The The Unemployed Graduates of Calvin's esteemed pre-architecture program


Proceed and be bold

A nice blurb about Rural Studio from a recent issue of Garden & Gun magazine ("Soul of the New South").

Click image to view larger.


Trees are buildings, too

Hello all (anyone?)

Quick update from Delaware: I've been working at a landscape architecture firm for a few months and I love it.  It's a small office with one principal architect and three associate architects. I've mostly been doing drafting: site layout, topography, grading. It's been a fast-pace learning environment, I was glad to be able to pick up the drafting program along the way.

I've always had a nominal interest in gardening and horticulture, but for now I'm focusing on the drafting and some general design stuff (since there are only eight total people at the firm a lot of the work is not position-specific).  The firm does a lot of work for public botanic gardens, as well as high-end residential work.

Does anyone have current contact info for Prof. Young?
I haven't heard anything from or about him since the last arch theory class. I'd like to drop him a line.

- Pete V



Hello internet people. Good to hear that Pete and Anne (and Will) are doing well.

I think I'm doing well as well. I've been working at what's currently called studio jva in Grand Rapids... it's basically a one-person firm (Jim Vander Molen is the boss figure...he did the Rapid Central Station when he was at Progressive AE). It's been a big blessing of a job as far as experience goes since I get to tag along to a lot of presentations, meetings, community workshops/charettes, etc and I'm always doing something different (ie not just autocad everyday). It's probably better than the jobs I'll have the first few years after gradschool... The only downside is that Jim is getting so much work in California now that he's there almost as much as he's in Michigan so I'm starting to get a few more days off than I would like (I did get to go with him to CA once though so I'm not really complaining). Anyway, we are currently working with four-ish churches and also North Park Elementary in GR. The work is mostly renovations/small additions and master has been cool seeing things progress through the various design stages....hopefully, I'll get to see something completed one of these days.

So that's good...then I'm hoping to go to archy school at UIC in Chicago in the Fall...the girl I'm getting married to in May is going to attend Loyola/Erikson for social work/child developement and so yeah, Chicago just worked out best for us--so hopefully it all works out. I'm excited for architecture school...I'm not as excited for mounds of addtional debt and the mounds of stress and busy-ness...but it'll work out I suppose. Any horror stories of the workload and any advice for maintaining balance?

Hi everyone.
Cheers to Will for encouraging more posting. I am curious to what everyone has been doing and where the pre-arch has taken you.
I am now living in Denver and attending CU Denver for Architecture.
While the school does not have the highest standards, there are some very talented people here--mostly drawn for the outdoor life, but talented nevertheless. I like what we are doing and am currently in the process of diagraming our new site for the current studio project. Lots of mixed media drawings, graphics and presentation stuff right now.
I am working now on yet another portfolio for a summer job. Hopefully I get something with the way the economy is now. Denver is still growing, but it is scary to think I may finish school with big loans and not much of a job market.
The photo is of my dog Fen. He looks like a bully, but is really a big lover.
all for now. peace out.
Oh, and don't ask why I have three usernames on this blog. I spaced and only know the current one.


Hoy Hoy

update pete v:

Been living in Delaware, was doing print production for about a year.

Recently switched careers *ha* now working from home (parents')
doing graphic design. Which is pretty cool with the Mac and all
but tough, because I have no training and am not very good.

Mostly page layout kind of stuff. I pretend to know
how to use the Adobe Creative Suite, that 
was supplied by employer – score!

Really it's going well and I'm learning a lot.
Very thankful for the opportunity to 
get into this kind of work.

Took a couple of AutoCAD classes; forgot everything.
Finally finished reading The Fountainhead.
No plans for grad school (right now).

p.s. – Congratulations Will, best wishes.



This is a picture of my wedding. I doctored it slightly :)... but I thought I'd bring every one up to speed.

