Employee Spotlight: Erik Leahy, Associate

Meet Erik Leahy, Associate, who recently helped design our project Inspire West Town and has been designing conceptual work at FitzGerald for over eight years. Although born in Oak Park, IL, Erik grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. He attended the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, where he met his wife Sarah (also an architect in Chicago.) A bright light in this last year for them was adopting Oliver from PAWS Chicago, a 12-lb terrier mix, who is all cuddles and energy.

Erik was THE Lego kid of his family, always imagining and building. He feels he’s carrying on his grandfather’s footsteps, a mechanical engineering draftsman, who guided him towards an architecture career. He also developed a passion for winter sports growing up. Being of proud Norwegian heritage, he was put in ice skates when he could stand. He played hockey, figure skated, and (most passionately) competed in short track speed skating. Now days, he’s “Coach”, coaching our softball team to victory over rival architecture studios!

Check out the photos to see Erik’s awesome costume as ‘Vike-a-bot’ (unofficial mascot of his senior class) for the North High Vikings. What did he avoid doing by moving to Chicago? Find out the answers to this and more in the questions we asked him below. We also invite you to get to know him further through his staff bio.

We took some time to get to know Erik, and here’s what we learned:

What led you to this career?
“I’m not sure there was much choice for me, to be honest…. As a kid, I was always drawing and creating toys, and surrounded by LEGO. In my family, I was THE Lego kid – always off on the side of parties imagining and building new creations and worlds. My grandfather was the person who directed me on what I could do with that desire to create – he had studied architecture at Lane Tech in the 1930’s. Unable to go to college at the time, he became a mechanical engineering draftsman. He would save me magazine and newspaper clippings detailing and diagraming the latest towers being built in Chicago and around the world. In a way, I’ve felt like I was carrying on his footsteps.

What interesting places have you traveled?
“I studied/lived abroad in Bremen and Hannover, Germany while attending the University of Applied Sciences, Bremen and working for award-winning German architecture studio Despang Architekten. Also during school, I traveled extensively through Europe and spent time in the West Bank, Palestine, doing research for my Masters thesis on architecture as a barrier condition.”

What’s one of your favorite memories from the past year?
“It’s been a rough strange year for everyone, us included… my wife and I STILL haven’t gotten to take a real honeymoon after getting married near the end of 2019…. But one shinning light for us this year was adopting our dog, Oliver, from the PAWS Chicago shelter. He’s a 12 lb. terrier mix – part Chihuahua and part Yorkshire Terrier – who is all cuddles and energy! He loves playing catch and jumping for tricks. We’ve really enjoyed the journey trying to train him – remotely! -and the opportunity to spoil him with our time at home this last year. And the absolute necessity to get us out of the apartment and go on walks.

What’s your go-to productivity trick?
“Step away from what is bogging you down, get your head outside of the problem. Go for a walk, get a coffee, go chat with your coworkers and see what their problems are – chances are it might help you solve what you are struggling with.”

What’s a fun fact about you?
I moved to Chicago in 2012 to avoid buying a car.

What’s your favorite sport to watch and which team do you root for?
“I’ve never really been in to professional sports. I loved going to White Sox games with my family when we lived in Oak Park. And being a White Sox fan while growing up in Omaha, Nebraska was a way to be unique from the ubiquitous Cubs and Royals fans. Later on, after going to school at the University of Nebraska (Go Big Red!) I became a passionate college football fan. But actually, my real sports passion has always been winter sports – specifically Olympic Winter Sports. Being of proud (and recent) Norwegian heritage, from the moment I could stand, I was put on ice skates. At various points growing up I played hockey, figure skated and (most passionately) competed in sport track speed skating. Lately, though, my favorite sport is watching (and ‘coaching’) the FitzGerald softball team (hopefully) crush our rival architecture studios on the softball field!”

What’s one item you want to own that you don’t?
“A scale model of the city – so I can build it the way I want it, planning commissions and neighborhood groups be damned! : )”

What real or fictional place would you most like to visit?
“Bilund, Denmark – the home and factory for LEGO! But after this last year… I’ll go ANYWHERE just to be able to travel again.

List two pet peeves.
“1) A messy Revit model – use those worksets, people! 2) When the wait staff come up to you to ask how is everything just as you put food in to your mouth.”