Amy Yurko is the founder of BrainSpaces, a consulting firm that offers collaborative visioning, programming and planning expertise to school districts throughout the country. She is both a licensed architect and educator who believes in applying brain-based strategies to the design of learning environments.
A wide range of rich experiences have deepened Amy’s perspective, allowing for a holistic approach virtually unparalleled in the industry. Creating architecture with some of the country’s most renown educational architecture firms, collaborating as an educational facility planner with some of the country’s most thoughtful clients, working as an educator in the Chicago Public School system as well as with high caliber institutions such as Harvard, Illinois Institute of Technology and the University of Southern California, and volunteering to build schools in underprivileged communities in South America, she has been fortunate to experience the joy of learning and the value of promoting that joy in others.
Amy has developed a keen understanding of the challenges in education today and how they can be addressed through effective learning environments. Her thoughtful integration of education, learning and architecture allows for fresh approaches to programming and planning as well as accurate translations of educational goals into clear and effective directions for school facilities. For over 20 years she has planned and designed meaningful places for learners throughout the country and around the world. She has participated in the planning and design of over $1,000,000,000 of public and private, domestic and international school projects, ensuring that best practices in educational facility planning and design are considered throughout the project’s development.
A recognized expert in her field, Amy is consistently invited to teach, speak, write and participate in design juries and summits. As designated advocate for curriculum strategies on the national American Institute of Architects’ Board Knowledge Committee, she is leading efforts to strengthen continuing education for its 80,000 members worldwide. An engaging communicator and facilitator, she demonstrates an innate ability to envision, coordinate and apply complex solutions to challenging design projects. She is known for her straightforward style and no-nonsense approach, and has a proven talent for bringing people and ideas together in new ways – promoting dynamic collaborations with compelling results.
Amy is dedicated to both learning and the profession of architecture and enjoys combining the two. She has served the American Institute of Architects on both state and national levels including the National Board Knowledge Committee, the AIA Chicago Board of Directors, Chair of the National Continuing Education Quality Assurance Committee, Chair of the National AIA Practice Management Knowledge Community Advisory Group, member of the National AIA/AGC (Associated General Contractors) Joint Committee and as Chair of AIA California Council Practice Committee. She has been instrumental in creating programs, activities and content that bring value to AIA membership.
Through teaching architecture to middle school students as well as undergraduate and graduate students at the College of Architecture at Illinois Institute of Technology, Professor Yurko focused on developing student proficiency in clear thought, conceptual visualization and rigorous work ethic within the context of creativity and the profession of architecture. Teaching third- and fourth-year design studios at the University of Southern California’s School of Architecture, she used educational facilities design exercises to facilitate student understanding of how we learn and their exploration of environments that inspire learning. Courses also emphasized the development of student skills for quality design, environmental sustainability, creative thinking, project implementation, and effective presentations.
Prior to founding BrainSpaces, Amy was Principal and National Director of School Planning & Design at DLR Group, a then 600-person architecture and engineering firm. Her role at DLR Group included assisting with and coordinating the planning & design of educational facilities and mentoring/training k-12 market sector staff in the firm’s 17 offices. While promoting the school design expertise of the firm nationwide through writing and speaking, she also assisted with the development of the newly established Chicago office.
As a leader in the Chicago office of Perkins & Will, she managed the International School design studio, which completed K-12 projects in Manila, Shanghai, Beijing, Nagoya, and Yangon. Several projects were formally recognized for planning and design excellence, and the studio contributed significantly to the firm’s profitability. As Managing Principal at Perkins & Will’s Pasadena Office, she lead the then fledgling office to order, profitability and substantial growth while at the same time maintaining involvement in K-12 education projects, business development, and speaking at regional and national education-related venues.
With combined expertise in planning & architecture, teaching & writing, and leadership & practice management, she is uniquely positioned among her peers to positively influence the profession, its practitioners, and those who use the environments we create.