Before attending graduate school, I worked as a fabricator at a custom kinetic architecture design/build shop. One spring morning, a group of University of Oregon architecture students visited the shop as a part of the Vancouver Program led by Stephen Duff. The reason for their visit was to introduce them to their kinetic architecture class in Vancouver, BC. At the time, I was thinking of returning to graduate school and had been accepted into a few different graduate schools. Meeting those students, learning of the kinetic architecture course offered in Vancouver, and hearing all about Stephen Duff from my colleagues and other students was what eventually inspired me to attend the University of Oregon. This past spring, through the help of the Vancouver Program Scholarship, I was not only able to participate in the program that brought me to the University of Oregon, but it has been the highlight of my graduate school career thus far.
My biggest highlight during the Vancouver Program was the course that started it all for me: Kinetic Architecture. Prior to attending the University of Oregon, I was primarily a fabricator of kinetic architecture. In the Vancouver Program, I learned what went into designing the kinetic architecture I helped build. This included learning about different machines, mechanisms, and their advantages and limitations. Structures, materials, and connection details were other major learning points in the course that I greatly enjoyed. Another aspect of the course I enjoyed was the group work. Throughout the term, we worked in self-selected groups based around our interests. Not only did I get to learn from the knowledge of my classmates, but I got to further practice designing and producing as a team. This is a skill set I think a lot of architecture students should experience in school, as the profession depends heavily on team work, not only amongst your teammates, but amongst your clients and consultants as well. You can learn a lot from each other.
Related to the kinetic architecture class was the digital modeling course taught alongside it. In this class, we learned two different digital modeling programs to help us produce digital animations of our kinetic architecture projects. One of my biggest weaknesses as an architecture student has been in digital modeling. This has been primarily because I have been so intimidated by the rendering process of digital modeling. From textures, texture mapping, to lighting, camera angles, and camera settings, it gets very overwhelming. Learning digital modeling, animation, and rendering under the direction of one of the original developers of the modeling program was amazing. Not only did he break down my fears and apprehension towards digital modeling, but his enthusiasm towards digital modeling was contagious. I can’t wait to apply what I have learned to my other architecture design studios.
Amidst the kinetic architecture course, getting to study abroad in Vancouver also taught me a lot about the successes and failures of Vancouver as a large cosmopolitan city. Unfortunately, one of its biggest failures is its high cost of living. Not only is food expensive, but housing prices are through the roof. This I noticed prohibited diversity in the ages and backgrounds of its residents. One of its greatest successes I saw in Vancouver however was its waterfront. Nearly all of its waterfront property in down Vancouver has been turned into bike and pedestrian trails, with parks intermittently placed along the way. By giving the waterfront to the public, it provides its residents a positive resource for recreation and sustainable transportation. It is one of the biggest reasons why I think so many people find Vancouver to be such a beautiful city. I am looking forward towards using these experience in future urban planning courses.
Upon my return to the United States, people ask me what my favorite thing about Vancouver was. Without a doubt, I will always mention the kinetic architecture course and the urban environment of Vancouver.
– Rachelle Byarlay, Architecture in Vancouver