Inside USD

Architecture Students Have Grand Designs

Monday, December 19, 2011

Danielle Bowler wants to be a business owner, which explains why the University of San Diego senior is closing in on her degree in business administration and a business management minor.

But her passion, since taking a high school elective course in architecture, is design. That’s why on Dec. 12, Bowler, who is also an architecture minor, presented her final semester project for the Architecture 102 class for her USD Professor Daniel Lopez-Perez and a few expert colleagues.

The project involved a hypothetical design for USD’s Camino Hall courtyard and students had to build a lightweight space frame structure that also factors in lightness and environmental elements.

“I really enjoyed working on this project,” said Bowler (pictured, with project). “It was pretty open-ended other than focusing on those factors. I put a lot of time into the digital and physical model. I’d say I put in around 10-20 hours a week on the project We worked on the digital model throughout the semester and I used components from the first two phases of the project — prototype and non-programmatic — to create my final model.”

Classmate Ryan Barney, meanwhile, is a sophomore architecture major. Barney (pictured, left) describes himself as a lifelong lover of art in its many forms. He drew comic books when he was younger and earned recognition for his charcoal drawings in high school. He also has a deep art influence throughout his family: his father is a software architect, his mother paints professionally, his sister draws and paints, one uncle is a tattoo artist and another uncle works as a make-up artist for films such as the “Austin Powers” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” series, respectively.

Architecture is a budding creative outlet for Barney. “My passion for architecture was sparked only a year ago when I took my first class at USD. I read books on architecture and I found myself going on YouTube to view lectures in my spare time. I hadn’t pursued it until then, but when I did, I was hooked.”

He, too, gave a design presentation (pictured, below). The contemporary design he presented in the Camino Hall basement studio classroom was the latest of multiple attempts he tried to make the most sense of the space.

“I chose to approach it by doing something to enhance the experience for visitors. I see people who pass through it, but don’t interact with the space,” he said. “I experimented with six designs when we were supposed to have maybe two or three. I struggled a few times on how to make it work, but I wound up learning a lot.”

Bowler’s design idea, meanwhile not only followed Lopez’s guidelines, but also provided benefits for USD students.

“It would serve the music department’s practice and performances needs and it could also be used as a quiet study space for students.” She added, courtesy of her final report, “the structure forms an artificial topography that can be inhabited both above and below. The space frame is clad with insulation to serve loud programs without disturbing the surrounding spaces. Above the structure, the insulation serves as an artificial ground and a home for vegetative growth.”

Bowler, who arrived at USD before architecture was officially designated as a major, has taken on the additional coursework for the minor after consulting with administrators and professors.

“Last year I met with Architecture Department Program Director, Dr. (Can) Bilsel, and he recommended that I take a summer pre-professional program to explore architecture as a career.”

Bilsel’s suggestion was for Bowler to attend Columbia University’s introduction course within its graduate program. There she worked on a project that explored the interaction between space, threshold and surrounding environment.

“My final project was a pedestrian wall that managed three strata of pedestrian traffic: walking, running and biking,” she said.

That experience reaffirmed her decision to apply to graduate schools to further her education. It has also sparked her creativity in USD architecture courses. She’s done a semester-long research paper in her “Contemporary Architecture: History and Theory of Architecture and the City (1945-Present)” course.

“I wrote about the evolution of feminine space. I examined the needs that should be taken into consideration by analyzing the feminine use of space and how these needs have changed over time,” she said.

Barney’s architecture experience is in the developmental stage, meaning plenty of opportunities await him. While he understands USD’s young program is trying to establish itself while also handling growing student interest in the subject, overall he’s pleased with what’s happened to date.

“I think my design skills are improving and I’m pretty quick at learning new things,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed working with the professors. They’re very knowledgeable and connected to other schools so it’s great for networking and we’re able to do presentations with people in the business and can receive their input on our projects. I’m looking forward to more opportunities.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

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