This winter break, Katherine Giglio ’11 spent her time sketching famous pieces of Parisian Art Nouveau and examining the unnoticed details of the city’s famous arches. Giglio was this year’s recipient of the Eric Cohler’81 Internship and Travel Award, which enabled her to spend two weeks interning at Eric Cohler Design, Inc. in New York City and spend an additional week in Paris studying the city’s architecture.
“It was amazingly generous of Eric Cohler to let me have this experience that not many people have. I’m grateful he gave me this opportunity,” says Giglio. A member of the Hobart Class of 1981, Cohler is a renowned interior designer whose work has been featured in countless magazines and television programs.
Giglio spent two weeks bouncing between several projects to get a full picture of the company’s responsibilities, attending client meetings and accompanying stylists to locations across NYC. “The internship taught me that design is really based on personal knowledge,” says Giglio. “It is about understanding your client and getting to know them. It’s not just about knowing how to design. You can’t know how to design a room unless you know how it should function.”
The Eric Cohler award includes a travel stipend, allowing the recipient of the internship to expand his or her knowledge of architecture and design abroad and in a way that is personally meaningful. This stipend allowed for Giglio to create her own study in a foreign county. After proposing a trip to study architecture in Paris, Giglio created an itinerary that cast a critical look at Paris’ structures through periods of time. “I did it based on daily themes – one day would be a certain architectural period, another would be museums and gardens,” explains Giglio.
Throughout the weeklong study, Giglio carried a 2×4 notebook in her pocket to record every thought and observation, as well as nightly personal reflections and architecture-based reflection – not to mention a wealth of drawings that she hopes to incorporate in a presentation she will give on campus later this spring.
“I wanted to understand how stylistic elements connected through time. In one street, you can see Renaissance architecture and trace it through time; it carries with it something so Parisian,” says Giglio. “For instance, in front of the Eiffel Tower, there is a massive lawn – and you see it again in front of the Louvre and Versailles – it’s a characteristic of the Parisian style and it is awe inspiring.”
One day, Giglio studied the major boulevards of the city, and the next, the backstreets. “I wanted to see if the style was consistent,” explains Giglio. “In seeing the differences, I was not only able to see how they relate to one another, but how they each create different social impacts.”
As an architecture major, Giglio believes there is great importance in taking the time to examine and reflect upon a city and its planning. “Understanding how a certain style came about, how history influenced a building, is incredibly important; it’s essential to understanding architecture. If you understand these periods, then you have a rich vocabulary to start working with, to incorporate into your architecture.”
Despite having seen and studied many of these buildings in class, Giglio still found herself seeing the majesty of Paris in a new light. “The thing I loved the most was that everything was so surprising – even though I’ve seen many of these building before,” says Giglio. “Every day there was something new I discovered that was beautiful and shocking.”
Supported by gifts from Cohler, this annual award supports one Hobart or William Smith student interested in design and/or the arts through internship and study abroad experiences. By supplementing classroom education with off-campus experiences, students gain practical insights and a heightened understanding of the demands and rewards of future careers.
Established in 1991, Eric Cohler Design, Inc. specializes in interior design and restoration. The firm is led by Cohler, dubbed the “Mixmaster” by magazine editors for using classical elements juxtaposed with contemporary materials for a jolt of unusual color or texture. His projects have included houses, apartments, and commercial spaces, across the United States, Europe and the Caribbean.