a b o u t   a m y

BrainSpaces, Inc.

856 N. Fairfield Avenue, Suite #1

Chicago, IL  60622

Ph:  773.531.3221

Email:  info@brainspaces.com

BrainSpaces Founder & Reigning

International School Planner of the Year! / Lifetime Achievement Award—Association for Learning Environments(formerly CEFPI)

Amy M. Yurko, AIA

contact:  773.531.3221


Master of Architecture, 1988

             Washington University in St. Louis

             St. Louis, MO

Bachelor of Arts, Architecture, 1985

             Washington University in St. Louis

             St. Louis, MO




Architect: State of Illinois



Amy Yurko is an architect and educator who believes in applying brain-based strategies to the planning and design of learning environments.  She is the founder of BrainSpaces, a consulting firm that offers collaborative visioning, programming and planning expertise to school districts throughout the country.

Amy is the recipient of the coveted Association for Learning Environments (formerly CEFPI)  International School Planner of the Year Award and Lifetime Achievement Award for her outstanding achievements in planning and designing educational facilities throughout the world.

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 30 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.



BrainSpaces – Principal & Founder, 2004-present

DLR Group – Principal, Director of School Planning & Design, 2000-2004

Perkins & Will, Los Angeles – Managing Principal, 1998-2000

Perkins & Will, Chicago – Principal, 1990-1998

Booth/Hansen Architects, Chicago – Project Architect, 1988-1990

Various Firms – intern architect, 1985-88



Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, IL

College of Architecture, Adjunct Associate Professor

ARCH523: Thesis/ Masters Project Preparations, 2008 to present

2nd Year Design Studio, Fall-Spring 1995-96

1st Year Design Studio, Spring 1995

Graduate Thesis Advisor, 1996-98


Drummond School, Chicago Public Schools, Chicago, IL

Middle School Elective: Architecture, 2008


University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA

School of Architecture, Visiting Professor

3rd-4th Year Topic Design Studio, Spring 1999


Harvard Graduate School of Design, Cambridge, MA

Professional Development Course Instructor

“Public School Planning & Design”, Summer 1997



CEFPI MacConnell Award Juror, 2012

AIA Chicago Award in Architecture/Benn-Johnck Award Juror, 2008

AIA Committee on Architecture for Education, Annual Design Awards Juror, 2008

American Architectural Foundation; National School Design Institute, 2006 & 2007

Design Alabama/AAF School Superintendents’ Design Summit, 2008

American School & University, Design Awards Juror, 2006

DesignShare, Annual International Design Awards Juror, 2006 & 2007

CEFPI Alaska Chapter, Annual School Design Awards Juror, 1999, 2005, 2006 & 2008

AIA National Gold Medal & Firm Awards Juror, 2002



American Institute of Architects (AIA), 1991-present

Schools for the Children of the World, Board of Directors, 2008-present

AIA Chicago Board of Directors, 2007-2010

National AIA Continuing Education Curriculum Design, Committee Chair, 2006

National AIA Continuing Education Task Group, Appointed Member, 2005

AIA/ACG National Joint Committee, Appointed Member, 2004-present

AIA National Practice Management KC Advisory Group, 2000-2005, Chair 2004

American Architectural Foundation (AAF); Participant, National School Design Initiative, 2006; Panel Participant, “Great Schools by Design” initiative, 2003

AIA California Council, Chair, Practice Management, 1999-2000

Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI)

Association for the Advancement of International Education (AAIE)


 Find a listing and select downloads of Amy’s presentations:


Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School; Bradley, IL (with DLR Group)

                 Programming, Planning & Concept Design of a new 2,200 student comprehensive high school

Washington Unified School District; West Sacramento, California (with DLR Group)

                 Programming & Planning for a new 2,600 student comprehensive high school

Farmington Independent School District #192; Farmington, MN (with DLR Group)

                 Programming & Planning for a new 2,400 student comprehensive high school         

Gravette Public Schools, New High School; Gravette, AR (with DLR Group)

                 Programming, Planning & Design of a new 800 student comprehensive high school

Ray Marsh Elementary School; Overland Park, KS (with DLR Group)

                 Planning & Design for a new 3-section elementary school

Laramie County School District #1, Freedom Elementary, Cheyenne, WY (with DLR)

                 Planning & Design for a new 2-section elementary school

Nampa High School; Nampa, ID (with DLR Group)

                 Programming, Planning & Design Symposium: New 1,500 student high school

Douglass Replacement High School, Oklahoma City, OK (with DLR Group)

                 Planning & Design, New 2,000 student high school

Kamehameha Schools Master Plan; Honolulu, Hawaii  (with DLR Group)

