This interview is with Amy Trick, a architecture student seeking her master's degree at Clemson University, expecting to graduate in May 2017. We recently spoke with her and asked her about her experience within her program and what she's planning to do with her professional future.
What influenced you to pursue a degree in architecture?
While studying architectural engineering in my undergraduate education, I realized that I was interested in not only how buildings are made to stand or how they are constructed, which is moreso the emphasis of engineering, but also that I was fascinated with the qualities and characteristics of the spaces being built and how people interacted with the built environment. This interest led me to actually change fields and pursue my Master of Architecture degree after graduating with my Bachelor of Science in engineering.
What has your experience been like at Clemson?
I have had a really incredible experience in coming to Clemson. I have been extraordinarily impressed with the faculty, both for their incredible expertise and for their genuine commitment to ensuring that students learn and succeed. The resources Clemson provides, from an impressive studio facility to state-of-the-art digital fabrication technology, also have been beyond what I ever expected to encounter in my graduate education. I have come to view my peers and faculty as family in a way, and I have learned more in my time studying here than I ever thought possible
Were there other schools you were considering?
I applied to a broad spectrum of architecture schools - public, private, large, small, theory-focused, technically-minded, and everything in between. I ultimately decided on Clemson for a few reasons. It is a top-ranked program that seemed to not favor too heavily toward theory versus practice, meaning I would receive a well-rounded education. Additionally, upon attending a visit day for prospective students, I was extremely impressed with the facilities and the way in which the faculty seemed so passionate and committed to bettering Clemson, something I can now attest was an accurate assessment. Furthermore, Clemson is a great value for the quality of education I have received, as all of the other graduate programs to which I applied were anywhere from slightly to notably more expensive and often had fewer opportunities for funding through fellowships or graduate assistantships.
What is your favorite class so far?
Last spring, I was in a studio taught by David Franco called "Occupy Walmart". In this studio, each student was tasked with reimagining the site of a local Walmart Supercenter as a micro-city. This studio promoted discussion, debate, and contemplation about modern suburbia, consumption, density, methods of transportation, big box construction, and countless other relevant issues of the modern era, and the course encourage myself and my peers to really push ourselves to make commentary and invent solutions to some of these issues. The relevance of this studio to the way in which much of America lives today, combined with the endless enthusiasm of the professor, made it a very enriching experience.
What is unique about the nature of your major’s classes?
The studio culture that comes with a study of architecture makes this discipline one that is moreso a lifestyle than a major. My peers and I don't just work in studio but rather we inhabit and live in it, which fosters both a camaraderie distinct to a studio environment and an immersion in design. I feel this lends itself to learning how to apply design thinking in copious aspects and applications, as we are all surrounded by design problems in our day-to-day inhabitation of the studio. Because we know each other well, I think classes are in many ways more casual; discussions are more prominent and thought-provoking, as we are all comfortable speaking our opinions around each other.
What has been the most challenging aspect of this area of study, and was this something you had originally anticipated?
Studio is more time-consuming, difficult, and frustrating than I could have ever imagined, and it is very difficult to conceptualize prior to actually being in an architecture studio course. However, I would not change a thing; I have learned more, pushed myself further, and developed skills that I never imagined from my time in architecture school and in the architecture studio. At this point, I find myself missing school and missing studio when I am away for holiday breaks or even when working during internships.
Is there anything you wish you had known about this major ahead of time before choosing this career path?
I was amazed and surprised in the best possible way to discover how my many interests and passions could be relevant and useful in design and how much I would learn about a wide range of subject matters in pursuit of my architecture degree; I would strongly recommend an architectural education for those who are curious about a lot of things or really enjoy contemplating and debating big questions.
What are the best ways to network with your peers within your major?
Most of us within our school are very familiar with one another simply due to the amount of time we spend in studio and the relatively small size of our program. We also have clubs and organizations, like AIAS and GASP (our Graduate Architecture Student Partnership) that help architecture students to meet peers in years outside their own.
Have you participated in any internships?
I have had several internships at both architecture firms and other types of design offices. From each internship I have completed, I have gained distinctive skills and also have been better able to glean what sort of work I ultimately hope to do or what sort of office environment or studio culture I hope to find upon graduation. Though some of the internships I have had I secured on my own, I obtained my most recent internship through the Clemson School of Architecture Career Fair, which was an extremely helpful resource. By getting to talk one on one to different firms, I was able to hone in on firms I felt to be a good fit and network with a large number of offices that have ties to or an interest in Clemson's program.
What are your future career plans and aspirations?
I hope to work at a firm and pursue licensure upon graduation. I also am very interested in teaching and have a strong interest in history and theory, so I plan to also pursue a Ph.D. and hopefully teach architectural studios and history and theory courses.
What is the best piece of advice related to your field of study that you have received?
"Try something new." Whether it be an unprecedented concept or a different way of fabricating a model, a unique drawing technique or a distinctive presentation style, I have found that by consistently evolving how I work and think through learning how to adapt to and work with new entities has helped me to push my limits, to grow as a designer, and to keep me interested and motivated.
What advice would you give someone else trying to break into this field?
Be bold. Use your skills, your imagination, and your insight to make a compelling argument in the form of a design solution, because sometimes the outlandish-seeming project you propose might just work, and if it fails, you likely learned something valuable anyway.
How are you financing your education, and what are your most helpful online resources or tools?
I have taken out student loans to fund my graduate education. I also am a Graduate Assistant at my school, which helps to significantly reduce my tuition expenses.
Amy's Reading List:
- The Poetics of Space, by Gaston Bachelard - For its tribute to lived, human experiences in architecture.
- In Praise of Shadows, by Jun'ichiro Tanizaki - For its intriguing comparison of Western and non-Western culture in many aspects of life beyond design and its reminder to embrace and find meaning not only in light but also in subtlety and shadow.