Ok... this blog needs a bit of resurrection. To fill every one in on what I'm doing, in life, and in my architecture ambitions. I'm living in Whittier CA, working for an architect in Brea CA. Last time I posted the name of the architect I worked for, he googled himself in front of me, and read my post about him. Anyway, I won't repeat that mistake. I work for an architect who does mainly government work. We have contracts with LA Unified School District, LA county, Internal Services... all the state run stuff, so we mainly get jobs with stuff like schools and parks, and government office buildings. Its almost always updating old buildings to meet ADA. So I've become somewhat knowledgeable in accessibility issues. Its terribly uncreative work, but I'm learning how the architecture profession is run from a business stand point. I'm also learning a bit about programming and scheduling, which I'm not instinctively good at. Its been good. I'm also applying to graduate schools, 5 of them, hoping I get into one of the better ones, but I'll take anything. I'm applying to U of Oregon, U of Washington, U of Colorado, U of New Mexico, and U of Illinois Chicago. Do any of you have any experience in those? I know Anne went to U of Colorado. I actually visited her in Colorado right at the tail end of my honeymoon (of all things), and Denver seemed to be a really interesting city to live in. Anyway... those are the items I've been up to. What about Zoe, Peter, Matt??? Any of you feel like posting?


Earthly Delights

Hieronymus Bosch action figures - sweet.


about that school thing

I figured I'd better write something about the archeworks program I've been apart of. I got into this idea of alternative design after watching the video in architecture theory & crit class about Samuel Mockbee. His Rural Studio looked so cool, I wanted to do it, or something similar. So I started researching all the different alternative design+ social need schools, and that landed me in Chicago at Archeworks.

Anyway, now Archeworks is pretty much done. A little overview of my project: The particular project that I have been working on has changed hugely over the course of the year. Initially it was about how to contact diverse and hard to reach populations during emergency situations in the city. It was a vague project description, so my group essentially had to figure out what the problem was before we could do any sort of solving/designing. We ended up focusing in on a specific neighborhood and working with two community organizations on putting together an event that dealt with neighborhood violence, especially gang violence. The idea was that there are immediate "emergencies" that need to be taken care of before any talk of possible disaster infustructure can even be addressed. So, we both helped with anti-violence stuff for this one neighborhood, and also discussed with a few city officials implementation of community organizations/non-profits as disseminators and actively respected organizations that should have good communication with the city government.

You guys should check out our website! It's

I designed the official posters... "poster" button on the "learn about the event" side of the website. They also double as stencils, which I am trying to upload an image, but it's not working right now...hmmm. okay, technical difficulties...more later...!


are you a Post Materialist?

I just ran across a term that I liked...


it's a person that spends their money on experiences rather than stuff. SO, instead of following the traditional model: 1) go to college 2) get a degree that gets you a job 3) get a job 4) begin building wealth 5) are you bored? too bad! you are going to stay at that company and make money that buys stuff for the next 30 yrs!!!! brwaaa ha hahahaa!

...instead the post materialist goes to college because they are intrigued, get a degree in the subject that intrigued them the most, then they end up working short stints at many places and quiting to travel/work on personal projects/do stuff. They don't get bored, they might tend to be slightly nomadic, hippie-ish, etc.

the Post Materialist is a new trend!



ok... so I'm just copying and posting this from my other blog (the one for my church and family). So if things aren't applicable... don't worry about it. I'm just doing this so you guys have an idea of what I'm doing in Ecuador.

Down the valley

HillsideSorry I haven't posted in a while. I've been in the office for a while and haven't done anything thats really that interesting... well... for others. I've had a good time doing stuff, but its been mostly stuff like webdesign, video editing, and other misc. tasks. I'll be posting some of the stuff I've been working on. Actually I have a video up on of one of the general presentations I'm working on. Its a video slide show that generally states what the ministry of Clean Water Projects does.

