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National Architecture Week 2019: A Conversation with Young Architects

Maggie Kearns Francis

April 22, 2019

In honor of National Architecture Week, we are highlighting a few conversations we have had with young architects at ms. These architects offered their insights on transitioning from student to consultant work, developing a design style, their favorite projects, and more!

What initially got you interested in architecture?

Nick Greenaway (NG) – I became interested in architecture when I was child because I always had a fascination for drawing and building anything I thought of in my head. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I actually learned more about what architecture was and began taking technical drawing and drafting classes. After I took those courses, I fell in love with design, and decided I wanted to pursue that career into college. I’d say that in college I really came to love architecture once I started to learn about design principles and the history of design. All of this, along with learning what an architect’s role is on a project really spoke to me as a person and made me realize I chose the right career path.


Garrett Shultz (GS) – Games in high school such as Minecraft and Sims 3 got my foot in the door with the building possibilities. Trips around the country with my family and visiting Europe with a group in high school furthered my interest. Specifically, I was fascinated with the French Quarter in New Orleans and Venice when I visited each, and the way they set up communities still interests me today.


Abby Dickerson (AD) – It all started with some dusty log cabin design magazines in my parents basement I had found when I was 13 years old. They were full of floor plans, and I could not help but draw out renditions of my own perfect spaces. My father had discovered my new hobby and decided to take my creations and turn them into three-dimensional views. It had been the first time I had experienced a space I created. I then understood how something so flat on paper could have such depth in another perspective. At that point, I was hooked on design and the contagious urge to create and change any space I could. 


Santiago Rodriguez (SR) – I traveled through China, Mexico, and Peru. It was in my travel experiences where I picked up my interest in architecture. I admired how each culture had its own ways of designing and unique way of constructing its buildings. I also learned through my travels, how intertwined the sciences and arts were in architecture. After exploring many areas, the idea of working in the field of architecture was set in stone.

What is the greatest difference (shock?) in transitioning from classroom projects to ‘real life’ projects?

NG – The greatest shock to me was the difference of spending all those years in architecture studios in school not worrying about budgets, emails, and coordination. You know while you’re in school that those things are part of the job description but you never really experience them until you start working. What do you mean I can’t spend half of the client’s money designing the perfect atrium!?


GS – Just how real it is. School projects are typically pipe dreams of infinite money and infinite time to build and assuming that everything is buildable. The real world has much more constraints that you need to work around in order to be successful, and the transition between a floating city made out of cotton candy versus a brick and mortar grocery store is vast, but negotiable if you take joy in the details of each.


AD – The technical aspect. In school we are taught to design without any limitations or consideration for structure and practicality. The sky was the limit! When moving to the “real world” projects, you then understand the constraints and boundaries projects have and the necessity to work with and understand other designs of other disciplines.


SR – The opportunity to design. You have full control of a project from design to final presentation at a university. When you have clients who already have a default design, there isn’t as much room for input.

What is/was your favorite student project? Why?

NG – Two projects come to mind:

  • The first being my last project of my undergraduate degree, which was a high-tech office building in Chicago. This project was done with a partner the entire semester and really was a good culmination of my undergrad experience as well as a good transition to working collaboratively on a large project. It really showcased the knowledge learned in our method and materials of construction courses and various engineering courses.
  • The second project being the high-rise building I did at the end of graduate school. This building was a mixture of housing and offices, also in Chicago, and was special to me because it was something I was not familiar with designing and it was challenging to make design narratives work with 100+ floors. At the end of the project, I thought that it really united all the technical knowledge I had learned in undergrad with all of the theory and research knowledge I gained in graduate school. And, fortunately, I was lucky enough to be recognized by AIA Cleveland for my work!


GS – In my junior year I worked on a future city that was made of 2.5 mile x 2.5 mile blocks that were to be carved out so all the poche was livable space. Since the prospect was already so fantastical, I decided to take it a step further and make it the ruin of that ideal metropolis and then set it in the cataclysmic setting of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The project has some of my best renders within it and the gallery around the work for my entire class made the project shine all the more. The material was great inspiration, I got to work with life-long friends, and the jurors were very impressed with the work as a whole.


