What a whirlwind past few… years? I can’t believe its the butt end of 2021 and I have had blogging on the back of my mind through the entire pandemic and beyond. I have always wanted to blog or vlog, I have done it sporadically in the past, but the thing that has stopped me every time was the anxiety of what other people would think of me. My crippling fear of failure and the judgement of others has been the biggest block. It’s so easy to plan and dream, then put those ideas and plans on the backburner and just keep trudging along through life without realizing the full consequence of letting time slip by. It’s been literal years since my last post and yet as I kept the thought of writing on my mind the clock kept ticking and the world keeps moving forward.
This is not to say that the past two years have been uneventful. I have a whole new name, a whole new house, two degrees, and a whole new human, 6 months fresh. In fact, it feels like there is so much going on, not enough time to do it, and not enough of ME to go around doing it. I am a wife, a mom, an architect in training, currently studying for my Architect Registration Exams, and in the process starting my own design business. I know what most people would think, I’m adding one more thing to my already long list of things to do. However, writing things down has always been my way to organize my thoughts and mind, so believe that blogging could be the driving force I need to bring order to my chaos. It might not be pretty, and I will probably make a lot of mistakes and changes, miss a date, post the wrong thing, but it’s a learning process. I’ve decided I’m ready to put myself out here, for real, without being afraid of what “the people” will say.
So, Hi friends! My name is Stephanie Davis and I’m a mom, a wife, a future architect, and a blogger.
It’s been such a long, winding road to get here I almost can’t believe that at 29 I am finally getting my Bachelors Degree in Architecture! I took so many detours outside of my career path that for the longest time I had given up on my dream to become an architect, but here I am. Let me be the first to say, it’s never too late to drop everything and chase your calling. Looking back to my first year it seems like time flew by, even though it didn’t seem so in the moment. Even though my way wasn’t the conventional college experience, I have had the chance to learn, travel and grow so much that I would not change this opportunity for anything.
SO it’s my senior year and I spent the winter break taking advantage of the vacation by doing absolutely nothing productive but focusing on rest and regrouping for this final stretch. After my graduation in May it’s going to be time to face new challenges and finally test the real architecture world.
One of my new goals for this semester is to become a LEED Green Associate. As I learn more and more about becoming accredited I plan to break down my study plans in case any other future architects are interested or need the help.
I have many dreams for this year and I want to work hard for every single one of them. I can’t wait for what is in store and I am anxious but ready for every bit of it.
I’ve spoken before about my current semester struggles. As a quick recap, I am currently working on my senior project: A mixed use development of a 130,000 (ish) SF site located in South Bend, Indiana. We are expected to have a minimum number of requirements that include a retail, residential, and health/fitness component. (It is a hypothetical project)
We’ve been through the site analysis, relationship studies, ideation, and we are at the final stage of concept design. This will conclude our first semester work and next year will be dedicated to fin tuning the design and figuring out the ins and outs of the decisions we made so far. AAAHH!
We had a very successful critique with a few professionals from around the area who shared their time with us and gave us some helpful feedback. There are some major things I have to reexamine and correct. Even so, I’m really proud of how the project is going so far. I have stretched myself out of my comfort (traditional) zone, and I have learned a lot. I fought my way through Revit, and I’m starting to get more and more comfortable with the software. Crazy as this sounds, I’m looking forward to the struggles of next semester.
Breaking it Down
1. The Premise
The base and inspiration for the whole concept was “Pause and Rediscover”. City life is notorious for being fast-paced and busy. The proposal I submitted has a focus on creating spaces that invite people in, to sit, to shop, to eat, and to relax in a community environment. Historically, South Bend was a thriving industrial city. Over time, many of the buildings were torn down and replaced by parking lots that slowly deteriorated the character of the city. In replacing the current parking lot with a place for community, the intent is to rediscover the old, thriving city that used to be.
2. The Patterns
There are certain Site and Architectural patterns that form a language which, should be the tying force throughout the project. Using nature in all of its forms to reinforce the idea of “pause and rediscover” is a strong underlying theme. For example: Using light elements that filter light in dynamic ways, bringing nature indoors, and creating rooms that flow into the outdoors.
