ABOUT
Who we are, What we do, How we think.


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WE ARE DESIGNERS

Focused on human-centered spaces experiences and services in professional, academic and civic realms.

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We are a husband and wife team with distinct yet complimentary backgrounds. We are professionally trained in design research methodologies, strategic planning and architectural design. We work on projects independently, in joint collaboration, and in partnership with other talented individuals and organizations.


BRIAN STRAWN, AIA

Strawn is a design strategist and service designer with a background in zoology and architecture. He was trained at IIT's Institute of Design in user-centered design and ethnographic research.

Brian grew up on a family farm in the flat middle of Illinois, where he lived in an underground house and raised a troop of spider monkeys. Since then he has lived and worked in China, India, Holland, Italy, Hong Kong, Venezuela and the United Kingdom.

He received a Master of Design from IIT's Institute of Design, a Master of Architecture from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Bachelor of Arts in Zoology from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. 

brian@strawnsierralta.com


KARLA SIERRALTA

Sierralta is an educator and Venezuelan architect. Trained under a Fulbright Scholarship, she is currently an Assistant Professor at University of Hawai'i at Mānoa School of Architecture, where she leads the Basic Design Studios and teaches special topic seminars on design communication. Previously, Karla was the director of the first year graduate studio at Illinois Institute of Technology's College of Architecture where she was a Studio Associate Professor .

Karla grew up on the Caribbean coast of Venezuela. She has a passion for travel and languages. Before moving to the United States, she studied English, French and Italian, in addition to her native Spanish.

She received a Master of Architecture from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from Universidad del Zulia in Venezuela.

karla@strawnsierralta.com


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We are designers, educators and advocates. We have been invited as guest critics and lecturers at a wide range of universities and institutions, acted as jury members for multiple architecture and design competitions, and served as Co-presidents of the Chicago Architectural Club.

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WE ARE MULTIDISCIPLINARY

Professionally trained in design research methodologies, strategic planning and architectural design

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Our hybrid practice merges design strategy and conceptual design.  Our design process integrates a methods-based, human-centered approach with progressive architectural systems-thinking to tackle a wide variety of projects.  

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USER RESEARCH

We conduct generative user research, from in context, one-on-one interviews with end users, to co-creation sessions with client stakeholders. Discovering what users value and how they navigate through the world is the foundation for every project.

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SERVICE DESIGN

Today, services are more complex than ever, often blending multiple digital ecosystems with a series of spatial settings. Unpacking these hybrid journeys and sharing them in highly visual and approachable ways allows the project team to design breakthrough user experiences.

We have worked on projects for:

Partnerships and collaborations include:

  • Chicago Architectural Club
  • Chicago Architecture Foundation
  • Landmarks Illinois
  • Graham Foundation
  • BRT Steering Committee
  • Chicago Transit Authority
  • Chicago Department of Transportation
  • IBC Engineering
  • Louis Shell Structures
  • Martin Thaler
  • Dugdale Strategy
  • FogPilot
  • AIA Chicago
  • AIA Honolulu
  • UH Community Design Center
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WE 

 

MAKE 

TO THINK & 

THINK TO MAKE 

Prototyping at multiple scales and visualizing processes and ideas.

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PROTOTYPING

Experiential prototypes move projects forward faster. Bringing them into the process as early as possible allows users to give feedback when cost of discovery is low. Prototypes are utilized across the entire design process to pose the right questions at the right time. 

We are deeply committed to investigating the specific contexts and qualities of each project. We help clients figure out “what to make” before working on “how to make it ”.

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Our goal is to find solutions that are meaningful, functional, and innovative.

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HELLO 

HOLA 

ALOHA


Our work has been recognized nationally and internationally, featured in a variety of media formats and displayed in diverse venues.

Our work has been exhibited at:

  • Honolulu State Capitol, HI
  • Hawaii Convention Center, HI
  • The World Financial Center, New York, NY
  • Pavillion de L’Arsenal, Paris
  • The Graham Foundation, Chicago, IL

  • Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, IL

  • Chicago Architecture Foundation
  • Chicago Cultural Center
  • Chicago Tribune Tower
  • Acme Artworks Gallery, Chicago, IL
  • High Desert Test Sites 4, Joshua Tree, CA
  • The Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, CA
  • The Art Museum of Western Virginia
  • Centro de Bellas Artes, Maracaibo, Venezuela

Design Awards:

  • 2017 AIA Honolulu Design Awards, Honorable Mention Institutional
  • Modern Mountain Home Award, Tahoe Quarterly
  • Emerging Visions Award, Chicago Architectural Club
  • IBM Engineering Innovation Award
  • Gold Star Award, Global Green Design Competition
  • McCormick Tribune Foundation Competition Finalist
  • Ford Calumet Environmental Center Competition Finalist
  • First Prize Award, Green Tent Design Competition  
  • Notable Entry Award, Paris Olympic Landmark Competition
  • World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition Finalist
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