Surjan holds degrees from The University of Wisconsin, The University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University. Surjan is founding chair of C_UP, an organization began in 1998. C_UP's work has exhibited worldwide, including the London Festival of Architecture, WIRED magazine's NEXTfest, Smithsonian Magazine, the American Center of Architecture & Design, and his book Rey's Sky is in the permanent collection of the Children's Defense Fund.
Chicago Underground Practice starts each design by writing a text for the project. By writing our text first, we allow for research to guide our ideas in a verbal manner before it develops into a graphic one. In contrast, most architects start with simple sketches of what will later become the architectural building, only later writing out the architect's intentions with the benefit of hindsight. Although a deep-dive into the stories and history behind a project comes before form, once the design process starts, both narrative elements and design considerations equally affect the final product.
We have no clients. All of Chicago Underground Practice’s work is in the form of open competitions. This gives us the freedom (otherness) that most architects lose over the course of their careers. Chicago Underground Practice does not design architecture to be built. Our designs are fantastical in nature and are meant to push the boundaries of what architecture could be. This also translates to our competition entries; our representations are not standard architectural drawings (plans, sections, elevations) which are required for construction but unique depictions of an otherness world, reminiscent of work seen by graphic designers and illustrators.
Surjan's current interests are in design competitions that involve stories/myths of radical preservation.
Why do you practice architecture?
We seek projects with causes attached to them, particularly those with historic references. We want to directly affect people's perception of space through dream-like visions of architecture. Our projects fit under the umbrella of radical preservation, a term we have coined in protest to the American trend of demolishing out-dated buildings. Radical Preservation is also a method of reversal from the known state of restoration where instead of renewing a building to it's original state, we allow it to evolve into a new type of architecture by adding programmatic elements of design to it's existing construction.
Disclaimer: All work represents the views of the INDIVIDUAL ARTISTS & AUTHORS who created them, and are not those of the school or museum of the Art Institute.