3. The Program
Residential: There are different types of housing availability, from 3 level townhouses, to small 1-2 bedroom apartments, and even studio apartments.
Health/Fitness: A two level fitness gym with a pool and a spa on the third floor.
Restaurant: Open to the courtyard with indoor and outdoor dining options.
Clinics: A small private lab/clinic
Retail: Two major components form the retail aspect of this project. Small boutique shops that line the major street to create an inviting pedestrian experience, and a large public marketplace that is the icon of the southwestern corner.
The public market is my baby (the biggest work-in-progress). It’s meant to be a place where community happens. It’s design attempts to provide multiple options for interaction: for example, there are more permanent rentable rooms, stalls, or just an open space where anybody can set up shop. There is a temperature controlled area, and an open area. The spaces flow with each other and connect allowing for moment all around.
I chose biophilic (nature inspired) elements to create the overall structure, to relate it back to the park, and to nature itself.
3. The Style
Here is one of my biggest struggles. There are so many options for what a building can look like. Personally, I’ve usually leaned more towards traditional architecture. Maybe that’s content for a whole new blog post. In this case, I wanted to create a flow that went from traditional to a more modern feeling. This would tie back to the premise of rediscovery, and illustrate growth and change. I’m working on it. This part of the project will be addressed more in the next semester’s work.
To Sum it Up
This is the biggest project I’ve ever worked on. It has many components and it has been a struggle, but I’m still learning. There is so much more to come and I can’t wait to see what it will look like by the time I present my final version complete with Vray renderings of my Revit model. Next semester is probably going to be way more intense than this. Cheers!
Second year of architecture school had me feeling like the real deal. We were introduced to site analysis, construction types, and we were finally putting our designs out there. I’ve said before that looking back at my old projects, all I see are the things I did wrong and could do better if I had to do them again. Even so, I am still proud of how much I have grown throughout my education.
Quick recap of the projects I worked on:
Construction class meant learning about materials and methods of construction. We replicated a light wood frame model of a small house:
Meanwhile, I was dipping my toes into the world of watercolor. I wanted to learn to create realistic art through this media. (It’s harder than I thought). I have a hard time finishing the paintings. Maybe I’ll post more about my struggles with watercolor later on. I still want to keep at it and maybe even get ‘good’ at it eventually.
Finally, the biggest part of my year was taken over by my studio projects. First semester the project was an environmental center with a garden and caretaker house component. and the project for my second semester was a proposal of a barn for Morton Hill House in Benton Harbor, MI, that would function as exhibit and event space, with a curating and storage area. Even though there are so many things I would change, I am still really proud of the work that I did (for a second year student) so here it is:
First Semester: Intro to Design Studio
Preliminary Site Analysis
Initial Site Plan
*The second sheet is missing the topographical model that was affixed in place at the top
Second Semester: Architecture as Craft
and the Corner Eave model:
Looking back, I’m so proud of this! All the crazy late nights and the struggle were so worth it. I’m excited for what the future brings and I look behind and glow because I did this ❤
Yesterday I arrived at the architecture studio a little after 5 a.m. I spent the entire day working on my project submission for that afternoon and attending my regular classes. Fast-forward to 7 p.m. and I hadn’t left the building once.
This is a recurring thing with most architecture students (as I’ve heard). There are crazy folk stories of past students who tried to sleep in the studio or hide and escape campus safety officers to stay in and work through the night (which isn’t allowed at our school for some reason).
We Make it Home
Since many of us spend so much of our time in studio, we slowly begin to make it our home. With Christmas lights, plants, toys, extra furniture, food, and many other random knick-knacks, we turn our spaces into representations of ourselves (and our struggle).
It’s interesting to see the way our personalities shine through our spaces.
I love my studio space, even with all my layers of trace paper, pens everywhere, books, and even my studio slippers on the floor. I thrive in my messy environment. I know where everything is even though it may look chaotic.
Others, like my friend Christy, cannot work until their space is organized and cleaned (and I mean completely disinfected).
Some build furniture in the wood shop (like coat hangers and shelves), many have a coffee station by their desk (a must!), and others have a blank space with no personal items.
No matter what our desks look like it’s fun to appreciate our differences and learn from each other and the things that inspire us.
