Crossing Borders: Navigating Cultural Transitions in Architecture Practice

May 15, 2024

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AIA New Jersey Equity in Architecture Presents Crossing Borders: Navigating Cultural Transitions in Architecture Practice


The AIA New Jersey Equity in Architecture Committee is celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month with a free, member benefit webinar entitled Crossing Borders: Navigating Cultural Transitions in Architecture Practice.

Thursday, May 30, 12:00 PM for 90 minutes

Approved for 1.5 LUs




Course Description:

In recognition of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, AIA New Jersey Equity in Architecture Chair Stacey Ruhle Kliesch, AIA, will moderate a panel of incredibly impressive and accomplished architectural professionals to share their experience transitioning from their native culture to the US market.  Meet AIA members Iljoong Kim, AIA; Nikhil Korde, AIA; Karen Kuo; and Kirby Wu, AIA; for this interesting discussion.

The panelists will discuss the differences in design education, technology, cultural preparedness, and professional experience in transitioning to working in the states. Join us to learn what inspired each to pursue architecture, their professional path, and how practice compares in the US.   

Learning Objectives:

  1. Understanding Cultural Influences on Architectural Practice: Attendees will gain insights into how the architects’ Asian cultural backgrounds influence their design philosophies and approaches to architecture in the US. This includes understanding the fusion of Asian and Western architectural styles.
  2. Navigating Regulatory and Compliance Challenges: Attendees will learn about the regulatory differences between Asian countries and the US, and how the panelists have adapted their practices to meet American building codes, zoning laws, and other regulations.
  3. Building Diverse and Inclusive Design Teams: Attendees will explore how the architects’ experiences in Asia have shaped their approach to collaboration and team dynamics in the US. This includes strategies for creating diverse and inclusive teams that incorporate different perspectives and cultural backgrounds.
  4. Adapting to New Markets and Client Expectations: Attendees will gain insights into how the architects have adjusted their practices to cater to the American market, including understanding client expectations, market trends, and emerging technologies in the US construction and design industry.



Originally from South Korea, IJ is a seasoned architect registered in multiple states with over 25 years of experience in building design, engineering, inspections, and project management.  IJ holds master’s degrees from McGill and MIT and is highly knowledgeable in building science and construction details with an interest in cost-effective passive building designs. His portfolio spans various projects, including interior renovations, rehabs, conversions, and large-scale multistory ground-up high-rise buildings.  IJ started his practice, IJKIM ARCHITECT, as a sole practitioner in 2010 and currently works as a head of the architecture group for CSA Group, an A&E/ PM&CM firm in New York. IJ is a member of AIA New York.


Nikhil Korde, AIA 

With a diverse background spanning architecture, product design, and business administration, Nikhil’s design and entrepreneurship journey has been marked by continuous exploration and achievement.
After graduating from the Academy of Architecture Mumbai (India), he received recognition for his contribution to inclusive education, earning the UIA/UNESCO Award for Affordable Spaces for Education. Following licensure from the Council of Architecture in India in 1997, he embarked on an entrepreneurial path, founding a firm specializing in a wide range of design projects, from educational to residential and commercial spaces.
In 2007, driven by a quest for innovation, Nikhil pursued a Master’s in Product Design from Birmingham Institute of Art and Design (BIAD, BCU) in the UK, garnering distinction for his work in injection-molded leather products.
Returning to India in 2009, he immersed himself in diverse projects, including studio lighting and healthcare architecture, before joining Schletter GmbH in 2011. During his tenure, he played a pivotal role in expanding their operations in India and overseeing local production initiatives.
From 2015 to 2017, Nikhil pursued an MBA at EU Business School Munich while continuing his professional journey at Schletter GmbH. Affiliated with the University of Roehampton UK, this program broadened his horizons in business administration. Concurrently, he seized the opportunity to delve into marketing as an intern at Bosch Security Systems, refining his expertise in building security systems and marketing strategies.
Relocating to the United States in 2017 marked a pivotal transition as he joined GRA Design Studio, initially as a Project Manager and eventually rising to Principal. Nikhil has played a key role in shaping GRA’s growth and success, overseeing its evolution into a thriving design firm with over 45 employees. Simultaneously, Nikhil pursued his Architecture license through ARE exams gaining licensure in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and California in 2023. Nikhil is a member of AIA Newark and Suburban. 


