Name: Shane Sullivan
Class Year: Bachelor of Landscape Architecture 2017
Hometown: Abingdon, MD
Where are you working and what type of firm is it?
Mahan Rykiel Associates is a landscape architecture, urban design, and planning firm with about 50 people split across three teams: Civic, Institutional, and Individual. Although MRA is based in Baltimore, its projects take the company everywhere from across the United States to places like China, Germany, and Turkey. MRA recently won an award for the Skyline Plaza, a mixed-use rooftop in Frankfurt, Germany.
Where is the firm located and what is it like to be working in that location?
Mahan Rykiel’s offices are in the historic Stieff Silver building located in Hampden, a neighborhood in Northern Baltimore. The building is a former silver factory from the 1920s that now houses a few different companies including Parks & People and GWWO Architects. Hampden is probably best known in the Baltimore / Maryland area for the 34th street Christmas display every winter, but Hampden is a really interesting and vibrant place all year long with all of its art, culture, and food options.
How did you experience in the studio prepare for your coop experience?
The way our studio courses have been set up was definitely helpful in making me feel comfortable on coop. The design process is essentially the same as in studio where you start with research and precedent imagery and then move to schematic design and design development phases. Dealing with studio due dates is similar to deadline submissions in the office.
The main difference is the time frame and sheer number of projects that exist in a real firm. In studio we essentially have one project for the whole semester, but on coop its dozens of projects at different phases taking place at the same time. It was really helpful to experience that dynamic and jump from project to project. I had the chance to work on some projects that were at the beginning of the design process with only a few sketches and precedents, some projects that were at the CD and permitting stage, and everything in between.
What has been your favorite project you have participated in on coop?
I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of time on over a dozen different projects that were all really interesting and exciting. For several projects, I was able to see the initial sketches and schematic designs develop and then play a role in marketing level renderings, CAD drawings, and details. It makes it pretty tough to pick a favorite when I got to see and do so much with such a variety of projects. My favorite part of coop was that there was always more than one project taking place at a time, so even if I had somehow managed to lose interest in one project, there was always another project that I could jump in to.
How do you think your coop experience will influence you back in the studio?
I’m actually really excited to get back into studio work; I think it will come much easier to me now that I’ve seen how it applies to the real world. An experience like this put everything into perspective for me. Coop allowed me to get much more comfortable with the design process and my graphic skills. Now I can focus my energy in class on exploring and trying new things in studio, rather than stress over how to represent an idea.