Co-op Memoirs, by Brittany Reed

When starting my first year at Roger Williams University, I was filled with an array of emotions.  With all of the changes happening so quickly, I felt nervous, anxious, eager, and excited, all at the same time.  When classes started, the reality of my decision had set in.  Of course the upper classmen were intimidating with their daunting stories of all-nighters and critiques, and the intense work load began immediately, but I still felt up to the challenge.  I was motivated to see if architecture was for me.


At Roger Williams, the first year of studio is solely hand drafting, computers are not considered until the second year introduction class.  This is different from most of the programs I looked at when deciding where I should attend college, but I felt it was the right path to take.  The studio professors repeated over and over again how the fundamentals of hand drawing where essential prior to progressing to computer drafting programs, I have come to agree with them.  After spending my first year figuring out how to use a Mayline ruler and attempting to master the art of line weights, I earned an appreciation of hand drafting, as well as an understanding of how detailed line work create the buildings around us.


With only one year of education and no computer drafting knowledge under my belt, I wondered how I would contribute to an architecture firm like Edward Rowse Architects besides being relegated to making copies and getting coffees.  Little did I know that with only that year to fall back on, I’d still have enough basic knowledge in the field to be a productive member of the firm.  I am taking my general knowledge about buildings and drafting and developing it further than I thought possible, and it’s only been three weeks.  I have started to pick up AutoCAD as well as Photoshop (with many questions along the way of course), all building upon what I learned in my first year at Roger Williams.


Working at Edward Rowse Architects as an intern for the summer has been a wonderful learning experience so far.  While it can be intimidating and challenging at times, this summer is going to help further my education and put me in a better place for the upcoming school year.


~Brittany Reed

Should Architects Turn Down Prison Commissions?

There has been some discussion lately about the American Institute of Architects Code of Ethics. Our code of ethics is not as clearly defined as some other professions and some people have decided that the AIA should be more clear about our duties to the profession. One of the biggest front runners for this debate is concerning the design of prisons.


Currently the conversation sits at the crossroads of whether or not architects should participate in the design of prisons. The pro-participation side sees prisons as no different as any other commission. A prison is a building type just like a restaurant, school, and sports stadium. A prison has its own design challenges and every day new technologies are being invented to be incorporated into prison design to make them safer and more secure. The anti-participation side compares an architect’s role in the design of prisons to that of a doctor being a part of lethal injections, which is all but forbid by the American Medical Association.


Our firm has designed several prisons and we have no plans to stop submitting proposals for such work. Our firm takes pride in our prison design. We feel it is our obligation to bring even the toughest building type to life. Just like a skyscraper is an opportunity to showcase the wealth of a financial institution a prison is an opportunity to showcase the strength and security of a city, state, or country.


The goal of our prison design is focused on safety and security. Our primary objective is to protect the prison staff, the inmates they secure and the surrounding population. Our design process is definitely derived from form follows function. We do extensive interviews with the new users and study how their prison will operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This allows us to deliver a design solution that incorporates effective operations management and the latest technologies in secure electronics.


If the AIA wants to make the Code of Ethics more specific they should consider the ethics of turning down the design of these facilities. If Architects are not allowed to bid for this project type who will the responsibility be passed onto? As architects we should feel obligated to tackle these challenges head on and perhaps the final result may not be the next Guggenheim but for us at Edward Rowse Architects, a strong solution that exceeds clients expectations affirms our beliefs in what we do.


~Dayne DeSerres

Co-op Memoirs, by Bud Angst

The Co-Op program at Wentworth is one of the main reasons I chose the school. The opportunity to gain nearly 9 months of work experience in the field of architecture before graduation is incredible. When you hear about how you can get a head start of almost 1000 hours on your I.D.P. requirements before you graduate and be that much closer to getting your license, you instantly realize what a great program the required Co-Ops at Wentworth really are. What I didn’t realize until I started my first Co-Op just a few weeks ago was how much I would be learning during this time period.


Everybody expects to learn in school, I mean, that is what we pay ungodly amounts of money for right? But I’ve learned so much more about professional practice and construction documents in two weeks of my job here at Edward Rowse Architects then I have in the first three years of my education at Wentworth. Co-Op not only offers the advantages I talked about earlier, but it is also a crucial part of the education process. I am only a few weeks into my first Co-Op and I couldn’t imagine going to a school that didn’t require them.


It is a little strange at times being the intern in the office. It takes some getting used to having to ask questions all the time and its weird being a college kid working with professionals and doing your best not to screw up and get in their way. The people I work with have been great at teaching me and being understanding when I mess up from time to time or occasionally just have absolutely no clue what I’m doing. (Ask my boss about my roof penetration detail drawings…)


Co-Op is hard, educational, a little odd at first, but without a doubt it will be one of the best experiences of my educational career.


~Bernard Angst

Is the Fall of the Cooper Union a Symbol of the New Age of Architecture?

Starting next year tuition will no longer be free at The Cooper Union. It is very sad that a school with such a rich history can no longer uphold its original promise by Peter Cooper in 1859. It was his dream to give every student the opportunity to have a world class education no matter their upbringing. That dream is now gone.


But if we take a step back and look at The Cooper Union in a much larger context we see the ripple effect that has extended far beyond the school and into the profession as a whole. In the new age of collaboration the bright shining star with the prestigious degree is just like every other graduate with student loans and fighting for a spot at a firm. Since the Great Recession successful architecture firms have become centered around a gathering of hardworking individuals that succeed because of a combined effort. While we gawk at the works of Thom Mayne, Norman Foster and Frank Gehry, it is their staff that deserves the applause for the all nighters they pulled to bring these magnificent buildings to life. Today the architects are still the leaders but buildings have become so complex their creation requires the group effort of architects, engineers, and contractors. Of course no project is smooth sailing but as the profession drifts away from the “architect as king” ideology, everyone is able to focus on grouping up and being more innovative and efficient than ever before.


So as the Copper Union joins the ranks of every other architecture school, how will they look to the future? Will they still try to be the poster boy for the top end of the profession? Or will they humble themselves and teach their student the power of collaboration? At Edward Rowse Architects, we love The Cooper Union and will gladly welcome them to the community.


~Dayne DeSerres

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