Karen Kuo, Associate AIA

Creative Technologist + Designer
Penn State Stuckeman B LArch ’18
Harvard GSD M Arch M Des Tech ’23
Raised in Shanghai, China, Karen holds dual degrees in Architecture and Design Studies, specializing in Technology, from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. Before this, she earned her bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from Pennsylvania State University. In her current role as an Intermediate BIM Technologist, Karen has revamped office workflows by identifying and addressing inefficiencies. She also worked on designing, developing, and implementing creative solutions, including in-house plug-ins and software prototypes, to optimize processes and enhance overall performance. Additionally, she works as a UI developer at the MIT Civic Data Design Lab. Karen is a member of AIA New York. 

Kirby Wu, AIA, LEED AP
President, CEO
Wu & Associates, Inc.

A licensed architect in numerous states with over 25 years of building industry experience, Kirby Wu brings a unique blend of design and construction knowledge to the Wu & Associates design-build practice.
Originally from Taipei, Taiwan, Kirby graduated with honors from Carnegie Mellon University with dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in Architecture and Industrial Management, Kirby worked as a Project Architect for a prominent design firm before joining Wu & Associates in 1996. He advanced to Vice President after obtaining a Master of Business Administration degree from Cornell University and became President in 2010. Through Kirby’s leadership, Wu & Associates has grown its design and construction portfolio to provide services throughout the continental United States with a specialization in the areas of LEED sustainability and historic preservation. Servicing both Federal government agencies and Fortune 500 customers, the company’s success is reflected in the national recognition it continually receives for demonstrating excellence in construction, sustainability, safety, and diversity. Another hallmark of leadership is the company’s achievement of the first LEED Platinum Certification for Existing Buildings in the entire State of New Jersey. Outside of Wu & Associates, Kirby serves and volunteers on several leadership platforms.
 Northeast Region Vice Chair for the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) from 2013-2015, a national organization of 69 chapters and 22,000 members
 Regional President of the United States Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce, for the Northeast Region between 2016-2019
 ABC New Jersey Chairman 2011-2013
 ABC New Jersey Board of Directors 2000-2021

Kirby currently serves on the Budget and Finance Committee for ABC National. He is also a sought-after lecturer on business and architecture for professional audiences and an avid mentor for small and diverse businesses. Kirby is a member of AIA West Jersey.


Stacey Ruhle Kliesch, AIA, NJ CID, LEED AP

Stacey is the principal of her firm, Stacey Ruhle Kliesch Architect, LLC, which started in 2003. Ms. Kliesch is licensed to practice architecture in NY and NJ, is a NJ Certified Interior Designer and a NJ Real Estate Salesperson. Stacey received her Bachelor of Architecture from the Catholic University of America, followed by a Master of Science in Management and a Master of Architecture from NJIT. She has been an adjunct design professor, guest lecturer or visiting critic at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Kean University, Berkeley College and Bergen Community College. 

An award-winning architect, she has been a member of AIA New Jersey and the Architects League of Northern New Jersey since 1993, 2006 President of The Architects League of Northern New Jersey and 2009 President of AIA New Jersey. Stacey has received the AIA NJ Distinguished Service Award, was recognized as Young Architect and Intern Architect of the Year, and received the Architects League’s highest honor, the Vegliante Award, and multiple Trustees Awards. Stacey is the chair of the AIA NJ Equity in Architecture Committee and advocacy consultant for the AIA NJ Public Awareness Committee.


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