Coworkers elect Monique Taylor recipient of 2021 Wayne F. Machnich Commitment Award for demonstration of firm values
Interior designer Monique Taylor has transformed many drab spaces that people avoid into energetic settings where people want to be. Those who’ve worked with Taylor have learned that the vibrancy of these spaces reflects her spirited approach to her work and her interactions with others.
Taylor’s coworkers at Legat Architects elected the South Africa native to receive the 2021 Wayne F. Machnich Commitment Award. The annual award recognizes an employee’s commitment to the values of the firm demonstrated by Wayne Machnich (1943 – 2020), our first president and CEO. Such values range from strong design and efficient problem-solving to the building of long-term relationships.
Coworker ballots commented on Taylor’s contagious enthusiasm, her care for coworkers, and the many efforts she’s undertaken to improve the firm … all while raising three children.
The Extra Mile
Recently, Taylor helped plan a retirement party for a coworker who requested hot dogs from a chain restaurant near Legat’s Gurnee, Illinois studio. Shortly before the party, Taylor learned that the restaurant wouldn’t be able to deliver the hot dogs in time. Instead of settling for another brand, she jumped in her car and drove 20 miles to another location of that restaurant. The retiree got the hot dogs!
Since joining Legat in 2014, Taylor has repeatedly gone the extra mile for her coworkers. “In many firms, interior designers compete with each other,” said Sylvia Kowalk, Legat’s director of interior design. “That’s never been the case with Monique. She’s never put personal glory over the needs of the team. She jumps in and helps when we need her.”
When a coworker’s baby came a month early, Taylor took on her projects as if they were her own. When the coworker returned, Taylor handed back the projects in good shape.
Stakeholders meet with Taylor to discuss color and materials palettes for the Village of Arlington Heights’ new police station.
The Joy in the Building
One of Taylor’s first projects demanded strong design on a tight timeline. Taylor not only quickly devised an impressive design solution but also built the rapport that has led to repeat projects with that client.
Kowalk said, “She didn’t let us down then, and she hasn’t let us down since.”
“Monique never sees a project as a burden,” said Legat Chief Creative Officer Ted Haug. “She always finds joy in the building and manages to do something incredibly creative.”
Taylor recently led interior design for more than 400,000 square feet in additions and renovations at Galesburg CUSD #205. She incorporated the community’s railroad history into the design of the high school classroom wings and café. Her design of a media center renovation at Steele Elementary School includes a feature wall with hexagons that children can sit in.
Galesburg District Superintendent Dr. John Asplund said, “Monique Taylor has been integral to the success of all our projects. We couldn’t imagine the project being successful without her direct involvement every step of the way.”
Taylor is now leading interior design for Heartland Community College’s ZE Agricultural Complex, which is on track to become one of the first facilities of its kind to achieve net-zero energy certification (e.g., producing enough energy to offset annual energy usage).
A Leg up for Legat
Coworkers praised Taylor for the initiatives she’s taken — often without being asked — to advance the firm, particularly in terms of sustainability and equity/social justice. She became one of Legat’s first employees to achieve WELL accreditation, which recognizes individuals who are “leading the movement to make buildings healthier for all.”
Taylor has educated not only clients but also others within the design industry about the sustainable properties of materials. After a client rejected a more sustainable flooring option, for example, Taylor explained that it required less maintenance and therefore less water and fewer chemicals … a win-win for the client and the environment. The client was convinced!
Taylor also led Legat’s efforts to earn the Just label issued by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI). The measuring tool forces the firm to examine its policies toward creating a just and equitable work environment. Her efforts urged Legat leadership to enact several changes such as improved maternity/paternity leave, increased 401K contributions, and initiatives in wellness and volunteering.
A Special Spark
Taylor’s approach to coworker interactions stems from a deeply held conviction: that fulfilled employees lead to better work and happier clients. She creates an atmosphere where differences are valued and everyone’s opinion counts.
“Monique brings light to people’s day,” said one employee response. “She just adds a special spark.”
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