Eating BreadAbout three weeks ago I went to a community called Lirio San Gonzalo with a work team from Alaska. We were there to construct a spring capture high above the community. They were already using the spring for irrigation and a little bit for drinking water. The spring had softened and cut out a small piece of the hillside. There were plants growing in it... and the water they were getting wasn't protected from contamination in any way. Our department designed a system used to capture the water from the spring with minimal contamination. Its a process of layering semi-permeable geo-textile's to filter out particles, pvc pipes to gather the water, three types of rocks and gravel to give it support, then a non-permeable plastic sheet to keep it safe, then encase it all in concrete to protect it.

DSC_6651I learned a lot about the whole process and whats its like to be on a team. The whole community set aside every morning to work on this project. There were about 40-50 community members working each morning, 7 work team members, and 6 of us from the department. There are two guys from the department who are native Quichuan, and work for HCJB clean water projects as 'technicos,' or technicians. They are described as the best two guys in the country at spring captures. Martin accurately described it as 'an art that few people have mastered.' A lot of their success comes from being able to speak to the Quichuans in Quichua, directing 40-50 people to work together, and bring everyone together to an extremely efficient and effective building team. They cleaned out the spring, dug it back to a clear source, built up a foundations, and captured the spring. It was fun to watch it being executed. It was fun getting in there, getting muddy, tossing rocks, passing cement buckets, pouring cement, catching cement buckets, and just being covered in lots of cement. I had a good cross cultural experience.

I was approached by two guys who wanted to go to the United States. One was 23 and had a wife, the other was 29 and had a wife and two children. They spoke very plainly, saying they couldn't find good work here, and wanted to work in the United States. I asked the same question probably 3 different times, in different ways, why they wanted to go to the states. They didn't seem to know a whole lot about what they wanted. They also kept asking me if I could take them on the plane with me. I told them it wasn't that simple, that they need passports and work visa's and lots of stuff you needed to apply for. I didn't want to discourage them, even though I think that any problem they are trying to solve isn't going to get solved by moving to the states to work. I gave them my number, and contact information if they ever found their way to the states. Watching them hang out with all their friends, laughing, having a good time building this spring capture made me think what their life would look like if they DID actually make it to the states some how. The close community they had their is non-existent in 90% of the country, the strong social fabric they had would be torn apart if they were to ever return with loads of american money. They wouldn't fit back into that society very well. They would have to break up the family to leave, and I'm sure kids would grow up with out their farther for years and years. I talked to Ceasar Cortez, an Ecuadorian engineer/pastor who was that head of this work team about the situation today because they called me asking for information on passports. They thought I could get them passports, and Ceasar explained that it would be impossible for them to obtain a work visa for the states even if they did get a passport. That made me think... I can go to almost any country I feel like going to (hypothetically - I don't really have any money). If this guy spent his whole life trying to get to the united states... he MIGHT make it. How much privilege I have to be able to do the things I do. Even being a poor missionary should be considered a financial privilege. Looking back at these two guys, I believe they had the resources and opportunity around them to improve their situation. Because of the Ecuadorian social structure and years of oppression, it would be a hard uphill struggle, and I guess thats what we're there for, to alleviate some of the uphill battle and to encourage and empower them, but they are they're own agents of change, we are merely the facilitators.

DSC_7057The team got a nice feast at the end of the week. A whole Cui! In Otovalo those go for $15, so this was a major luxury. I eat about 3/4 of it... which is really quite a bit of food. I think what we were served could have filled me up at 3 different meals.

Cathedral TowersOk, so what else have I been up to. I took a lovely trip to downtown this past weekend with Ali and Phil, and Ali's family. I should probably explain that Ali is a Calvin grad who I've gotten to know, whose actually really good friends with Erin Holwerda, and Phil is a co-worker of mine who just got his masters in mechanical engineering at Michigan tech. We saw a couple cathedrals. The one thats picture is really neat because they basically have put stairs and ladders to let you access every little nook and cranny of the whole building. The top had some really amazing views of Quito.

Horizontal PanoramicQuito has a lot of cool cultural events that I realized I have been missing out on. Its such a cultural center for Ecuador, and I haven't taken advantage of living here. I've gotten out a bit into the the surrounding area, and down to the coast, and tried to do something cultural every weekend, so I don't feel to bad.