This summer was a busy, exhausting, crazy whirlwind. It was also an incredible learning experience. There is so much to write about that, today, I’m just introducing a series of posts that will be broken down into four parts.
~photos to come~
Part One: The Architecture Tour
Together with my classmates I visited Greece, France, Germany, Italy, and Sweden on an architecture tour that spanned the first five weeks of my summer. We began our trip in Athens and made our way through Europe by train, boat, bus, and plane, with $900 in our pocket for food and personal expenses throughout the trip.
We sketched our way around the countries getting on each others nerves every now and then, but thoroughly immersing ourselves in the experience. Don’t get me wrong, I like them… but five weeks is a lot!
Part Two: The Waldensian Tour
After the Architecture trip, a few of us continued on to the Waldensian tour which took us back to Italy. More specifically, the Piedmont of the alps where the Waldensian people were settled and persecuted for their beliefs.
Part Three: The Jordan Trip
Jordan was a different experience. We joined Beyond the Walls to create a mural with and for the community of Madaba. In a central part of the city, we worked together with local children to paint a beautiful wall. The time I spent there working with two of the girls was unforgettable.
Along with the mural project, we also had a chance to do a few tourist things. I loved my Jordan experience and I cannot wait to return.
Part Four: Spain and Miami
The final leg of my trip was Madrid, Spain. It was the end of a busy travel experience and I was able to spend one week just relaxing and enjoying the wonderful architecture, culture and people of the city.
After this experience, nothing is more blissful than spending some time at home, relaxing with my new baby nephew and with mom-cooked meals. Too soon, it was time to get back on a plane and go back to school, but it’s my senior year of architecture school and I couldn’t be happier about it 🙂
Trace, after trace, after trace. Design is a never-ending loop of problem-solving. I don’t think I have ever felt that one of my architecture projects is “finished”. There is ALWAYS something I could have changed, or something I could have done better.
Looking through my old projects? Forget it. That is the process of learning. I would do every single project differently. But I did learn, and at the time I felt proud of what I was presenting.
Currently, I’m spending time in the process of “Ideation”. Generating multiple design possibilities for my mixed use project that could enhance the experience of the site. I find it really hard not to fall in love with a specific idea and try to force it to work but, that’s a rabbit hole I’ve been down before and it is my least favorite project to date.
I’ve been trying to slow down and think thoroughly about each decision I’m making. It finally feels like I’m moving in the right direction.
Sometimes help comes from places you never imagined. I highly recommend talking over your projects with a peer. Even discussing ideas with someone who doesn’t study architecture has helped me view the issues I hadn’t even considered before. It brings a new perspective, which is always helpful.
This field trip to Chicago was a precedent study for mixed used projects (residential, commercial, etc.) and incorporating parking structures. This year, our senior project is to design a project with these components, and Chicago has countless opportunities for learning. Throughout the trip we walked 11 miles around the city and visited parking structure after parking structure, as well as mixed used buildings and a couple of Whole Foods buildings.
I quickly fell in love with the projects and environment around Lakeshore East. It has major components of what my architecture dreams are made of, and, though I find it incredibly intimidating, I hope to one day be a part of a project of similar impact and magnitude.
Aqua at Lakeshore East Chicago is one of my favorite projects in the city. Not least because it was designed by Studio Gang, a firm led by Jeanne Gang and one of my dream places to work (more about my take on women in architecture to come). I am intrigued by the combination of architecture and urban design that surrounds this project. Though I didn’t go inside, I was captivated by the use of materials and colors of the facades.
These residential spaces below the Aqua tower have direct access to the Park designed the Office of James Burnett. A wonderful space that combines open green spaces, with water features, and perfectly landscaped opportunities for sitting and walking around. As I experience the park, it’s hard to believe how close it is to the hustle and bustle of downtown Chicago.
In this environment there is a sense of safety, and a sense of community as joggers pass by and others stroll around walking their dogs. Though Chicago is a large city, this is a fascinating example of a place that feels peaceful an sheltered.
This year, my project will be tiny in comparison to the projects around Lakeshore East. However, I hope that in my own way I can achieve a similar sense of shielded rest from the agitation of daily life.