A Place to Call Home



By Thaddeus Mast
Juliana Cardozo Chamorro (M.L.A.+U ’24)

Five years ago Juliana Cardozo Chamorro (M.L.A.+U ’24) came to the United States on a journey to continue pursuing a future in architecture that she had yet to discover.

Cardozo grew up in Bogotá, Colombia, with a passion for design. By 2017 she had earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture in her home country. “I worked as an architect for three years at large companies (in Colombia), but I didn’t like what I was doing, construction details, boring stuff,” Cardozo says. 

A culture of machismo favored men in the workplace, and Cardozo knew her talents were wasted in Colombia. A 2019 internship in Arizona gave her an opportunity to experience other opportunities in architecture.

“I heard of landscape architecture and started diving into what it is, and I realized it was what I wanted to do,” Cardozo says. “I started looking for schools right away for a master’s in landscape architecture. The goal was for me to feel happy in any work at my job while feeling like I’m doing something for the environment that’s positive for people.”

The search for a prime landscape architecture program began, and Illinois Institute of Technology’s College of Architecture kept coming up. Cardozo remembered S. R. Crown Hall from her studies, and she would visit Chicago for her first time in 2019 during a campus visit. She connected with Associate Professor Maria Villalobos Hernandez, who also journeyed from Latin America to the College of Architecture, over shared language, experiences, and a passion for landscape architecture. 

Cardozo’s experience in Crown Hall was the opposite of her schooling in Colombia. “There was a lot of competition between students [in Colombia], that’s what the school would tell you. When I came here for landscape architecture, it was the opposite: it’s about teamwork and helping each other,” she says.

Cardozo now works at SmithGroup as a site designer, particularly for plans near the Lake Michigan waterfront, and has no plans to leave the Chicago area, which she has quickly made her home. “When I first visited Chicago, I was so fascinated about everything. The architecture, the museums, the famous buildings. Everything’s here—the city, the beach and the lake, the parks,” she says.

The Lake Michigan waterfront stands as a Chicago landmark, and Cardozo wants her work to improve access and entertainment along the lake. “I love the water and integration between water and land,” she says.

Returning to the College of Architecture to further her studies is also on Cardozo’s list of possibilities, but, regardless, she will never forget her time on Mies Campus. “When I came to the United States in 2019, I didn’t know any English, and I don’t know how I navigated everything. I learned to speak English in Arizona, but it was hard to express my ideas. Now, I feel very proud of how much growth and the community I made at the College of Architecture,” she says.