Student Blog -by Ciara Allen

Hello I’m Ciara Allen, a second-year architecture student with the College of Architecture originally from Sioux Falls, SD. I have a passion for design and I love looking for creative solutions. Follow me this semester as my educational journey unfolds.

I chose architecture because it encompasses a lot of my interests, and I enjoy the duality that it requires between aesthetics and function. I’ve always loved drawing so I knew I wanted to go into a creative field, but I also wanted to go into a field that is globally relevant and will give me the opportunity to make an impact on people’s lives.

March 6

Last week we finished up our first project of the semester, focusing on a plan, with specific points of consideration on basic design elements, big box stores and the program. Crits went well for the most part, and thus we began Project 2, focusing on section. After a weekend of thrift shopping, cutting objects in half and casting them in rockite, we’re designing buildings based on our findings.

Dec. 11

It’s finals week, and for the first time in the semester the list of things I have to do is decreasing rather than increasing. In the past week I’ve made it through my final review, sat in on others’ final reviews, slept, watched some bad Christmas movies and cleaned out my desk. I suppose the uncovering of old projects that had been stored and buried and finally rediscovered with the initiation of that last activity could serve as a poignant point of reflect on what I’ve accomplished over the course of this semester and how much I’ve grown as a designer, but mostly it just left me with a lot of stuff that I didn’t know what to do with. A lot of it went in the trash, or the recycle bin, but I kept some of it. Overall, it was a good semester, and it’s weird that it’s over.

Nov. 06

This past week our studio was all about hybrid drawings, an abstract method of representing design beyond the traditional drawings through the use of combined elements. This was difficult because my section essentially had to create them from scratch as opposed to working off of a given precedent. Often there is a battle between working creatively vs. keeping within the constraints of a project, yet here we had a project with very few constraints and many of us didn’t know what to do. Despite this setback, at the end of the project, we pinned up a diverse array showcasing many different ways of completing the same assignment.

Oct. 31

Last week we were introduced to our next project and began the first phase: site analysis. Our studio split into groups with each group being assigned a different method of documenting and representing our site. The site we were given was a specific section of Woods Park, which is gorgeous this time of year, and my assigned method was photography. I was able to go on multiple field trips to the park, spent class time in a serene environment, appreciating nature and putting my good camera to use. At the end of this phase we all had access to our collective efforts via a digital library of everyone’s work.

Oct. 22

The past two weeks of studio consisted of designing a pool. Our first assigned step was to build 20 study models so we could explore our ideas. After staying up super late to finish all of them in one night so I could go to a concert the next day, I ended up scrapping all of those ideas and going with something completely different come next class period. But it was still a useful exercise as it helped me to “think with my hands” which is something you will be asked to do quite often in the ideation stage as a design student. After most design ideas were decided and approved, it was time to start working on a final model, which required working in a completely different medium for me as well as manning new machinery: the laser cutter. Though doing anything new for the first time can be intimidating, you learn pretty quickly that it’s really nothing to freak out about because there are plenty of people to help you.

Oct. 8

One thing I like about the way my studio course is structured is that we only have three projects this semester. Of course, each of these projects entails lots of work and assignments to be completed in between each class period, but it’s nice knowing the general nature of the work is going to remain the same over the course of a few weeks. It’s also cool because as we improve upon our projects based on critiques and what our next assigned step is, we get to see them evolve from week to week into something that seems entirely new. This week we took our two-dimensional collages and digitally extruded them into three-dimensional models representing space and depth. Another nice thing about having only three projects per semester is that it makes time go by really quickly, as it’s already almost Fall Break and I couldn’t be happier.

We also had a project in our Structural Fundamentals class where we had to design and build a suspended structure that a golf ball could be dropped into and roll from the top to bottom. Even though most groups’ designs looked exactly the same in the end, because there’s no time to be innovative outside of studio, it was still fun.

Oct. 2

Last week consisted mainly of 10-hour days at my computer creating compositions. We were each assigned one from a series of Daniel Libeskind drawings and traced over them analyzing certain components such as hierarchy, movement, repetition, etc. It was a big transition from our last project which required much more hands-on construction. Architecture students are often asked to work between platforms and dimensions, from digital to physical, 2D to 3D, in order to see their projects in as many lights as possible. Despite taking a long time to complete, I enjoyed seeing everyone’s end results considering we all started out somewhere so similar.

Sept. 25

Construction for PARK(ing) Day required a lot of time and resources to execute. Nearly all the time we had outside of classes and work, we spent at Arch Hall assembling our project into easily-movable sections so we’d be able to fit it all together once the big day arrived. The day before PARK(ing) Day, we tested the assembly of our project once it was all done to gauge how long it would take in the Link to build.

On actual PARK(ing) Day things did not run as smoothly as we had hoped in terms of assembly, but eventually, with the help of a few additional architecture students, we got everything put together. Seeing everybody’s hard work developed into full-fledged installations was really cool, as was seeing the reactions of random people as they passed by who didn’t know their downtown would be transformed into an exhibit for the day. It was a lot of work getting to that point but we learned a lot and now that it’s over, and I can definitely say it was worth it.

Sept. 18

One truth of being an architecture student that most people realize sooner or later (for me it was later) is that you are occasionally going to have some late nights. Last Sunday night was the latest I’ve ever had to stay at Architecture Hall (3am) to finish constructing our physical model for critique the next day.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by UNL Architecture (@unlarchitecture) on

The culture of Arch Hall is not defined by the time of day, as there were plenty of other teams that had to stay that late too, watching movies and talking as they worked on their projects.

Critique went well, so therefore, with some minor adjustments, it was time to begin construction for PARK(ing) Day, a project where teams of four or five, each get a parking space downtown and transform them into installations. Our project primarily consists of using cardboard carpet tubes because they are a unique material (also free!), so in order to build a base for our structure, we used 2” sections of the tubes. We needed to cut and sand over 900 of them to fill the entire spot.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by UNL Architecture (@unlarchitecture) on

Once we were done executing some of the more practical decisions of our project, we were able to focus on the more fun aspects that would help determine the mood of the space we designed, like a color scheme and materials.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by UNL Architecture (@unlarchitecture) on

Actually testing out your choices for these types of decisions is very important because you never know how it will look in real life.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by UNL Architecture (@unlarchitecture) on