Erik Guerrero is an Architectural Intern at Alliance Architects, Inc., and a recent graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington’s School of Architecture.
I sat down recently with Erik to discuss the structural project that he worked on during graduate school.
What project design criteria were you given?
We were tasked to design a structure that could provide shade for either the center or the grassy area in front of the Architecture and Fine Arts Library within the CAPPA Courtyard. Initially the size of the structure was going to be 20’ x 20’ x 9’, but due to budget and location, we had to reduce it to approximately 8’ x 8’ x 9’. The structure had to be self-supportive with design details that would help the project structurally and aesthetically. We also had to consider the material to be used with budget and optimal design in mind. Exterior grade materials were the optimal choice since the structure was planned to stay in the courtyard for approximately five years. Therefore, we needed materials that would be durable in the conditions, and the environment.
What was the initial design inspiration for your project?
There wasn’t much inspiration for this project. It was somewhat of an abstract object. A bunch of us experimented with different forms until one was feasible and logical to build.
Did this begin as a solo design or group design project? What was the overall design process for this project?
We essentially started with individual designs and voted on favorites until four group designs were completed. From there, we worked as four different teams and shared ideas to improve the design for the project. We had no team leaders and worked to collaborate equally.
How did the design change from when the winning design was chosen to the final design?
It changed drastically. We had to make sure the structure could be self-supportive. The initial designs were definitely too complex for us to build. With saying that, the initial designs were really cool and creative.
What challenges did you face during the design process?
Determining if the structure could support itself, while designing the surface, and every small detail of the structure.
Did you create 3-D models and renderings of the different phases of the project?
Yes. Creating 3-D models and renderings were a constant process in making decisions for the design. We were able to see the scale and location of the structure in the courtyard and determine the optimal form.
How was it constructed? What materials were used? Were there any challenges during construction?
We used steel sheets which were then cut using a plasma cutter from our CAD files. We also painted each sheet and had to bend the material using tools such as rubber mallets, clamps, etc. There weren’t too many challenges faced during construction. Overall, it went fairly well.
Which did you enjoy more- designing or building the structure?
I think the building part was more enjoyable. As the structure was going up little by little, I began to appreciate the thought process and collaboration we all went through. It was fun building it with my classmates, as we all joked around endlessly.
What did you like best about the project? Is there anything you would change about this project?
The final form itself was interesting in how solid the structure was. I wish it could have been bigger.
What lessons were learned during this process? How will you use them in your career?
We all collaborated and worked as a team. We listened to each other’s ideas and agreed on final decisions in a respectful and professional manner. I’m glad I was able to experience the project with that group of classmates.
What was something you learned from your internship at Alliance Architects that you were able to apply to the project?
With the number of projects that I worked on simultaneously, it helped me to be more efficient with my time management and critical thinking. Having several mentors here was a huge plus, offering countless tips on design and analyzing different aspects of projects. Although the school project wasn’t a practical one, working on various phases of projects here helped me better understand the process of design and construction. Several things can go right, but many of them can go wrong! We had several hiccups during the construction process; but with how easy we collaborated in the class, we managed to find the right solutions to finish the project on time.
Where can we view the structure?
In the CAPPA (College of Architecture, Planning, and Public Affairs) Courtyard on the West Campus of the University of Texas at Arlington.