EAB: The Next Generation

This month we are happy to feature two of the newest and brightest young members of the E.A. Bonelli team. Just as our businesses have adapted to remote workspaces in the face of the pandemic, so too have colleges and universities modified their curricula with virtual classrooms and tools for distance learning.

Rebecca Savage, an architecture student at Montana State University; and Ally Cabling, an architecture student at Chabot Community College in Hayward, CA, share some insight as they trade in spring semester coursework for real-world work experience this summer.

For Rebecca, the most challenging adjustment came when her design studio class transitioned to a virtual experience towards the end of the semester.

Most of my classes were able to adapt very easily by delivering lectures either over WebEx or by pre-recording the material for students to watch on their own time. My architectural design studio had maybe the hardest time adapting both for students and professors. A usual class would consist of a lot of interactive one-on-one feedback and moving this to a virtual environment felt very unnatural. Instead of having a conversation with a large number of sketches and loose process work, we were now responsible for scanning our new work and formatting it every day to be shared virtually with the entire class. This resulted in a larger emphasis on quality of craft over quantity of ideas. While this was hard to adjust to, I think everyone was able to learn a lot with this new process.

Ally, likewise, faced some unique challenges when her studio class was forced to convert to distance learning. One design course, in its second consecutive semester, was in the middle of a group project designing a skyscraper. Project requirements were extended and amended. Ultimately, it fell to the students to re-imagine their presentation for a virtual delivery.

Throughout the project, my group spent most of our time communicating through text and meeting through Zoom while sharing our screens. With Zoom, it made transitioning to an online-reliant class easier, especially when it came to lectures and presentations. All of my lectures occurred over Zoom and although it felt strange at first to "attend" class from home, I soon adjusted to the norm. As an added bonus, I didn't have to drive all the way to school. Our design group modified our presentations to be available on file and to accommodate the Zoom share screen.

Ally, who works at our Oakland, CA, office when she's not in school, noted the similarities in how her classwork and projects at EAB transitioned in response to the pandemic.

Both my classes and projects at EAB have been able to rearrange schedules in order to accommodate our availability. At EAB, we have the pleasure of working with clients who have a common response to what is happening and who understand what needs to be done to work through various Shelter In Place orders throughout the country. The working environment is remarkably similar to what we had been using in my classes: sharing files online, communicating via web conferences, and generally going paperless as much as possible.

In my few years of studying architecture, one of the main advances that I have seen among my classmates is working on an iPad or tablet for sketches, note-taking, research, and poster development for presentations. I used to use a lot of notebooks to take notes and to draw up designs, but now I have been using an iPad to replace all the paper that I would have used. There are many apps that I use that help with keeping notes organized, as well as Autodesk-supported apps for sketches and CAD file editing. Although not pocket friendly, they are definitely environmentally friendly. And, now that we have transitioned to learning and working remotely, these tools have never been more useful.

Rebecca, who is working for EAB from her home in Colorado, recognizes those same similarities between classwork and professional work.

In both cases everyone has been very supportive of their peers and co-workers, helping everyone transition when learning how to work virtually. All of my professors were very prompt when responding to emails and made virtual office hours very accessible to everybody. Similarly, working with EAB, I have noticed the same level of support and communication between co-workers. Platforms like Microsoft teams, used by EAB, and Brightspace D2L, used by my school, have worked very well in keeping open lines of communication and easily sharing documents and information with one another.

Aside from advances in various modeling software that are sure to continue to improve both for educational and professional use, this semester I have seen great advances in mobile scanning. Being able to send in scans of hand-drawn sketches was extremely necessary for my virtual learning this semester. Without access to large, expensive flatbed scanners, we were still able to produce hand-drawn plans and sketches and were able to send quality scans to professors just using a smartphone.

Initial interest in the field of architecture might be obvious by their last names (both have parents who are partners in the firm), but we wanted to dig a little deeper into their reason for choosing this educational path. Rebecca tells us that she has always enjoyed both math and art classes, and this seemed like a wonderful way of pairing those interests.

Spending time working with EAB has given me a deeper perspective into the inner workings of the field of architecture. I have had the opportunity to see, firsthand, every step of a project from the conceptual stages all the way through construction. In school, a large majority of our biggest projects are done individually and are focused on concept and creativity. While these are obviously very good skills to develop, being able to see how a professional team works during every step of a project gives invaluable practical insight into the entire field of architecture.

Beyond her family's connection to EAB, Ally shares how an interest in houseplants developed into her choice of major.

At the start of high school, I became fascinated by plants and fixer-upper television shows, so I started filling my house with all different types of plants. I learned about hardiness zones and started making various green DIY projects to decorate my room. This evolved into an interest in home and landscape design, which led me to consider architecture as a possible college major. Once I started working at the [Oakland] office over the summer of 2017, I became even more interested in the field. Being able to work at a firm at such a young age gave me a truly valuable experience and opened my eyes to the profession. I saw how everyone works collaboratively on projects and how different roles are assigned and interlaced. Working at EAB left me with a great impression of the field and eventually encouraged me to declare Architecture as my major.