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DI Details Newsletter June 2010 Design Institute of San Diego

Another DI Alum We're Proud Of!


Surviving the 1:2 Student Design Charette


LIBRARIAN'S CORNER - Art from Around the World


Surviving the 1:2 Student Design Charette

Friedrich Nietzsche said, "That which does not defeat me makes me stronger." These were words which Phillip Dockery and Gerald Bouvia, III, bore firmly in mind as they entered the AIA 1:2 Student Design Charette in Los Angeles this past April.

Per the 1:2 competition rules, the students arrived at the host design office armed only with drawing and modeling materials. Since the 1:2 project is not made known to participants until the charette event begins, they tried to prepare by bringing everything imaginable to make their case: stacks of magazines, materials, markers, foam core, acrylic, string, paper plates, wood, metal, and anything else they could think of to get their idea across. When the charette began they were given a single sheet of foam core to work with. Nothing more.

"We brought way more than we needed." says Phillip now of the experience.

"The thing is we had to do about 15 weeks worth of work in about six hours," Dockery reports. "It was a huge eye-opener!"

"Working on a team was kind of amazing" says Gerald in appreciation of the event. "Usually we're given a week for developing each element - concept, matrix, diagrams, models. But this time we had to do everything in six hours, developing our concept, model, space plan, our board to talk about materials, and renderings. It was like watching a contest on the Food Network...only WE were in the middle of it all. This was quite the experience - more true to life than anything else we'd been through before."

After the design brief was announced - a church donating a building in Pasadena for special needs children - the two men quickly realized it wouldn't be easy. "We had about 30 minutes to develop the concept. The space had to be converted to include facilities for laundry, kitchen, coffee bar, music room, name it, they needed it." says Bouvia.

The team and 11 competing pairs of designers worked for six hours while volunteer architects and interior designers advised them on time management and mentored their design development. A one and a half hour preliminary jury process followed their efforts to select the six sets of finalists.

"This was a major experience" says Gerald, calling it "Much more conceptual than the classroom. You have no idea what to expect until the client tells you 'here's what we're doing'. You spend an hour receiving the criteria, challenges and goals and are basically told 'Now go make it happen.'"

"The good thing about the charette is you learn time management" says Phillip, adding "You have no choice but to stop second-guessing yourself, make quick decisions and stick with them. You create on the spot, and prioritize VERY quickly about what must be in the space, what should be in space, and what would be nice if only there's a way to swing it."

Gerald builds on his partner's thought. "Then you learn how to work with others and need to build up a confidence of knowing that your partner can execute an idea without micromanaging. The trust factor becomes critically important, as does letting go of the idea of being a perfectionist. We discovered you can't be perfect - you just need to accomplish whatever you can in the short amount of time you've been allotted."

"Which is why I'm glad they taught us the rip and tear model," says Phillip. "It's so easy, and it made a world of difference to us there, and to the way I've been approaching every assignment since the charette."

"It never dawned on me before how to communicate with a client and show them a concept in three dimensions. This was a huge breakthrough for me, since in the real world you're talking to clients over dinner and rendering ideas on a napkin. Sometimes you need a little something more dramatic." he adds.

"I didn't know what to expect going into this," says Gerald "and found it to be a lot of fun. I realized DI has already taught us how to accomplish great results in a brief window of time, provided you just relax and have fun with it. Plus, now I know how to do my job much better than I did before."

Phillip agrees about the value to be gained from participation in these kinds of events. "Take advantage of every opportunity," he advises. "Many kids in college figure they'll get a degree and the doors will all open and they'll get any job they want. Gerald and I are both in our late thirties and have learned how critical it is to set yourself apart from everyone else in the field. Join the organizations. Network. Meet the designers and industry partners. Do the charettes. School is the perfect time to make the right connections."

Even though they didn't see their work implemented in the real world, both Gerald and Phillip came away from their LA trip feeling they'd profited from the 1:2 Student Design Charette. "We got our names out there. We networked and met working architects. It was probably as close to real life as we're likely to get for the moment," Phillip smiles.

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