Scott Steingraeber celebrates 30 years at Legat Architects
No challenge insurmountable: Legat Architects’ Scott Steingraeber achieves three decades of serving building owners and setting an example for coworkers
After earning a Master of Architecture degree from the University of Illinois in 1989, Scott Steingraeber joined a small Rockford, Illinois architectural firm. A friend told Steingraeber that he knew a guy named Tom Kikta who had recently joined a growing firm called Legat Architects. It just so happened that Kikta was in one of Steingraeber’s early drawing classes at the university.
Steingraeber scored an interview at Legat in 1991, was hired, and then joined the firm’s Crystal Lake, Illinois studio (now located in Gurnee). In the three decades since that bleak winter day, Steingraeber has not only overcome many challenges that would go unmet in less capable hands, but he has also helped solidify Legat’s reputation for consistency and dependability. On February 4, 2021, Steingraeber celebrated 30 years of clinching the details and pounding out exceptional projects at Legat. Tom Kikta, as it turns out, celebrated his three decades with Legat six months earlier.
Bernoulli Drives and Long Drives
When Steingraeber started at Legat, his seven studiomates included Paul Pessetti (now at the firm’s Oak Brook, Illinois studio), who showed Steingraeber the ropes, as well as then studio director Jeffrey Sronkoski (now at Legat’s Chicago location), who hired Steingraeber and eventually became a mentor to him.
Steingraeber remembers working hard for long hours, but having fun doing it. “The Crystal Lake office was small,” he said, “but compared to where I came from, it was pretty state-of-the-art—it had its own pen plotter and we used Bernoulli drives for backup.”
For 27 years, Steingraeber made the hour-long commute from his Rockford home every day. When Legat’s Crystal Lake and Waukegan, Illinois studios merged in Gurnee in 2016, Steingraeber worked mostly remotely, but that didn’t stop him from leading multiple projects simultaneously and nailing the details as he’d been doing for decades.
A Go-to Guy for Illinois’ #1 Community College
Over the years, Steingraeber developed a reputation as a facilities/campus architect that clients could trust to lead any project type from fire alarm replacements to 30-million-dollar signature facilities.
“Scott puts in the time and energy necessary to resolve problems and keep projects moving,” said Legat President and CEO Patrick Brosnan. “There are no issues that he didn’t resolve and there’s no project too small or too big for him.”
Steingraeber’s talent for maintaining long-term clients has led to not only bread-and-butter projects that sustain firm revenue, but it has also set the framework for high-profile design projects.
A sterling example of Steingraeber’s client longevity is Harper College. The first project he remembers is a 2001 track and tennis court resurfacing. More than 20 years and 100 projects later, Harper, ranked #1 in Niche’s “2021 Best Community College in Illinois,” continues to trust in Steingraeber as a go-to architect.
In 2015, Steingraeber’s work at the college helped fuel a commission for a complete renovation of Harper’s David K. Hill Family Library. Serving as project manager, Steingraeber worked closely with many other Legat personnel and consultants for the 110,000-square-foot makeover that transformed the dark and cluttered library into a spacious, light-filled hub where students connect and create.
Jeffrey Sronkoski, Legat principal and director of higher education, said, “Due to Scott’s efforts, this enticing third place on campus is now the college’s most popular destination.”
“The project redefined what a community college library could be,” added Brosnan. “It’s the crowning achievement of Scott’s decades of sweat equity and maintaining relationships with multiple administrations.”
The Harper library renewal went on to receive a CISCO Project of the Year Award. Steingraeber considers the projects one of his favorites because “it involved so many members of Legat who worked together to produce a great project that was transformative for the campus.”
Other recent preeminent education projects in which Steingraeber played a key role include College of Lake County’s LEED Platinum-certified Science and Engineering Building, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science’s Interprofessional Education Center/College of Pharmacy, and Niles West High School’s Athletic Training Center.
Setting the Pace
Steingraeber’s architectural achievements go far beyond preK-12 and higher education projects. In the 1990s, he worked closely with Sronkoski when Baxter World Trade Corporation tasked Legat with designing manufacturing facilities throughout the world. Steingraeber learned to design in metric and contributed to projects from Sydney, Australia to Miyazaki, Japan.
He also acted as Sronkoski’s right-hand man for multiple Pace Suburban Bus maintenance and storage facilities throughout northern Illinois. Another of Steingraeber’s favorite projects was Pace’s Northwest Transportation Center, whose modern expression helped reinforce Schaumburg’s reputation as a retail destination.
In a 1995 Chicago Tribune article, Joseph Schofer, then a professor of civil engineering and transportation at Northwestern University (he’s now associate dean for faculty affairs), called the 31,000-square-foot transportation core “a highly visible ‘pulse point’” similar to a hub airport.
In the Community
During his time at Legat, Steingraeber and his wife have also raised three sons and served their church in many capacities. Steingraeber, a bona fide Eagle Scout and scoutmaster, has dedicated a great deal of time to guiding his sons (and many other Scouts) with camping, hiking, canoeing, and many education programs.
Recently, Steingraeber drew up plans for a pavilion that his oldest son worked to get built at Northwest Community Center, located in an underprivileged Rockford neighborhood. Not only did the 18-year-old achieve his Eagle Scout status (the highest ranking among the Boy Scouts of America), but he also won an award for the most outstanding 2019 Eagle Scout project among the Blackhawk Area Council.
The name “Scott Steingraeber” isn’t plastered all over the internet, nor are you likely to see him hobnobbing with fashionable designers at a highfalutin event. Steingraeber readily admits to being the quiet type. And yet, during his three decades at Legat, his contributions come across loud and clear: solid projects, client loyalty, and a deep-rooted respect for coworkers. “Every project,” he said, “is a team effort.”
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