Dangling my feetThis is me Dangling my feet off a ledge on the roof top of the Cathedral. You can see it just below the cross in the first image.

I've also become pretty good friends with two guys who I live with. One is an American student named Brandon, studying at University of San Fransisco Quito (San Fransisco is the patron saint of Quito and a University here, not a town in CA), and the other is the son of the host family. His name is Diego, and is studying political science. We have good arguments about politics. Brandon grew up as a poorer African American, so I value his opinion on a lot of things because of how different it is than mine. Diego grew up the son of an Agnostic Latin American professor, so his views are rather different than most Americans. Its all been wonderful.


skin deep

check this out:,1,4913294.photogallery

All over chicago, people are tearing out the insides of buildings, and saving the classical facade to encase their beautiful new interiors. I don't like it.

not so lucky grocery

An update on our grocery:
Good Friday, April 6.
I leave my apartment with my roomate. We open the door to 5 cop cars. FIVE. They are pulled up, blocking the street, partically on the sidewalk. I walked up to a copcar, knocked on the window, the cop rolled it down, squinted at me and said, "this doesn't have anything to do with you." He couldn't answer any other questions. I said to my roomate, "let's see if our grocer is okay". We open the grocery door and are met with two cop's hands in our faces, "the store is closed down, get out!". Shocked, I let the door fall back, and then catch it again as both us surge forward demanding: "Where, is Raul? We live upstairs. What is going on here? Why won't anyone tell us anything? Who do you think you are! You have to tell me where the grocer is!!!

"We told the employee to take the money and get out. The owner was not here."

We decided to camp out on our step until we were told more information. Our landlord appeared, maybe from nowhere, but there she was smiling and bouncing along. She acted excited to see us. We asked her where the grocer was now. I asked her why she never gave him a lease. I asked her why she never gave him a lease once he asked for it. She said he went about it in the wrong way, and then quickly switched the subject saying "oh! and I brought you guys mouse poisen and the plumber will be here this weekend".

A little background:
Grocer stopped paying rent in Jan.
In early March he recieved an eviction notice that he should have evicted 2 weeks prior, postmarked for 2 weeks and 2 days prior.
Every month for 5 yrs he has asked for a lease, written and verbal.
He is a Puerto Rican in a Mexican neighborhood.

Finally, the landlord triumphed and pushed the nice man out of buisness. At least now he can pursue the life he was dreaming of: hanging out and fixing cars. I might go join him as soon as my mouse poison runs out.


The End (Of the Beginning)

Um...hello? Is there anybody out there?

It's been a while since we graduated, our endeavors have diverged - have our perspectives? I'm curious to know if/how people's thinking has changed since our last ARCH 396 class. Seems like a little..."real world" (scanned for alternate term, found none) experience would have a tendency to make our learning more grounded, and our ideas for implementation more viable and applicable.

I've been working a non-architecture job in the very socially dysfunctional city of Wilmington, Delaware for the past six months. As a bicycle courier I experienced radical juxtapositions between street level crime and criminally opulent top-floor law firms. During my time working within one such firm I witnessed corporate glut and irresponsibility first hand. Nothing massive, just prevalent tendencies which indicated what I already knew: the omnipotence of $$$.

Wilmington is a city defined by corporate headquarters plus the ensuing corporate law firms, and poverty stricken slums. There is little-to-no middle-ground. Wealthy business men and women drive into the city from the safety of surrounding suburbs. These 'success' types park their Mercedes and BMW's in off-street garages.

Outside of the limited business and legal district, however, are poor black neighborhoods fraught with drugs, violence and AIDS. Because the money is only in town from 9 to 5 there's a deficit of mixed-use buildings and points-of-interest. There does seem to be a fair amount of attention directed toward rejuvenating Wilmington (mostly on the part of impotent non-profits). Much of the public concern seems to be assuaged by well advertised development dollars which are being pumped into the peripheral riverfront area. This "investment" has manifested in the form of cookie-cutter townhouses and a premium condominium high-rise (across the river, well insulated from the actual city by both water and a busy divided road).

