A Homegrown Highlander: Newark Native Jonathan Isaacs Lands Job With CallisonRTKL Architecture

Written by: Shydale James,
Jonathan Isaacs is graduating from NJIT with a Bachelor of Architecture.
“Going to school in my hometown was kind of exciting in the sense that I was familiar with my surroundings and able to stay connected to friends."

Born and raised in Newark’s West Ward, Jonathan Isaacs ’18 didn’t have to travel far to find the perfect college.

“I chose NJIT because it has the dual benefit of being competitive as a university in the STEM industry, but also being affordable and providing a top-notch education for a decent price,” says Isaacs, who’s graduating from NJIT with a B.Arch. — and an architectural designer job at CallisonRTKL Architecture in New York City. “Going to school in my hometown was kind of exciting in the sense that I was familiar with my surroundings and able to stay connected to friends. It gave me a little more comfort, especially adjusting to college. I didn’t have the existing barrier of having to be out of town.”

Attending NJIT also afforded Isaacs the opportunity — through his course work and design studios at the College of Architecture and Design— to meet some of the developers responsible for the groundswell of redevelopment in Newark.

“I think it’s a really positive light on the city,” he says about the many architectural changes afoot. “Now that I’m a prospective architect going out into the field, I understand more about what’s involved in making things like that happen on the city scale. I think it’s a really good step in the right direction. There are a lot of things that students and local residents can take advantage of and be a part of.” 

Isaacs says the heavy workload that comes with studying architecture prevented him from indulging in some of his hobbies, like working out and playing the drums. But he didn’t let the intense studio experience keep him from his favorite pastime: dining out. In fact, Isaacs moonlights as a Google guide, which allows him to contribute reviews of restaurants for the tech giant. 

“I’m a big foodie,” says the dining arbiter. “I love to go out to eat with my girlfriend.”

But his passion for food goes beyond breaking bread and posting photos of Sunday brunch. 

“I’m interested in entrepreneurship,” he explains. “Leaving reviews and talking about the experience of the workplace in terms of design and customer experience is exciting to me because I can help business owners promote their brands and fine-tune their business to make it better.”

Here, Isaacs recalls his fondest memory as a Highlander, gives us the deets on his new retail architecture job — and reveals which eatery in Hoboken served him the best meal he’s ever eaten.

GROWING UP, ISAACS ALWAYS LOVED TO BUILD THINGS. “When I was little, my parents used to give me the Lincoln Log sets. And I used to play different types of games where I could build homes. I was always interested in the construction industry. I always knew that I wanted to be a civil engineer or architect.”

THE ROAD TO SUCCESS IS PAVED WITH GOOD INTERNSHIPS. “During my first internship I worked with one of my professors [Andrew Varela] at his firm in Brooklyn. The next internship provided a lot of training working on construction documents, surveying and dealing with clients. The last major internship that I had was at AECOM this pass summer. I got to work with engineers on larger infrastructural projects and franchise rollout plans for McDonald’s USA.”

ISAACS’ FONDEST MEMORY AS A HIGHLANDER is working with the Masonry Contractors of New Jersey. “All the students from the architecture studios were able to work together and go through the process of designing something that would be built on campus and remain there for an entire year.” 

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO HAVE A JOB STRAIGHT OUT OF SCHOOL? “It feels amazing. I get to be involved right off the bat and see a lot of my experience at NJIT really being impactful in the field right away. I can start to make a difference in the community and actually get involved hands-on at a professional level.”

AS AN ARCHITECT WORKING IN THE RETAIL SECTOR, ISAACS WILL “come up with new design concepts and strategies for large retailers, design flagship stores and provide ground-up assistance in designing buildings and interior spaces.”

HE’S READY TO BEEF UP HIS PORTFOLIO. “Once I secure licensure, I really hope to get my hands in the different aspects of the industry, whether it’s design, development or real estate. I also hope to get more certifications in environmental sustainability as well.” 

THE BEST MEAL HE EVER HAD was at Court Street Restaurant and Bar in Hoboken. “I had chicken Parmesan with mashed potatoes, warm chocolate lava cake with whipped cream for desert, and a martini. It was absolutely delicious.”