Talking design with Calli Verkamp

Calli Verkamp

Calli Verkamp

By Liana Bugslag

Calli Verkamp, a native of Charleston, Ark., is a fifth-year architecture student at the University of Arkansas. She talks about deciding on a major and how it appealed to her creative nature. She learned how to manage time and about her preference for city limit during her time here. Next up, getting a job after graduation this May.

Q: When did you first become interested in architecture?

A: I didn’t really know if that is what I wanted to do right away. It was between engineering and architecture. I realized I was a lot more interested in the creative and artistic side rather than the technical side, so architecture was a better fit for me because it included both, whereas engineering was more just technical.

Q: Why did you choose to attend the U of A?

A: I’m from Arkansas, so it was somewhere that I always thought I was going to go. Both of my parents went here, and even though I looked at a few other places, I always expected to go here. Plus, I like the campus.

Q: Talk about one of your favorite studios or projects?

A: My fifth-year studio was one of my favorites. We had two visiting professors from VJAA (an innovative architecture firm based out of Minneapolis), and it was an open-ended project, so there was a lot more room for interpretation and creativity. We had the opportunity to travel to London, and then the actual project site was in New York, so we went there as well.

Q: What are you working on right now?

A: As of right now, I am working on my honors thesis under Dr. Ethel Goodstein-Murphree, Greg Herman and Lynda Coon. I chose to do a written thesis researching the influence of women clients on residential architecture, and to do that I am looking at houses primarily done by Fay Jones.

Q: What are the essential tools or other items you need to have at your desk in studio in order to be successful?

A: At my desk – aside from the basic tools – coffee and headphones pretty much do the job.

Q: How do you find the energy to go to studio, knowing that you’re going to be there for hours on end?

A: Going to studio is similar to other people in other majors who go to the library or study at home. We just don’t have the choice of where we want to do it. But it helps because [the students] form a group, and so having everyone there together makes it easier to go. We all eat meals together and go get coffee together, so we get to really know one another through the time we spend in studio together. I judge how busy I am by how many meals I eat at studio. If I eat breakfast, lunch and dinner there, I know I’m not going to get much sleep.

Q: Do you use technology in your design work?

A: In first and second year, there was a lot of hands-on building with models. But by third year, you start to use computer technology to make your designs. When I came to school, I thought I knew how to draw, but I have learned a lot more technical skills in drawing since freshman year. As for the computer stuff, that was all new to me.

Q: How do you handle the pressure of deadlines for your projects in studio?

A: I definitely constantly feel the pressure of upcoming deadlines, but I have been able to avoid last minute emergencies by keeping up with my assignments, staying on top of studio work, and making ‘to do’ lists. When you’re in a studio, you can’t ever take a day or weekend off.

Q: What was the most challenging project that you have built?

A: The most complicated model I’ve built was in third year, when my partner and I built a 2-foot-by-6-foot cantilever. It was built to see how much weight it could hold versus how much it weighed. Once it was finished, the class came together and we tested everyone’s models to see how much they could hold before breaking. So, we spent all this time building this huge model, just to see them break in front of us.

Q: How do you feel about the renovations of Vol Walker and the Anderson Design Center; what do you think future students will get out of it?

A: The renovations of Vol Walker Hall and the Anderson Design Center will benefit future students a lot. I think the set-up will just be a lot more accessible for students in terms of technology, and the woodshop. The overall productivity of the building will definitely increase, and it will be great to have all the students in one place.

Q: How has working in the temporary building affected your studies and studio work?

A: Spending time in the Field House [the temporary studio space for architecture students] has been a great experience. All the upperclassmen are upstairs in the mezzanine, and the first- and second-year students are on the main floor. It has been a neat experience because I feel more involved in the school; I get to look down and see what the first- and second-years are working on, and what all the different projects are. It makes me more aware of other students in my program by bringing everyone together.

Q: What benefits or opportunities have you gotten to experience through being a part of the architecture school?

A: I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Rome for a semester, where I was lucky enough to receive grants and scholarships to cover the costs. After returning from Rome, I went to Peru. Because of being in architecture school, I was out of the country more than I was in the country in one year. I got the experience of living in a city, and being in classrooms and studios there – giving me a different perspective and different learning environment. In Rome, we would learn about something in architecture history classes and then we were able to hop on a bus and go and actually see it, not just look at pictures.

Q: What are your plans after graduation? What do you hope to do with your degree?

A: After graduation, I am looking for immediate employment. I want to move to a big city, something that living in Rome allowed me to discover, and live an urban lifestyle and continue to gain more experience to find my niche in architecture. I still am considering graduate school at some point, but I definitely want to work for a couple of years first.

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