Semester: Spring 2023
Faculty Advisor: Gary McDonogh
Field Site: Voith & Mactavish Architects
Field Supervisors: Daniela Voith & Isabella Bartenstein
Praxis Poster:Tarin Martinez_Praxis Poster_Final
For my Praxis course this semester, I continued an internship I had at Voith & Mactavish Architects. One of the firm’s founding partners, Daniela Voith, is a Bryn Mawr alumna and Architecture studio professor; I had taken her course in Fall of 2019, which is where I discovered the architecture field and found my passion in it. Voith & Mactavish Architects (VMA) is an architecture, interior design, and historical preservation firm in Center City, