The First-Person Project

Izabela (Beclawska) Kennedy ’05

Swampscott, MA

Architectural Designer, CI design, inc., Boston

Major: Architecture

Multiple factors influenced my decision to choose architecture as a profession. I’ve had a passion for the arts and science since I was a child, and I’ve always enjoyed viewing the world around me in an analytical sense. Whenever I would walk into a new space, I often would find myself challenging the designer’s rationale, from minor critiques based around finishes up to the very core of the project. I knew early on this was both a blessing and a curse and that I had the passion, critical eye, and dedication to make architecture and design my career choice.

Theoretical architecture – i.e. educational architecture – does not truly portray the experiences you encounter in the field, nor is it a determinate of your future endeavors as an architect. The mystery and layers within this profession are also aspects that drew me to the field. As young students, we all begin with the same clean slate and similar passions for creation and design. The avenues the field has to offer are many and the paths we choose, predicated by our strengths and desires, ultimately define us as architects.

When it came time to choosing which college I would attend, Boston was a great option for its proximity to my family, the competitive architecture and engineering programs, and the overall rich history of design, both historic and contemporary, but I wasn’t ready yet to jump into an urban environment. Keene State was a logical choice as it offered an intimate setting and a major that would become a platform from which I could further pursue a professional Master of Architecture degree.

After I graduated from Keene, I enrolled in the Boston Architectural College five-year Master of Architecture program. The BAC’s program is known for its concurrent practice and educational curriculum, where students are required to work full time while enrolled in classes part-time. I completed my degree and I am now studying to become a licensed architect. While pursuing my graduate degree at the BAC, I began to work as an architectural designer, first for Rauhaus Freedenfeld & Associates, then for Grassi Design Group, and currently as a project designer at an international architectural design firm, CI design, inc.

One of the more memorable projects that I was a part of with CI design is METROPICA, a master-planned community in Sunrise, Florida. At CI we designed a state-of-the-art “work, play, and learn” cultural and urban community from the very initial stages of conception. It’s not too often in this industry that you have the opportunity to spend days with a group of people brainstorming, hand sketching, and creating analytical mapping models. The master plan included 50 acres of landscaped parks, high-end retail, residential towers, movie theatre, office buildings, and parking garages.

There are many misconceptions and idealistic understandings of what architecture is and what architects do. As architects we as are simultaneously thinking with the mindset of a lawyer, a psychologist, an engineer, and lastly a designer. We have to visually represent our findings and arguments, and our rationale must fit within the framework of client needs, budgetary requirements, and spatial and code restrictions.

As you grow and go further and further in the field, you realize that architecture is not just a profession, it is a lifestyle. It is rare when you can punch out at 5 o’clock and truly leave your work behind. Your designs essentially take on a life of their own and, with that said, need constant 24-hour maintenance. When you are exercising at the gym, walking in a park, brushing your teeth, even dreaming, your designs, or a particular area you are stumped on, will reappear. The solutions, more often than not, come from these moments outside of your office from other areas of inspiration when your mind is allowed a little more time to wander.

Being able to successfully internalize criticism and the ability to compromise is an essential tool for any aspiring designer; it is a trait that you continue to grow and develop within your career. There are no single right answers in architecture – designers are inherently independent and individually stylistic, so it is not uncommon to have wildly different solutions to the same design problem. This is what keeps architecture fresh in my eyes and every day I strive to push and challenge myself to avoid the trappings of monotony.

I truly enjoyed my time at Keene. I met a lot of amazing people whom I still consider good friends. The architecture program included both technical courses and hands-on studios, while incorporating a broad spectrum of visual arts studies that provided me with a balanced background. Keene’s program also allowed me to explore and expand upon my interest in sustainable design which has gone from a topic of casual conversation/ideologies to front and center world-wide discussion about not only the importance of changing the way we approach the built environment and consume dwindling natural resources, but also how future designs and their designers can be beacons and stewards for sustainable conversations and actions that can bridge all careers and disciplines.

Architecture, to me, is a noble field where we strive toward efficient and meaningful designs and the hope somewhere along the way our efforts will influence future generations. Architecture is often called a “labor of love” – for me I could not agree more with this statement as I love what I am doing. Architecture can be a long road, filled with long nights, balled-up trace paper, and broken pencils, but I can proudly state that I would not have done it any other way.