Building a School: A look at the architecture certificate program

    Photo by Rosalie Chan / North by Northwestern

    Tucked in a corner of the Technological Institute is a room much unlike the others. Architectural drawings and floor plans cover the bright yellow walls, and models of houses and other buildings fill the shelves near the window.

    Students sit at a rectangular table, scattered with architecture books and sketches of floor plans. They are preparing for their midterm, which is the midway point of the project they have been working on all quarter: building a grade school.

    This class is "Design Studio," a three-part course that is a requirement of the Architectural Engineering and Design Certificate program.

    Design Studio students are currently working on the designing a school. They have to consider the design, location and materials for constructing the school, and they also have to render it on computer software. Photo by Rosalie Chan / North by Northwestern

    "It started with the idea that civil engineers in particular needed an opportunity to study design in their field and engage in creative projects," said Joseph Schofer, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs.

    The idea for the architecture certificate came from an outside donor, Richard Halpern, a Chicago-based construction manager. He was an active chair of the advisory committee.

    "He had a passion for architecture," Schofer said. "In his practice, he had a lot of experience working with the most prominent architects in the world. He had the idea of bringing it to Northwestern, McCormick and civil and environmental engineering. He was willing to make it work by making a substantial gift to Northwestern."

    Model buildings fill the shelves in the Design Studio classroom. On the right is an obituary of Richard Halpern, who passed away in 2011. Halpern helped to develop and fund the AED certificate program at Northwestern. Photo by Rosalie Chan / North by Northwestern

    Since the beginning of the program, McCormick has involved more people in developing and teaching this program. Clinical professor Laurence Booth, founder and principal of Booth Hansen, was selected to develop and teach the architecture studio classes. Also, professional architects, engineers and developers often speak at the studio classes.

    McCormick junior Lupe Gomez intends to complete the architecture certificate program, and he said he has gained more experience from the class.

    "I've always been into architecture since I was little," Gomez said. "As a kid from the Chicagoland area, I was amazed at how high the skyscrapers are. [This class] made me think about everything that goes into building. We see the intricacies of where the bathroom is supposed to be, where the bedroom is supposed to be."

    McCormick junior Lupe Gomez and graduate student Yuzhou Wang listen to adjunct lecturers Scott Cyphers and Mark Sexton teach in the Design Studio class. Cyphers and Sexton both work in professional architecture firms. Photo by Rosalie Chan / North by Northwestern

    Currently, students are working on designing a hypothetical grade school that would be located between Colfax and Lincoln and between Sherman and Orrington. Students spend the entire quarter working on this project. Last quarter, they worked on building a house, and next quarter, they will work on a skyscraper.

    "In the engineering school, architecture and engineering go hand in hand," adjunct lecturer Scott Cyphers said. "It's a reflection of the real practice. We practice architecture and bring the real world into this class."

    The program has in fact reached out beyond Northwestern. Students work on collaborative building and design projects with students at Stanford University, and students also have the opportunity to travel to Europe. They work on an intensive project for a week, and at the end, they present their project in front of professional architects, who evaluate and critique them.

    Schofer said he hopes more students go to architecture school after receiving the certificate. He said over the years, only one or two students have gone to architecture school after graduation, but it is common for students to go into structural design.

    Bienen and McCormick junior Michael Hopkins is unsure yet if he will pursue the certificate, but he enjoys the studio class so far.

    "We're working on a macro level and a micro level. When building a school, you have to think about things like where the sun comes in," Hopkins said. "Architecture is your project. It's a lot more work. It's very intense but a lot of fun, too. You have to think about where stuff is going to be laid out and what materials to use. You have to think about small and big details."


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