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So You Want to be an Architect?

By Jo Ann Lloyd

PHOTOGRAPHER Josef Kasperovich
A workshop attendee shows off her design project at this year’s architecture workshop.

Every summer, an enthusiastic group of high school students who are considering careers in architecture comes to Cal Poly to find out just what that entails.

Over four weeks, up to 80 students from throughout California and beyond take part in the Architecture Summer Career Workshop, engaging in rigorous coursework designed to introduce them to the curriculum. For some, the experience reinforces their belief that architecture is the right career path. Others might find their passion lies in construction management or architectural engineering. For all, it’s an eye-opening experience that creates lifelong bonds.

Mark Cabrinha, workshop director, knows this firsthand. Now the associate dean of academic affairs in the College of Architecture and Environmental Design (CAED) and an associate professor of architecture, Cabrinha attended the program in 1988. “I was not exceptional in the program,” he claims. “Nothing in my background prepared me for it — no art or drawing classes. I was unhappy the first two weeks of the program; it wasn’t what I expected.”

It wasn’t until he was back in his high school calculus class that the realization hit: “The workshop wasn’t at all what I thought it would be, and I loved it!” After the workshop, he enrolled at Cal Poly and began working as a teaching assistant in the program after graduation.

Professor Emeritus Jim Bagnall created the workshop in 1980 to give up to 40 high school students an in-depth look at what they would encounter in a college architecture program. It has since grown into a popular workshop that needs no advertising other than word of mouth. Registration is on a firstcome basis, with no experience required.

The program is completely self-supporting. This year participants paid $4,650 to attend, with some students qualifying for full scholarships. “Some donors have stepped up to support scholarships. I would love to see more of that support,” Cabrinha says.

Workshop classes are taught by CAED faculty members, and participants are exposed not just to architecture but to all the college’s disciplines: architectural engineering, city and regional planning, construction management and landscape architecture.

A staff of current students and recent graduates serve as teaching assistants and resident advisors. “They are my super heroes and rock stars,” Cabrinha says. “Up to half of them have gone through the program themselves, and they have a real interest in giving back.”

The day starts at 9 a.m., when the projects the students completed the previous day are critiqued, and that leads into the next project. “We use the experience from the day before to transition to the current day’s project,” explains Cabrinha. “Then it’s off to the design studio to work until 5 p.m. It’s very Cal Poly; very hands on.”

Chloe Mascolo, a program participant from Michigan, said the workshop was one of the best experiences of her life. “I was able to envision a career in architecture. I can’t wait to apply to Cal Poly and to experience everything the future holds for me.”

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