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Photo: Nina LoSchiavo
Photo: Nina LoSchiavo

Name: Laura Carlson
Graduation Year: 2013
Degree received: Bachelor of Science in Architecture
Hometown: Overland Park, KS

How did your educational experience prepare you for work on the field?

My time at Northeastern prepared me for the work force by equipping me with valuable practical skills, experience working and designing in groups, and a never ending flow of inspiration through all the people and places I came into contact with during my five years at the School of Architecture. Through co-op, I gained experience in two very different types of offices and had the opportunity to fall in love with New York City. I was able to contribute to a wide range of projects and further grasp the range of architecture’s possibilities.

How is this different than being on co-op?

If co-op is a salad bar, working full time is a smorgasbord. Co-op gives you a chance to dig into a few projects and try a variety of new things, but a full time job not constrained by a six-month clock allows you to really invest in meaty projects and see them through. There is more responsibility, fewer excuses, and all kinds of dessert options.

What is it about Architecture that drives you?

Since graduating, it has become even more apparent that architecture and the skills developed in architecture school provide infinite possibilities. Architecture affects the way people interact with the city from a neighborhood and block scale to a building and even furniture level. Particularly in my work with the Lower East Side Business Improvement District (LES BID), it is exciting to use my skills for the betterment of local businesses and residents and to contribute to the fabric of the city. I am inspired by feeling the heartbeat of the city and observing its daily ebbs and flows. As architects we have beautiful opportunities to impact the world around us and improve the lives of anyone who might come into contact with our work. Don’t take it for granted.

How do you think the curriculum at NU helped you advance in the field?

Northeastern’s focus on urban architecture has been extremely valuable as I have moved to New York City and worked on projects with constraints and opportunities specific to those of the city. Beyond the traditional course work, I chose to pursue a minor in Urban Studies (which fit nicely into the architecture curriculum) that provided me with the opportunity to take a few sociology classes. This has helped tremendously in my migration to urban planning and new work with the LES BID. It is important to maintain an understanding of the people who are using a space and the rich history that has brought it to where it is today.

What are some of the most interesting projects that you have had the opportunity to work on?

The Orchard Street Master Plan was my official introduction to the LES BID and community engagement work. Through that work with Pilot Projects we were able to map and model the seven blocks of Orchard Street to facilitate a discussion with each block’s stakeholders to determine the needs on the street, from benches and bike racks to parking and noise.

I have the opportunity now with the LES BID to continue to explore the ways I can use my skills in this new application as we further our mission to improve the district. From plaza design and urban art installations to street schematics and event planning, every day is a new adventure into the life of the neighborhood.

What is something you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out in school?

Your opportunities are endless. Don’t limit yourself to what others expect or assume.