Chaysen Smith

est. November 2021

Drum roll, please! It’s time we introduce you to one of our favorite project designers, Chaysen Smith (or as I like to call him, Chay-sen Derulo)! If you ever need a hype-man or an opponent for a mid-day alley footrace (yes, that actually happened), he’s your guy. Chaysen has brought an immeasurable amount of fun and laughter to iA’s office and never hesitates to help a team member when they need it. We’re excited for you to  get to know him in Volume 15 of our Studio Session series!

Where are you from and how did you land in architecture?
I am from Lexington Kentucky, I started out in mechanical engineering and after a while I realized it wasn’t as free in allowing me to be creative as I’d wanted. After deciding engineering wasn’t the right path for me and doing some searching, I found architecture to be similar in end goal but vastly different in the path it took to achieve the result.

What did you want to be when you were a kid?
My biggest passions as a child were animals and building things. I grew up hunting and fishing so I earned a deep appreciation for wildlife and the environment they live it at a young age which led me to want to want to be a game warden or a zoologist. I also grew up working with my hands and being taught to fix things when they break, so my desire to fix and build anything I could led me to want to be in the world of construction in some fashion.

Where and when did you go to school / college?
I grew up in Lexington so I went to Julius Marks Elementary followed by Tates Creek Middle and High School. I originally went to University of Louisville in 2014 for 2 years before transferring to UK to finish my undergraduate degree 2019. For grad school I went straight from undergrad at UK to their master’s program finishing in 2021 with my masters in architectural design.

Describe in a few sentences your role at iA.
I am a part of the production team at iA, which means I assist our project managers with their projects however they need. Typically, the CD phase is where I come in assisting in the production, coordination, and production of construction drawings.

What trends in the architectural industry is currently sparking your interest?
One trend I’ve always found incredibly interesting is the blend of the natural world within the built world. I remember learning about an architect who was passionate about discovering how we can blend built environments into the earth instead of hiding the earth. He was adamant about designing in a way that doesn’t just serve humanity, but also the world we live in and allowing nature to thrive through design.

What are three things most people don’t know about you?
1. I’m the only left-handed member of my family.
2. I have the same initials as my dad and granddad.
3. Math was my favorite subject in school.

If you had the opportunity to design any building or product with unlimited funds and resources what would it be?
I did a study abroad trip during one of my semesters in undergrad to Beijing, China. During our time there, we explored and studied unique urban developments called super blocks or mega blocks. The goal of the super block is to provide all the necessities found in an urban environment and incorporate them into a large-scale interwoven community connected via breezeways resulting in this entity that reads as one massive building but remains diverse in program and dynamic in special quality. These massive networks of connectivity offer a solution to high density urban environments in a more efficient and organized manner relieving a lot of the pressure these areas encounter.

If I had unlimited funds and resources, I would love to look more into the fundamentals of these developments and create a version that would be the worlds first floating city. I think the idea of a mobile city free to move throughout the oceans as needed, linked together with these interwoven programmatic elements, would be a very challenging and rewarding puzzle to solve. In addition, it could provide mankind with a new and potentially less environmentally disruptive means of growing.

What are you most passionate about professionally? Personally?
Professionally – I want to create architecture that is inclusive to all types of people (primarily handicap occupants) and isn’t a burden on the environment. I want to create a better built environment with a brighter future for the resource consumption rates of the human race.

Personally – I am passionate about experiencing what the world has to offer. I want to explore new places and gain new perspectives on what it means to not only live in an environment, but to thrive as a community. Knowing how different cultures and ways of life have adapted to their own specific environment and problems opens my eyes to new methods of problem solving that I may never be exposed to here in Kentucky. Overall, growing an appreciation and understanding of all cultures helps open my eyes to the possibilities and solutions the world has to offer. 

What are some of your professional goals?

When I first started my journey through architecture school, I decided I wanted to become licensed and use my architecture to improve the everyday lives of the people who interact with it. A big goal of mine is to become licensed and to finally put my stamp on an architectural design I am proud of. Another goal of mine is to eventually design the “perfect building” which will serve as a good example for future generations of designers, more environmentally conscious, more inclusive and accommodative of disabled people, more sustainable in construction and building material production, more energy efficient, etc. I’m sure that list will change and grow as I dive deeper into my professional career, but it’s always been long term goal of mine to make a better version of the built environment than what there is today.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
In my free time I like to make art. I don’t spend as much time doing it as I’d like, but I typically work with graphic design, painting, drawing, and sculpting when I do. I also like to spend time outdoor. Hunting and fishing are hobbies I grew up with, so I always enjoy any activity that takes me to the woods, the lake, or anywhere where there’s nature to enjoy.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?
The accomplishment I am most proud of so far is finishing school and getting my masters degree. After transferring to another major in college, I wasn’t sure if I’d chose the right path and if I’d like it and stick with it. So, now that I’m finished with school, I am proud of myself for finding something I actually like and sticking with it to the end.