So a developer builds a $300M residential building which caters exclusively to the very wealthy, and it's touted as progress.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 
The implementation of architecture for social change seems impossible, especially when working within the parameters of an urban environment where previous constructs and paradigms are deeply seated. Modernists dreamed about levelling cities entirely and starting afresh. I'm not as concerned about existing physical impediments, rather the hurdle in people's hearts and minds. How is it possible to motivate fallen people (us, them, me) to rise above our own self-destructive, unsustainable compulsions?

The (?) doesn't seem to have changed much over time, revolutions have come and gone. I would be lying if I claimed to have never compared Progress to Delusion. But negativity begets more negativity, and I don't consider this perspective grounded on anything other than ego. I'd like to read about how others' post-Calvin experiences have related to or impacted their thinking about architecture and social justice.

Postscript: I live in a developer-built condo in Sprawlville, USA. I drive 20 miles each way on a congested highway to and from work. Guilty.


Lucky to be a Grocery

So this is where I live... we have the second floor of this building. The lower floor is the infamous Lucky Grocery. This little story isn't necessarily "Architecture"... but it's related, it takes place in a building.

Come to find, my roomates and I are the first people to have a lease in this building. The grocery downstairs doesn't even have a lease! This might not seem like a big deal but it is. The grocery isn't worth as much as a business; even though the grocer wants to sell, he can't sell for as much. Apparently having a lease is a privlidge, ya know...the landlord is held to their end of the deal just as much as the renter is to paying. Why is it that all the sudden me and my roommates get a lease??? I can't help but think it is because we are perceived as having money, because we have the ability to move into the neighborhood... And we are Mostly WHITE. It's weird. But WHATEVER we are getting tight with our grocer. It's a good time. Yeah for neighbors. Boo on injustice.


This blog called "lovetann" has a lot of interesting things.

So... my job is really feakin cool. I get to build two models that could be potentially really high quality (I have a much larger budget than if I was funding it on my own), and my boss takes time out of his day to teach me autoCAD. An hour to two hours a day he spends showing me things in either autoCAD or model building. I can't believe I'm getting paid to do this. I even get to play chess during work with my russian co-worker!! I never thought such an amazing opportunity would present itself. My boss told me that he enjoys having people who are more motivated to do basic autoCAD stuff. If he was to hire an engineer or some one who was an expert in autoCAD they would be more of a drag around the office because they don't necessarily enjoy basic autoCAD projects.

I'm learning alot about building codes and stuff because thats basically my job is to specify on drawings why these things he has designed adhere to code. Its interesting but the most interesting things are learning autoCAD and learning to read drawings and construction documents. I'm learning that construction documents aren't necessarily standardized, at least to architects. Any how...

My boss's office is attached to a fabrics distribution company's warehouse, so its this strange juxtaposition of elegantly designed offices/greenspace in a factory/light industry section of town.


AutoCAD 2006

Over the summer I went to three interviews at architecture firms in Delaware. All were in regard to posted openings, a seemingly promising prospect. The trend that developed, however, had to do with two recurring themes in the interview discussions. The first was the term "professional degree." The second was a word which I dreaded dealing with from the very start: AUTOCAD.

It became increasingly evident that there wasn't a lot of entry-level work for recent interdisciplinary graduates with no drafting skills. Perhaps I was ineffective in communicating my willingness to do the most menial tasks. Anyway, the following points were driven home in each interview:

1.) Entry-level employee = AutoCAD monkey,
2.) We don't hire untrained monkies.

I'm having trouble coping with equating the value vs. cost of various forms of education. Now I am enrolled in a $400 AutoCAD course at the Delaware College of Art and Design. Where is the love for the educated vibe? The architects around here seem like engineers.

I'm thinking of a Talking Heads song, ".....there's a city in my mind.."

Why is thinking at odds with working, learning dissociated from occupation? Starting to feel like a ghost town.