Studio Talo Wins Prestigious Architecture Award for Y.O.U. Building

Published: October 19, 2016

Studio Talo Architecture, an Evanston-based architectural firm, received an American Institute of Architects (AIA) Innovation Award for Technology in Architectural Practice (TAP) on Monday for their design of the new youth center and headquarters for Youth & Opportunity United (Y.O.U.). Y.O.U. is a community-based youth development agency located in Evanston, Illinois.

The project was one of only five worldwide to win the prestigious award for using new technologies and practices in architecture. Other projects – ranging in location from Astana, Kazakhstan to Boston, Massachusetts – were designed by some of the country’s largest architectural firms.

Among the reasons for its selection, the AIA commended Studio Talo for its deep involvement of youth in the design process. According to AIA jury members for the Award, the project is “a compelling story of bringing youth engagement into architecture through the use of VR [Virtual Reality].” In fact, youth and family members served by Y.O.U. were involved in every step of the building’s design process.

In order to create the virtual reality video, Douglas Snider, AIA – project architect for the Y.O.U. facility and a principal at Studio Talo – used Revit building design software, Autodesk A360, Fusion, and Adobe Premier to make interactive video experiences of the interior of the building. With the help of videographer Jason Beaument, they then filmed youth from Y.O.U.’s high school program at Evanston Township High school to incorporate them as “guides” within the VR experience. The result was an interactive, seven-minute virtual reality “tour” of the building with the young people at the center.

The video provided youth and families served by Y.O.U. with the chance to get an early glimpse into the new building. It was also used to inform program design and furniture choices in the new space. Studio Talo design principal Thomas Ahleman noted that “Doug’s virtual reality work has transformed how we can communicate with everyone in the design/construction process, from stakeholders to tradespeople.

Aina Gutierrez, Chief Operations Officer at Y.O.U., agreed: “The virtual reality gave our youth a chance to really feel out the new space and interact with technology in a way that many of them hadn’t experienced before. And it allowed our staff to explore the new programming spaces, like the demonstration kitchen and Maker Lab, as a way to spur ideas about new and deepened programming possibilities in the building.”

The AIA’s People’s Choice Award is going on until November 18, 2016 and gives anyone the chance to vote for their favorite innovative project among the five TAP Award winners. Visit to vote now! The People’s Choice Award winner will be announced on Monday, November 28, 2016.

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