                 Campus Assessment & Master Plan for a K-12 boarding school campus

Lawrence Unified School District #497; Lawrence, Kansas (with DLR Group)

                 Comprehensive District-Wide Facilities Assessment & Master Plan

Lee’s Summit High School; Lee’s Summit, Kansas (with DLR Group)

                 Planning & Design:  New 1,600 student high school

Clark County Prototype Elementary School; Las Vegas, Nevada (with DLR Group)

                 Programming & Design: New 2-story Prototype School for 660 students Grades K-5               

Sacred Heart School; Chicago, Illinois (with DLR Group)

                 Renovation & Addition to existing K-8 facility

Pequot Lakes K-5 School; Pequot Lakes, Minnesota (with DLR Group)

                 Planning & Design: New 700-student K-5 school

Nampa Middle School; Nampa, Idaho (with DLR Group)

                 Programming & Planning: New 1,150-Student Middle School

Estevan Joint Use Primary School; Estevan, Saskatchewan, Canada

                 (with Friggstad  Downing Henry Architects & DLR Group)

                 Planning & Concept Design: New 600-student K-8 school

Long Branch High School; Long Branch, New Jersey (with DLR Group)

                 Planning & Design:  New 1,600 Student High School

San Diego City Schools; San Diego, California (with Perkins+Will)

                 Programming/ District-wide Standards/Prototype School Components

St. Bonaventure Integrated Educational Facility; Concord, CA (with Perkins+Will)

                 Programming, Ed Specs & Design: K-8 Private School Campus & Parish Facilities    

South Anchorage Area High School; Anchorage, Alaska (with ECI/Hyer and Perkins+Will)

                 Planning & Design: New 1,600-student High School

Broward County School District High Schools; Miami, Florida (with Perkins+Will)

                 Programming & District-wide Ed. Specs:  Two 3,000-student High Schools

Middle School at High Desert; Albuquerque, New Mexico (with Perkins+Will)

                 Programming, Ed Specs & Design: New Private Middle School

Anderson North and South High Schools; Anderson, Indiana (with Perkins+Will)

                 Programming, Conceptual Design: Two 1,800-student High Schools

Liberty High School; Liberty, Ohio (with Perkins+Will)

                 Programming, Concept, Design: New 800-student High School

Falmouth High School; Falmouth, Maine (with Perkins+Will)

                 New 800-student High School

Old St. Patrick’s Elementary School; Chicago, Illinois (with Booth/Hansen)

        Renovation & Historic Preservation Project


K-12 International Schools


Concordia International School; Shanghai, People’s Republic of China (with Perkins+Will)

                 Programming, Master Planning & Concept Design: New 1,700-student K-12 Campus

International School Manila, Fort Bonifacio, Metro Manila, Philippines (with Perkins+Will)

                 Programming, Master Planning & Design: 4,000-student K-12 Campus

International School Beijing, People’s Republic of China (with Perkins+Will)

                 Project Management, Programming, Planning & Concept Design: 2,500-student K-12 Campus

Brent International School-Manila; Manplasan, Manila, Philippines (with Perkins+Will)

                 Programming, Master Planning & Design: New 1,500-student K-12 Campus

International School Yangon; Yangon, Myanmar (with Perkins+Will)

                 Project Management, Programming & Master Planning: Phased 1,000-student K-12 Campus


Higher Education


University of Hawaii; West Oahu Campus (with DLR Group)

                 Programming, Planning & Design for replacement college campus

University of California-Riverside; Riverside, CA (with Perkins+Will)

                 Programming, Master Planning: Surge Building – Classrooms, Lecture & Laboratories             

University of California San Diego, School of Medicine; CA (with Perkins+Will)

                 Project Management: Long-Range Campus Master Plan & Capitol Improvement Plan

Loyola University Medical Center; Maywood, Illinois (with Perkins+Will)

                 Planning & Design: Cancer Research and Treatment Facility

Prior to BrainSpaces (also see BrainSpaces projects here.)


Prior to the formation of BrainSpaces, Amy held positions at several noted architectural firms, gaining valuable experience from the staff, clients and projects with which she worked, many of these are included in the listing below. 

As a licensed architect, she is proud to have enjoyed the following key positions:

DLR Group (Chicago) – Principal, Director of School Planning & Design, 2000-2004

Perkins + Will (Chicago & Los Angeles) – Principal, 1990-2000

Booth/Hansen Architects (Chicago) – Project Architect, 1988-1990

Updated: July 2015


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all rights reserved.

 See a few Highlights