AD – My junior year of undergrad, I had the opportunity to work with a designer from Audi who traveled all the way from Germany to meet with our studio to inspire and guide us into incorporating the autonomous vehicle into the built environment. I chose to restore a high rise office building in downtown Cincinnati into a multi-story luxury apartment complex that allowed a driverless vehicle to be brought into each home via sky lifts.


SR – The studio I had with Jeana Ripple at the University of Virginia is the one I enjoyed the most. In the beginning, we studied different structural precedents. After deciding which precedent we wanted to use, we studied the properties of the bamboo strips we were given by our professor. I learned an incredible amount by researching how flexible and strong bamboo strips were by adding weights between bamboo knots and simulating the structure properties in a program called Kangaroo in Grasshopper. At the end, after much study and design, we had to create a pavilion. The process which we took was an incredible experience to learn design with real material properties we researched.

What has been your favorite ms project so far? Why?

NG – When I was an intern at ms, I got to help out a lot with the Youngstown Amphitheater in its early stages and it will always be memorable because I got to actually see a large team of people come together to accomplish something really great for the local community.


All of the local projects that I’ve had the chance to work on here in Youngstown mean a lot to me. As a lifelong resident of Youngstown, and now being a part of the design team for many of these great developments in the downtown area, it is really heartwarming to see the changes as well as see the impact all of these projects have on the community especially with it being the community I grew up in.


GS – I wouldn’t say I have one favorite ms project so far, I enjoy every project for different elements. I enjoy concept work for the freedom it provides early on, when I feel like I’m an active part of the future of the project. I like construction sets for the vast amount of knowledge stored within them and that I get to work on something that is going to be made in real life. With every project you always work with a team and getting to know everyone and their strengths really helps you see how you should progress as a professional in the field.


AD – I have loved being able to work on the ALDI team for the past couple years. Each project has provided new challenges and obstacles giving me the opportunity to learn at any task.


SR – I developed a construction set for an ALDI project located in Clinton, MD. It was an opportunity to further learn all of the important building components in an existing condition. It was essential to understand how the existing structure was designed in order to coordinate effectively with the in-house structural engineer. It was also an opportunity to further learn about existing site conditions, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing conditions.

How would you describe your design style?

NG – I haven’t really had a lot of time to find my style but a lot of the work I did in school was contemporary style with most of it being influenced by the architecture and principles of the last 25 years. I’ve tried a lot of different styles ranging from parametric design to explorations into deconstructivism. Even looking into the future of various additive manufacturing applications such as 3D printing but on larger scales has become an interest of mine.


GS – I break architecture down into theory versus technical and while I value technical prowess I tend to lend myself more to theoretical practice. I enjoy seeing how far the envelope can be pushed with architecture. My current fascination is with the application of video game technology to architecture. How the landscape of the profession changes with the invention of VR and AR tech which largely has a home in video games. How world-building and illusionary imaging in games can affect how we design and vice versa. The play, back and forth, between these mediums is something I’m very passionate about.


AD – I think I am still figuring that out each and every day. I love historical renovations with the purpose of incorporating fresh modern ideas and sustainable techniques into an older reused space.


SR – Clean and simple.

Anything else you want to share?

GS – I’d say that while I’m an architect here first I never cease to be an architect in the world. I constantly see things outside of here that I think, “I wonder how that was made?” or, “I wonder if I could do that better?” Things constantly influence me and push me to be better, whether here or elsewhere, and I think that’s one of the most gratifying things about architecture and design.


AD – I am excited to say this fall I will be pursuing the next step in my architectural career by heading back to school at The Ohio State University to earn my Masters of Architecture. Can’t wait to be a Buckeye!


SR – This is for anyone who is starting out in the field of architecture: do not be afraid to explore and reach out. I learned a tremendous amount by volunteering through the American Institute of Architects, Camp Architecture at the Center of Design and Architecture, Habitat for Humanity, and by networking with other professionals. It enriches your knowledge and can polish certain skill sets like communication or design.