best for their futures.  Don’t settle on what may seem like the better short term opportunity if it will sacrifice your ability to succeed in your true area of interest in the long term.  Also, become aware of all of the key individuals in your area of interest (whether it be a certain service market, geographic area or development type).  The design and development worlds can be quite small at times.

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