We are a practice for architecture and urbanism dedicated to advancing cities through the design of lasting public architecture and strategic urban plans. We have a holistic approach that embraces architecture and city planning as allied fields operating along a range of scales. As architects we break down disciplinary boundaries by expanding the definition of our field and rejecting the silos that have ossified our profession. Our designers use both sides of their brains to be as creative as they are analytical. Given the breadth and depth of our team’s talents, but also in an effort to raise labor standards in our field, we treat our personnel with the utmost respect in terms of compensation, staff development, and work-life balance.
Our team, our network of experienced collaborators, and most importantly our clients come to us inspired by our desire to palpably and positively impact the world. Together we thrive on constraints such as program, constructability, public process, regulation, budget and schedule as the fuel for innovation and beauty. To achieve this, from the precise scale of the architectural detail to the large scale of a master plan, ours is a group of “swiss-army knives,” professionals who employ an unprecedented range of skills and mindsets. We are fluent in multiple languages: we speak architecture, we speak culture, we speak ecology, we speak economics, we speak academics, we speak urbanity, we speak government, and perhaps most importantly, we speak the language of democratic public process, because the complexities of the projects we design demand no less.
Below are brief descriptions of the individuals who form our unique collective, a group of thinkers who build, utopian pragmatists whose dreams of impactful design have been forged in the white heat of hard-fought experience.
Vishaan Chakrabarti is a registered architect and the founder of PAU. Simultaneously, Vishaan is an Associate Professor of Practice at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation (GSAPP), where he teaches architectural design studios and seminars on urbanism. His highly acclaimed book, A Country of Cities: A Manifesto for an Urban America (Metropolis Books, 2013), argues that a more urban United States would result in a more prosperous, sustainable, joyous, and socially mobile nation. Of the book, the Toronto Globe and Mail wrote: “In the world of urbanism and planning, there’s been a barrage of recent books on similar themes…but Mr. Chakrabarti has written maybe the most useful one, a polemic in favor of city living that makes the stakes clear.” Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradlee named A Country of Cities one of the top ten books of 2013 in the Huffington Post.
Chakrabarti has been a guest on The Charlie Rose show, MSNBC’s The Cycle, NY1, NPR, WNYC, and has been profiled in The New York Times and The Financial Times. Vishaan has lectured widely across Europe, Asia and the Americas. In April, 2014, the New York Times published his Op Ed, “America’s Urban Future.”
From 2012 to 2015, Vishaan was a principal at SHoP Architects where he co-led major architecture and urban design projects including the master plan and first building at the Domino Sugar site in Williamsburg as well as the master plan and first building at the Essex Crossing site at Seward Park, which together bookend the Williamsburg bridge in a new form of mixed use, mixed income urbanism.
From 2009 to 2015, Vishaan also served as the Marc Holliday Professor and Director of the Master of Science in Real Estate Development program at Columbia’s GSAPP. While there he became the founding director of the Center for Urban Real Estate (CURE). Chakrabarti is widely credited for transforming the program into one of the finest programs of its kind by establishing an interdisciplinary mission that focused on the potential role urban development could play in generating groundbreaking design, greater sustainability, and shared economic prosperity.
From 2005 to 2009, Chakrabarti was the president of Moynihan Station Venture, and remains an ardent advocate for the reconstruction of New York’s Pennsylvania Station. In addition, Chakrabarti was the inaugural Jaquelin T. Robertson Visiting Professor in Architecture for the University of Virginia in 2009.
From 2002 to 2005, Chakrabarti served under Mayor Michael Bloomberg as the Director of the Manhattan Office for the New York Department of City Planning, where he successfully collaborated on the now realized efforts to save the High Line, rezone Hudson Yards, extend the #7 subway line, rebuild the East River Waterfront, expand Columbia University, and reincorporate the street grid at the World Trade Center site after the tragic events of 9/11.
Prior to 2002, Vishaan was an Associate Partner at the New York office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LP. There he managed numerous skyscraper projects, including the new headquarters for the New York Stock Exchange, as well as the master plan for Columbia University’s new campus in Manhattanville.
Chakrabarti holds a Master of Architecture from the University of California at Berkeley, a Master of City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and dual bachelor’s degrees in Art History and Engineering from Cornell University.
He serves on the boards of the Architectural League of New York and the Regional Planning Association. He is a trustee of the Citizens Budget Commission, and is an emeritus board member of Friends of the High Line. He is also a member of the Young Leaders Forum of the National Council on US-China Relations and has served on the National Mayor’s Institute of City Design. Metropolis Magazine named Chakrabarti one of the top 12 “Game Changers” for 2012, he is a former Crain’s “40 Under 40” and David Rockefeller Fellow. Chakrabarti and his family live in Manhattan.
Ruchika Modi is the Studio Director at Practice for Architecture & Urbanism. She oversees all aspects of the design process from project coordination to creative collaboration. Prior to joining PAU, Ruchika was a Senior Associate at Standard Architects, a Brooklyn-based firm. There she worked on several institutional projects for clients like the New York Presbyterian Hospital, Royal Chartered Properties, The Robin Hood Foundation, and The UJA-Federation of New York. Ruchika was a founding partner of Studio r&star in New York City, a practice that focused on a range of residential and institutional projects throughout the City. Prior to starting her own business, Ruchika worked at Smith-Miller + Hawkinson Architects where she worked on the design of a low-rise, multifamily residential development in Manhattan and was the job captain for a flagship Emergency Medical Station for the Fire Department of New York for the NYC Department of Design and Construction. She has also practiced architecture at Richard Lewis Architects in New York City, Maria McVarish Design Services in San Francisco and Tim Perks Architecture in San Anselmo.
