17 dec 12  | Crain's Chicago Business

Overseas planning gigs: A closer look

Chicago architecture firms increasingly are looking overseas not only for architectural commissions but for urban-planning gigs. Urban planning is a growing niche, driven by the global population shift to city centers, a trend that has accelerated in the past decade.

Urban-planning jobs generally aren't the kind of lucrative, big-ticket win that designing, say, a skyscraper might be — Robert Forest of Chicago's Adrian Smith & Gordon Gill Architecture LLP estimates that urban design jobs typically pay one-third to one-fourth of what a standard architectural commission would bring in. But with slack demand for big skyscrapers here the in the U.S. – Chicago architects' traditional bread-and-butter — overseas urban-planning jobs can help buttress a firm's bottom line while also providing an important brand-building opportunity in new markets.

Great City
Smith & Gill, for one, has been hired to design Great City, a whole-cloth new city meant for 80,000 people outside the central Chinese city of Chengdu.