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Workshop enhances UBCO student’s dream to be architect

A UBC Okanagan student’s passion for architecture led her to be invited to Pittsburgh this summer to participate in a unique workshop.

Jenna Ratzlaff, 18, was chosen from about 500 applicants across North America to be one of 10 students to take part in the prestigious eight-day workshop, held Aug. 1 to 8.

“It was pretty exciting. I was one of two Canadians chosen, the other being from Toronto,” Ratzlaff said.

“It was a very positive experience to be around a group of like-minded people who were all driven by a passion for architecture, and to work hard on the projects we were given to do.

“It wasn’t just one or two people staying up until 2 a.m. working on a project, it was everyone staying up until 2 a.m. It was a bonding thing for all of us to experience that together.”

The trip to Pittsburgh was centred around a famous house designed by renowned U.S. architect Frank Lloyd Wright called “Fallingwater.”

The name comes from the design of the house, which was built between 1936 and ‘39 and is today a national US landmark.

The skill building workshops are designed to assist students seekign admission to architecture or design schools.

Ratzlaff said Fallingwater was built over a waterfall, which was incorporated into the house design.

“The waterfall acts as a cooling system throughout the whole house, and wherever you are in the house you can hear the water,” Ratzlaff said.

She said the house was a unique attempt in its day to incorporate a building into a natural landscape, a concept referred to today as environmental design.

The concept conceived by Fallingwater’s original owners was to design a house in an urban setting that incorporated the outdoors feel of a cabin the woods.

Ratzlaff, born and raised in Kelowna, said she initially learned about Fallingwater and the workshop in one of her fine arts classes at UBCO and decided to apply.

“I had to write a cover letter, a 300-word essay about my current plans in architecture, a portfolio of my work and two letters of recommendation,” she said.

Besides an extensive tour of the historic house, the workshop participants were taken on tours of other historic architecture around Pittsburgh, made a visit to Carnegie Mellon  University, a private research facility recognized for its work in world-class arts and technology programs, and were given architecture design projects to work on under the close supervision of a university architecture professor.

Ratzlaff hopes her Fallingwater experience will help her chances to be accepted into the environmental design arts program at the Point Grey campus of UBC next year, and then on to architecture school.

Ratzlaff, known to many for her prowess on the local beach volleyball tournament circuit, said her passion for architecture developed from her childhood interests in math, working with numbers, and creative drawing.

“For me architecture is a kind of perfect mix for that and developed into a passion for me,” she said.

And her experience in Pittsburgh only served to wet her appetite more to pursue it as a career.

“It gave me the opportunity to understand better what architecture school is like and what areas I would like to work in once I graduate and become an architect. I really enjoyed it.”

 

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