Ruchika Modi received a B.A. in Economics from the University of Delhi in 1994 and a second B.A. with distinction in Interior Architecture from the California College of Arts in San Francisco in 2003. She completed her Masters of Architecture from the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation at Columbia University in 2006.
At Columbia, she was awarded the McKim Prize for Excellence in Design & Saul Kaplan Traveling Fellowship, the highest honor presented by the school for design work; the William Kinne Fellows Prize for Study and Travel Abroad; and the Lucille Smyser Lowenfish Memorial Prize. Her work has been exhibited at the Center for Architecture in New York and the International Architecture Biennales in Rotterdam and Beijing.
Maria has over twenty years of global experience in the field and has worked on a wide range of projects. Maria graduated from Virginia Tech with a Bachelor of Architecture degree where she received the Juris Janson Memorial Prize for Excellence in Design.
Director of Operations
Bryan is a graduate of the University of Nebraska. Bryan served in Senior Operations Support and Business Development at the Swiss firm Societe Generale de Surveillance where he assisted in the development of new contract standards and firm-wide office protocols at offices in New York City, Houston and Antwerp, Belgium. Bryan brings a wide array of architecture and design experience from previous positions at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, DIFFA, Peter Marino Architect and SHoP Architects.
Director of Special Projects
As Director of Special Projects, Julia is responsible for managing PAU’s large-scale planning projects, providing targeted strategic input to select projects, and seeking out new opportunities for PAU. She utilizes her background in architecture, real estate development, and historic preservation and experience with city-scale planning to approach challenges and propose solutions within the built environment in a comprehensive manner.
Prior to joining PAU, Julia was part of the Cities team at BuroHappold Engineering where she worked on a variety of projects ranging from building- to city-scale for public, private, and non-profit clients. Julia received a Master of Real Estate Development and a Master of Historic Preservation from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture and a Minor in Business Administration from Clemson University. At Columbia, she was awarded the William Kinne Fellows Prize for Study and Travel Abroad and the M.S. RED Program Service Award for Outstanding Service to the School. Julia serves on the board of Columbia University Preservation Alumni.
Skylar is a graduate of Columbia University’s Graduate School for Architecture, Planning and Preservation where he received dual masters degrees in Architecture and Real Estate Development. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture with High Honors from the University of California, Berkeley. Skylar was the inaugural recipient of the Glascock and van Buren Graduate Fellowship at Columbia’s Center for Urban Real Estate (CURE) where he worked under Research Director Jesse Keenan in support of CURE publications, including Director Keenan’s own work on climate change adaptation in the commercial real estate industry.
Prior to joining PAU as a Designer, Fernando worked in the Urban Design Division at the New York City Department of City Planning and the Planning and Preservation Department at the Municipal Art Society of New York. He is licensed to practice architecture and urban planning in Barcelona.
Fernando graduated with a Master of Architecture and Urban Planning degree from ETSAM Polytechnic University of Madrid, Spain, where he spent a year studying abroad at ENSAT, Toulouse School of Architecture, France. His final thesis was awarded honors and focused on the essential urban and housing renovation of European first-outskirt neighborhoods. He also graduated with a Master of Arts in Theories of Urban Practice from Parsons School of Design.
George is a graduate of Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art and Planning where he received his Master of Architecture degree. At Cornell, he was awarded the Alison K. Barry Prize for exemplary performance in the graduate program. George also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture, with honors, from Lehigh University, where he minored in Real Estate Studies. At Cornell, his graduate thesis research focused on generating new relationships between architecture and public spaces in urban environments.
Prior to joining PAU as a Designer, Daniel worked in both Berlin and London on a broad range of projects, ranging from the strategic plan for a village in Flanders to an artist studio under a Victorian train viaduct in London. Daniel graduated from the architecture school ETSA San Sebastian in Spain, and has also studied at FH Potsdam, Germany.
Diego graduated with a Master of Architecture degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School for Architecture, Planning and Preservation where he won the Lucille Smyser Lowenfish Memorial Prize. Shortly after graduation, his team won the DDC Sustainabuild student competition organized jointly by Columbia University and the New York City Department of Design and Construction. Diego also holds a professional degree in architecture from the Universidad de los Andes in Bogota, Colombia, where he spent a year studying abroad at ETSAM, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Spain. He is licensed to practice architecture in Colombia.
Hana holds a Master of Architecture Post Professional degree from The Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD). Hana also holds a professional degree in Architectural Engineering from the University of Jordan. In 2017 Hana received the Tamayouz International Award for her final project, The City of Pixels, located in Mumbai. Professionally, she has worked in in Amman, Rome, and Paris; her work involved several international projects and competitions.
Vinayak Portonovo joined PAU as a designer after completing two internships with PAU during his winter and summer breaks. He received his Bachelor of Architecture from Cornell University and was the first-place recipient of the Baird Prize Competition and the Edward Palmer York Prize Competition.
Chuxue graduated with a Master of Architecture degree from Columbia University. At Columbia, she won the Lucille Smyser Lowenfish Memorial Prize as well as the RPBW Internship Fellowship. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Before joining PAU, Chuxue practiced in Paris, Shanghai and New York. Her work experience includes an art museum in Moscow and several renovation projects in Shanghai.
Front Office Manager
As the Front Office Manager, Miranda helps with the daily operations of the studio, as well as business development. She graduated from Tufts University with Bachelor’s degrees in Art History and Religion, receiving the Department of Religion Prize. Her thesis, “The Female Body as a Sacred Symbol” received high honors. Some of Miranda’s previous roles include: Communications and Special Events Intern at the Regional Arts Commission in St. Louis, Arts Ambassador at the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy in Boston, and a variety of other office and research jobs.