By Tracey Leibach

When Jonathan Marcos ’23 visited the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) campus for Accepted Students Day five year ago, he was inspired by Dean Evan Douglis’ presentation to the potential new students. But it was the work of past students and the talented faculty “that truly reeled [him] in.”

Marcos has made the most of his time at RPI. He recently received the Metropolis Magazine Future 100 Architecture Award, given to the top 100 architecture undergraduates in the United States and Canada.

According to Metropolis, “these students hail from some of the best schools in North America. They are leaders on their campuses, advocating for equity and inclusion through their work and extracurriculars.”

“Jonathan is clearly a very talented, enthusiastic, and hard-working student,” said Adam Dayem, assistant professor of architecture, who nominated Marcos for the award. “His designs and drawings often led the way for other students in my classes. He also brings a wonderful spirit and energy to our school community, and I know he will go on to great success in further academic and professional endeavors.”

Marcos, originally from the New York City metro area, has focused on utilizing architecture as a tool for tackling trending social problems, from designing an apartment complex suited for rehabilitating PTSD-ridden veterans, to designing a theoretical Shein complex in 30 Rockefeller Plaza that criticizes the practices of fast-fashion.

One of his favorite experiences was spending a semester at the RPI Center for Architecture Science and Ecology (CASE) in Brooklyn. At CASE, Marcos worked alongside Professor Joshua Draper to add prototype smart-lighting and ventilation systems in Draper’s ongoing Friendship Cabins sustainability project by developing scripts and 3D printing modules. He also worked on a proposal to reduce urban sprawl in the Hudson Valley and a trash-infested pavilion during his time in the program.

Marcos took full advantage of RPI’s extracurricular offerings during his academic career. He enjoyed the School of Architecture’s lecture series program, which brings renowned architects from around the world to campus. “I’ve been able to meet with various strong voices within the architecture community and got to meet a lot of other people in the process,” he said.

He was particularly involved in the RPI chapters of the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) and the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students (NOMAS). “Participating in these organizations allowed me to network more with my classmates in the architecture program and I have fond memories of the various events and field trips associated with these organizations.”

He also enjoyed playing piano for his friends, a hobby he continued from high school.

Marcos’ works have been published and exhibited by suckerpunchDAILY, the Future of Small Cities Institute, and RPI’s Influx series. He was a recipient of the 2021 RPI Comprehensive Portfolio Award and 2022 Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) Be the Future Scholarship. He currently works part-time for EASTON COMBS Architects, and is a teaching assistant for RPI’s Comprehensive Design and Visual Studies courses.

He has been accepted to Columbia University’s Computational Design Practices program. In the long term, he hopes to start visiting more countries and see a lot of natural landmarks. “I’ve been barred from traveling too far since the pandemic started and I’d like to take the extra time I have now to see what the world has to offer,” he said.

He says there are two things students need for success at RPI: “An open mind and control of your hubris. I made the mistake of pondering too much on my problems in my first years as an architecture student,” he said. “As soon as I learned to let go, live in the moment, and have fun, I was able to enjoy my experience at RPI. Having both an open mind and a sense of humility will take you far not only at RPI, but also the promising world ahead of you!”