Meet Skyline Council Member Gregory Dowell

Gregory Dowell works as a Senior Architect – Building Envelope Consultant at ZS, LLC. He has served on the Skyline Council for nearly a decade and is a former chair of the young & emerging professionals committee. He is also the talented emcee for Skyline Council’s most popular annual event: Trivia Night. He doesn’t just host the game night (or in recent years, multiple nights due to popular demand), but develops all the trivia themes and questions for the participants. The Skyline Council’s 2021 Trivia Night on January 26 will be Gregory’s fifth year in a row as emcee. We asked him to share a bit about his process creating the engaging trivia games and what this year’s guests can expect in a couple weeks.


Why do you keep coming back as emcee of Trivia night? What do you like about the role?

I like to think that the crowd likes me, if not the questions. I’m like Norm from Cheers. I’m going to make you mad with the occasional difficult question, but most of the time you’re happy to see me reading the questions. I’m an introvert, but I like to put on a good performance every once in a while. Once I have that mic in my hand, I know it’s my job to keep the people entertained and happy, so I enjoy that challenge. And, I really need to share all the esoteric nuggets that reside in my brain rent free.

What is your process for coming up with the categories and questions every year for Trivia Night?

Mining the previously mentioned esoteric nuggets in my brain. From where do those nuggets come? JEOPARDY! is a huge inspiration (R.I.P. Alex). I’ve watched JEOPARDY since I knew what TV was. Looking at the breadth of categories is a great starting point. “J! Archive” has everything. The rest comes from a day in the life  — things I’ve read, watched, listened to, memed, etc. If I’ve heard something particularly interesting I’ll log it in the Notes app on my phone and put it away to develop further later. So when it comes to writing questions, I generally have a list of 20-30 categories and see what falls out onto the paper.

Has this process changed when preparing for a virtual trivia game versus our usual in-person event?

I don’t think so. Throughout the pandemic, I’ve participated in online trivia that my brother hosts (it’s a familial thing). I think we’ve had 25 trivia nights (60 questions each week) since April. I’ve learned a lot about both participating in and hosting online trivia. If anything, I’m going to try to keep the questions as straightforward as possible to limit any confusion.

Any hints on what players can expect from you or the questions on January 26?

Expect a lot of fun. I can’t match the same vibe of in-person trivia at Revolution Brewing with an Anti-Hero in your hand and a face stuffed with chicken wings. But I’m going to try. There’s going to be an image/visual category. Most likely relating to cities across the world. It has proven a popular category for online trivia. And I’m going to try to hit more topics with fewer questions about each so you don’t have to suffer through 10 sports questions or 10 music questions if that’s not your bailiwick. Think about all the things we watched and read and memed in 2020, the longest year ever.

Let’s talk about your work at ZS, LLC. What is the best part of your job?

Hanging off buildings. I’d never make it at a desk job.

When and why did you become involved with LI and join the Skyline Council?

It feels like many moons ago. I think it was during the second year of the Skyline Council. And I’ve been on the Landmarks Illinois Easement and Fund Committee just as long. I was looking to make connections – both personally and professionally – with folks who love preserving old buildings as much as I do.

Why is historic preservation important and what about it interests you?

For me, historic preservation is important due to the memories, both individual and collective, that are linked to the built environment. Buildings and structures define who we were, who we are and who we want to be. If we don’t preserve the historic buildings and the storehouses of our memories, in turn our memories are lost.

What is one thing about historic preservation you would tell another young professional to spark their interest?

Historic preservation is really about people. Sure, you’re saving a building but what you’re really doing is helping to empower people and their community to help define who they are.

What impact do you think young professionals like yourself will have on the future of historic preservation?

As the third generation of preservationists in Chicago, we’re working in an environment less hostile and maybe even in favor of (most) preservation. It’s going to be our job to make the case that Postmodern buildings, the ones built in response to the stripped-down Modern buildings of Mies van der Rohe and the like, are also worthy of preservation. Since Chicago has always been on the forefront of architecture, including the Postmodern movement, our impact will be felt there.

What do you do to support and advocate for preservation either in your professional or personal life? (or both!)

My day job is working as an architect to investigate and inspect historic buildings to implement repairs that will ensure these buildings continue to function well into the future. Outside of work, I’m obviously an active member of the Skyline Council and volunteer on the Landmarks Illinois Easement and Fund Committee.

What do you do in your free time?

I watch Jeopardy to test the extent of my useless knowledge, which comes in handy when writing the questions for Trivia Night. When the weather’s nice I like to kayak, bicycle, camp, hike and garden. I really enjoy cooking and baking. Other times you can find me bowling, shooting photographs, traveling or reading nonfiction.

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