The Crucial Architectural Portfolio – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

The Crucial Architectural Portfolio

Far from the large, clasped cases traditionally used, the students in Assistant Professor of Art and Architecture Kirin Makker’s “Architectural Portfolio” class are taking to the Internet to house their best work, using blogs to compile comprehensive and extensive portfolios.

“The web-based portfolio is a crucial component in the internship and graduate application process for anyone going into the design industry,” explains Makker. “More than a cumulative summary of work, this document presents an opportunity to establish a cohesive picture of the student as an intern or graduate applicant that transcends individual projects and accomplishments.”

The class may not be a requirement for students graduating with a degree in architectural studies, however, the importance of the course is not undervalued – 80 percent of architectural studies majors at HWS choose to take the portfolio studio course before graduating. Not only are students able to produce these web-based portfolios, which have become essential to the job and graduate school application process, but they also create business cards, resumes and hard-copy booklet portfolios. 

Phoebe DeReamer ’13 uses her portfolio to illustrate her vast interest in all components of the design industry. DeReamer’s portfolio includes sustainable design sketches, charcoal and ink drawings, paintings and architectural installations.

An internship at the Maho Bay Eco-Resort on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands gave DeReamer manual experience in construction and in designing for a sustainable future. DeReamer’s concepts for guest and staff tents show the breadth of her knowledge as well as her vision, influenced by her interdisciplinary education.

The portfolio of Andrew Guild ’13 has a tangibly different feel from DeReamer’s – as does each artist’s. Within the confines of the webpage, each student is able to create a distinct look and feel that complements and highlights the strengths of their visions.

Guild’s paintings of representational portraits and urban landscapes are impressive when placed side by side. “Although each subject is different I use the same methods of using light and color to create volume and space,” writes Guild, giving even the casual observer insight into his process. Even Guild’s sketches are documented in the portfolio, along with water colors and 3D work.

When looking through each of the portfolios, the balance between art forms and expressions is noteable. “The students undergo a rigorous design process as they develop these items, working from broad ideas to fully developed products,” says Makker.

The work of Virginia Steigerwald ’13 shows the influence of her semester abroad in Denmark. “Over the four years I have gained design experience through multiple studio courses allowing me to establish my own style and skills,” says Steigerwald. “In the spring of 2012 I studied for a semester in Copenhagen, where I learned the importance of Scandinavian design to the culture. This was eye opening and it strongly impacted my perspective of design. Whether it be preserving historical design or sharing in the future of design, I hope to make a difference in the global community – while enjoying what I do.”

Like her classmates, Steigerwald’s unique sense of architecture and design is evident. Although the concept of a portfolio is universal, the idea that one’s vision should be one’s brand is instilled in all students enrolled in the portfolio class. “This class, more than anything else, is about learning how to brand and package oneself based on one’s unique talents, skills and interests as well as a very well-conceived sense of who their audience is,” explains Makker.

The splash of color one is greeted with when visiting the portfolio of Michael Foster ’13 highlights the power and beauty of his screen prints, and the complex wooden structures on the site of Blake Basye ’13 show the depth of his exploration of interconnection.

The portfolios also serve as an expression of important milestones in the lives – and architecture careers – of the students. Trillbey Smith ’13 expresses the influence of her semester abroad in Rome not only verbally, but in the details of her sketches – renderings of hillside villages, intricate Renaissance architecture, and thoughtful examinations of urban streets.

Sara Ahrendtsen ’13 praises this interdisciplinary approach to architecture on the pages of her portfolio. “My design process is a culmination of curriculum, exploration, and physical practice,” she writes. “My experiences have shaped my understanding of the built environment, giving me a knowledge base to interpret time and change and create space that is understood by its inhabitants.”

Splashed across the homepage of the portfolio of Sarah St. Peter ’13 is a quote from ancient philosopher Confucius: “Beauty if everywhere, but not everyone sees it.” Playing with shapes and shadows, it is evident that St. Peter is one of those gifted people who is able to observe beauty.

“I am a firm believer in conserving our natural resources; nature’s aesthetic is absolutely captivating,” says St. Peter. “I set out to promote an environmentally conscious work ethic, which is also visually stunning.”

Perhaps the most captivating aspect of these online portfolios is how vastly different each student’s work is from the next. Looking at “structure for repose,” or “bridge of flight” by Daniel Bilsky ’13 is an entirely different experience than the previous sites. Although the portfolio course is a near-necessity for all art and architecture students, it does not stifle creativity – it truly prepares students for their careers beyond HWS.

“Hobart and William Smith students leave the architectural studies major knowing not just who they are as designers and creative people, but how to prove to everyone how much they have to offer, whether they are looking to get into graduate school or a company,” says Makker.


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