Adam Quigley receives Legat Architects’ 2022 Wayne F. Machnich Commitment Award
“He brings out the best in people”: coworkers applaud Adam Quigley’s rare blend of design, project management, and mentoring skills
There’s nothing special about Adam Quigley’s desk. It’s the same size as those of his coworkers. It sits in the same area. The only hints that someone occupies the desk are a few books, a mustard-yellow knitted cap in winter, and a slender silver thermos whose contents remain a mystery to many.
That minimalist desk reflects Quigley’s modesty and orderliness, traits that have propelled his work as director of Legat Architects’ Chicago studio. As a project manager, he elevates design while respecting budget limitations. As a studio leader, he’s as comfortable talking about highly technical architectural topics as he is about what a coworker did over the weekend. When time permits, he even encourages and attends after-work gatherings so new employees can get to know their coworkers.
In January 2023, Quigley received the firm’s third annual Wayne F. Machnich Commitment Award. The winner, nominated and voted on by coworkers, demonstrates the traits and values that characterized Wayne Machnich, the firm’s first president and CEO.
“Much like Wayne, Adam brings an unbiased approach to his work and goes out of his way to support others,” said current Legat President and CEO Berry DeSimone. “He’s a mentor in the studio and a trusted confidant to our clients, consultants, and contractors. Adam brings out the best in people.”
In the comments submitted with their anonymous votes, employees mentioned Quigley’s even-tempered approach to problem-solving and management just as much as they did his enthusiasm, creativity, and humor. Non-architectural staff in Legat’s accounting, HR, and marketing departments have even praised Quigley’s responsiveness and approachability.
“Adam is truly a complete architect,” said Legat design principal Ted Haug. “He has a great eye for design, an incredible hand at drawing, an encyclopedic knowledge of architectural history, and an understanding of the technical and creative challenges of project management. All that and he’s one of the most humble and respectful people I know.”
Delving Deeper to Give Design a Boost
Many architects might be tempted to cut corners when designing secondary spaces for projects with a tight budget. Not so for Quigley. When he served as project manager for a recreation project renovation, he found ways to maximize the impact of small design opportunities including the reception and concession areas.
“Adam’s work is never ego-driven,” said Haug. “Nothing is beneath him — it’s all about making the project the best it can be. Even if there are major budgetary or time restrictions, he’ll find a way to give the design a boost.”
Quigley, who holds a master’s degree from the University of Michigan and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago, draws from what Haug calls an “off-the-charts” understanding of architecture both past and present to inform his work.
One anonymous voter said that Quigley “is an interesting mix of where architecture has been and where it’s going.”
This passion for design has inspired less experienced team members to delve deeper into their design projects. When Quigley became director of Legat’s Chicago studio, he added to their weekly calls a presentation portion during which he and others share projects they have visited or studied.
“You can see in his presentations how passionate he is about architecture, its history, and his inspiration to do great projects,” said coworker Rachel Foster.
Preserving the Craft of Architecture
In a profession where computers have all but erased traditional freehand drawing, Quigley retains the skill of the bygone craftsman. Though he works with the most up-to-date technology, he is also known to hand-draw architectural details. These three-dimensional sketches help employees immediately understand how the most complex pieces fit together.
Quigley drew such details for the rejuvenation of Metra’s 59th Street, University of Chicago train station. The facility is a prominent stop next to the Midway Plaisance (aka the Midway), a cherished public park surrounded by the university’s renowned buildings.
Sensing Pitfalls Before They Happen
Sofive Soccer challenged Legat to transform two older indoor soccer fields into five smaller fields and a practice field as quickly as possible. As the project manager, Quigley quickly identified the most pressing challenges and knew what agencies to coordinate with to speed up the city review process. Because of these efforts, design through construction completion took only four months; typically, a similar project would take twice that long.
“Adam is always thinking ahead,” said Robin Randall, leader of Legat’s preK-12 practice. “As soon as he’s given a project, he senses any potential pitfalls and creates a plan for attack.”
Randall has repeatedly called on Quigley to support school projects with the “plethora of talent at his fingertips.” When team members take time off, Quigley balances resources to make sure others pick up the slack … even if he does it himself. “He won’t let a client or a coworker down,” said Randall.
Strengthening Studio Culture
Since his appointment as director of Legat’s Chicago studio, Quigley has launched several initiatives to build camaraderie:
- An anonymous suggestion box for employees to drop ideas or concerns, which get addressed weekly.
- When a coworker brought in a tabletop ping-pong set, Quigley created a bracket for everyone in the studio to participate in an ongoing lunchtime tournament.
- Monthly game time encourages friendly competition during the lunch hour.
- A Friday Dog Day pilot program turned out to be a howling success.
“Even though he’s in a time-consuming and stressful position as studio director, he’s always making an effort to keep morale high and always lighthearted when he speaks to somebody,” said coworker Francisco Carrera. “He participates in office activities, shows enthusiasm, and tries to get everyone involved.”
Surprises and Mysteries
When Ted Haug called with a project-related issue, Quigley did not sound like he was in the studio. Quigley said he was on vacation and fishing with his daughters. Haug, thinking maybe Lake Michigan, asked where. No, came the reply — Quigly was in a Brazilian rainforest.
Not only did Quigley take care of the client issue remotely, but he also sent Haug a photo of his daughter with a huge fish draped across her lap just before they released it.
Whether he’s catching a massive fish, considering how to make a project more appealing, or giving advice to a young professional, Quigley continues to pleasantly surprise his clients and coworkers.
Only one question remains: what does he keep in his thermos?
“It could be coffee,” said Quigley, “but it could be red Kool-Aid. The truth is we should strive to maintain some mystery in our relationships, and this is all I’ve got.”
Learn more about previous Wayne F. Machnich Award recipients Zach Wiese (2020) and Monique Taylor (2021).
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