Allison Toonen-Talamo is an Associate II for the Architectural Engineering team at Klein and Hoffman (K&H) in Chicago where she also supports the firm’s Marketing Director and serves as the office professional photographer capturing project images and team members on job sites. She serves as Chair of the Skyline Council. Additionally, her passion for education and influencing younger generations into the preservation and façade restoration industries has led her to assist with a Building Envelope Rehabilitation graduate course at Illinois Institute of Technology. Learn more about Skyline Council’s current leader below. You can also meet Allison and other Skyline Council members at the upcoming Skyline Mixer August 15!
What is the best part of your job?
The diversity of my projects and the teamwork and family bond I have with my coworkers. Every day is a new challenge whether it is being out in the field or working through a repair program with a client that is their first time experiencing a façade restoration project. I love being able to work with my coworkers, clients, contractors and tradesmen on problems and being able to find a solution that not only helps the client, but the building and community as well.
When and why did you become involved with Landmarks Illinois and join the Skyline Council?
I was first introduced to Landmarks Illinois when I was working on a project in one of the south suburbs of Chicago. The village was trying to obtain a grant to restore the historical Ford Hangar in Lansing, which was the first time Henry Ford was trying to develop his footprint in the aviation industry. Once I started working at K&H, I joined the Skyline Council, and I really enjoyed the committee and all of the hard work it assists LI with.
Why is historic preservation important and what about it interests you?
It honestly took a long journey through college to realize the joy, passion and love I have for historic preservation. Several projects I completed during undergrad triggered an “a-ha moment” for me, which led me to pursue a mentorship to advance my education and career. Historic structures and landmarks are very important to our communities because they have a past the should be preserved, are established as a community focal point and a are source of venue for the community and reflection of the cultural identity. Historical structures are our story books and tell the story of the past!
What is one thing about historic preservation you would tell another young professional to spark their interest in the field?
Think outside the box; the beauty about preservation and the structures associated with it is they are all not alike. Our industry is not a cookie cutter job and requires quite a bit of research and asking for help. Learn from the mistakes and constantly ask why and how and develop a plan that will last at least five years, but challenge it to be 100+ years. So far, every person I have met in this industry loves their job and have plenty of stories to tell about lessons learned and cool things they get to experience, which makes this job so much more fascinating and a true joy to be part of.
What impact do you think young professionals like yourself will have on the future of historic preservation?
One of the common issues I hear from other organizations or even overseas is that our tradesmen are becoming harder to find. Being part of a young professional committee, I hope to use my role and networks to educate the younger generation of the possibilities our industry could offer. Over the years, there has been increasing movement in preservation because many cities realize saving historical structures are vital to keeping the beauty and history rich for the communities, plus once we lose these gems, we will not be able to create another.
What do you do to support and advocate for preservation either in your professional or personal life? (or both!)
I am one of those people who sadly lives and breathes preservation, my mind never stops thinking about ideas or researching a building that needs a little help. Many times during my lunch with my colleagues, we are always talking about projects or buildings that ends up becoming a project we all want to try to tackle. I am always reaching out to different organizations to team up with Landmarks Illinois and the Skyline Council to perform tours, aid relief and workshops to get people involved.
What do you do in your free time?
I try my best to divide my “free” time with Landmarks Illinois, the Skyline Council, Association for Preservation Technology – Western Great Lakes Chapter (APT – WGLC) and Structural Engineers Association of Illinois (SEAOI). If not doing that, I am going around the city photographing buildings, hanging out with friends or my two cats, trying to complete things on my bucket list, and keep my Texas roots alive by smoking meats and having cookouts.