October 18, 2012
Building in Beijing
Seven students complete an international co-op
Danielle Gray, MARC ’13, points to a photo on the wall of the Casella Gallery and smiles, laughing at a memory. The picture shows students sitting around a table full of food in an alleyway in Beijing as a part of “Burning Meats,” a weekly dinner for architecture professionals and one of Gray’s favorite memories of her co-op experience abroad.
“Every Friday there would be new and familiar faces,” said Gray, who took the opportunity to network and learn more about the lives of architects from around the world.
Gray and six other Wentworth architecture students visited Beijing this summer as a co-op with BASEbeijing, an architecture learning center, where students from universities around North America were also studying under architects Robert Mangurian, Mary-Ann Ray, and Robert Adams. It was the third year Wentworth students worked with the BASEbeijing program, and the largest number of Wentworth students to have participated so far.
“It’s a great program and we want it to continue. We don’t want to lose the momentum,” said Kathi Vander Laan, a co-op advisor who helped plan the trip.
As part of their three-month long trip to China, the architecture students interviewed residents of a rural village about two hours outside of Beijing about their needs, and then worked on projects aimed at improving the everyday lives of the residents, focusing on saving water and money. Gray designed a sustainable and inexpensive shower. Other students designed a chicken coop, a sink, a toilet, and a garden bed. At the end of their stay, they held an exhibition at BASEbeijing to showcase their work.
Steven Hien, MARC ’13, chose to design for the urban environment, looked beyond basic architectural design and created a book of photography cataloguing his work in the neighborhood.
“The thing about China is that you can make whatever you want happen,” said Hien. “If you want to make a book, you can go down the street and in half an hour you’ll have a book. I think that really sparked something in all of our heads—that we could design and build at the same time.”
Both Hien and Gray agreed that the trip was life-changing.
“I learned that if you want to be inspired to create something unique, you have to take that risk and step out of the box,” said Gray.
- Dennis Nealon