Working to Improve the Built Environment
Cory Brugger ’04
Cory Brugger ’04 always had an interest in art and the process of building. He spent two years at his vocational high school in the carpentry and cabinet making program. When it was time to apply to college, architecture was the ideal choice as it would allow him to explore these two interests.
The environment at Philadelphia University had a different energy; unlike anything he had experienced during his college visits. “When I came here, the architecture school was still young and you could feel the excitement of starting something new,” explained Brugger. He recalled faculty and students trying to figure out where the College of Architecture and the Built Environment (C-ABE) would fit into the academic and professional landscape. “The dynamic of a school seemingly in development was very intriguing to me.” Brugger valued the diversity at PhilaU. He had the ability to interact with a diverse group of faculty and friends. The collaborative and multidisciplinary approach at PhilaU provided Brugger an astonishing array of opinions and perspectives. During his time at PhilaU, he worked with architects, textile engineers, graphic, industrial, fashion and interior designers. “To this day my work is centered around a multidisciplinary approach to design.”
This multidisciplinary approach towards design has distinguished Brugger as an industry leader in sustainability and technological innovation. Two years before he graduated, he co-founded Point B Design with classmate, Benjamin Rulnick ’02 and former adjunct professor, John Shields. In the beginning, they were unrestricted, giving them complete freedom to pursue their own process and style of work. They were able to question traditional practice and explore new methods for design and delivery. Brugger accepted a joint research fellowship from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and the Product Architecture and Engineering Lab at Stevens Institute of Technology, from where he earned a Masters of Engineering degree. “Through all of these experiences the ability to constantly question my initial assumptions and pursue new opportunities has been persistent.” This was a process he started to develop at PhilaU and hopes to never lose.
Brugger is currently the director of design technology at Morphosis, an interdisciplinary practice with projects worldwide ranging in scale from residential to large-scale urban planning. He manages the development and implementation of digital technology in the office. This includes everything from contract review and Building Information Modeling (BIM) to computational design and Virtual Design and Construction. He also helps to direct research and development initiatives for his office.
Throughout his career, Brugger has remained active in academia. He held adjunct teaching positions at Colombia University’s Building Intelligence Program at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. He also participates and lectures at professional conferences around the world. Last April, he spoke about ‘Integrated Practice’ for the spring 2015 Lecture Series hosted by the C-ABE at PhilaU. “It was great since I was able to be more candid and share my personal experience with the students and local community,” said Brugger. Recently, he spoke about ‘Geospatial BIM’ at the GeoBuiz Summit in Washington, D.C, which gave him the opportunity to share Morphosis’ work with a diverse group of peers ranging from the U.S. Department of Interiors to technology giants such as Intel.
Brugger has received numerous recognitions personally and professionally. In 2014, he was the PhilaU Young Alumni Achievement Award recipient during the Homecoming Dinner Dance. “The event definitely gave me a better understanding of the foundation for success that Philadelphia University provides for all of its graduates and the continued investment the school has in our success.” In practice, he has worked on projects that have received honors from several professional associations. Brugger is fortunate to be part of a practice that is globally recognized for its projects and innovations. The work of Morphosis can be found here. He is a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), National Council of Architectural Registrations Boards, and holds a LEED BD+C accreditation. Brugger sits on the At-Large Advisory Group from the AIA TAP Knowledge Community where he has been nominated to be the Committee Chair in 2017. He has adopted and supports the Architecture 2030 Challenge, which is, all new buildings, developments and major renovations shall be carbon-neutral by 2030.
Rising to success also means encountering a few challenges along the way. Brugger admits that he has made many difficult decisions throughout his career such as leaving a remarkable firm that he helped start to pausing his personal life for a year and a half while commuting between New York and Paris. “Inevitably, you have to believe in something, whether it’s a meticulous five year plan or just a gut feeling, you can only really succeed if you commit to a single direction,” explained Brugger.
Every day is a challenge with new tasks. Brugger is fascinated by the present and believes it is quiet liberating to trust that the next problem will be more rewarding than the last. “It is the architect’s responsibility to interpret a project’s context, to challenge the status quo, and ideally work to improve the built environment,” said Brugger. He explained that in the end, architects design for people. “The most challenging aspect of our work is that the role of the architect and the value of innovative architecture is significantly misunderstood and unappreciated, especially in the United States.” He believes it is crucial for architects to be willing to invest time and energy to challenge standard industry practices and educate key stake holders about the benefits of new technologies and innovative design strategies, in order to production ground-breaking work. “Our world is constantly changing for better and worst, new technologies give us the opportunity to address growing needs and arising problems.
Brugger explained that his life outside of work is the best part of what he does. His wife, Jordan, has supported his long hours and hectic travel schedules for the past 12 years. They have two boys, Townes and Kai who keep them young and constantly amazed. He has learned that no matter what happens at the office or on-site, it must stay there. “If you want to do anything well then you need to give it your full attention,” stressed Brugger. “I try to make sure that is the case whenever I am with my family.”
Brugger leaves alumni with this advice, “In all aspects of your life it is far better to dream big and risk failure than to never face challenges at all.” Teddy Roosevelt said, “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing”. It is up to each of us to find the work that we deem worth doing.