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Name: Kristen Starheim
Major: BS Architecture Class of 2017 (with minors in Urban Studies and Portuguese)
Hometown Jefferson, NY

I spent my first coop at William Rawn Associates—a medium-sized, Boston-based firm specializing in institutional projects on college campuses. I was attracted to the firm because I’ve have been exposed to many of their projects, including Northeastern’s own West Village buildings and Blackman Auditorium. The firm’s work at Berklee and the Harvard Business School also caught my eye.

While at WRA, I worked as a model maker, so I was responsible for crafting study models as well as high quality interview and presentation models. This coop was different from many first-year experiences because it was so hands on. I loved stepping away from the computer screen and using new tools and materials to build something real rather than virtual. The hours were long and the job involved a lot of time on my feet, but it was great to be busy and see my progress throughout the day.

The position provided a surprisingly close-up view into the design process, because my co-model maker and I would build many different options and see the evolution of the design. I learned a lot about the inner workings of a firm. One of the firm’s main projects currently is a convening hall at Harvard Business School. The model makers were responsible for many, many models at a variety of different scales. Harvard models ranged from a 1:40 scaled site model showing the context of the entire HBS campus to a detailed ¼” foam model that took up an entire table to full sized mockups of railings and mullions. I definitely developed a love-hate relationship with the project! The principles asked for option after option and sometimes a very slight variation would call for a completely new model. Overall, it was exciting and rewarding to pour so much effort into the building’s design and see what direction the project took.

I plan to apply the skills and knowledge gained in my coop experience to my studio work in the fall. For one, I’m excited to practice the modeling techniques I learned at the office in my own work. I also have a better grasp for how 2D representation translates into physical 3D space. After working at William Rawn for six months, I see the value in using physical models as design tools, rather than relying solely on architectural drawings and renderings. At times we would build a model and realize that a ceiling looked much too low or high. Other times it would be extremely difficult to build the model, and we realized that it would be even harder to construct in “real life,” indicating an impractical design.

Working at William Rawn Associates gave me insight into a possible post-graduation career path. I don’t pretend to know what I want to do in the future, but I feel comfortable knowing that this firm, or a comparable one, is a viable option. The work environment was stimulating, the projects were cool, and the people were great!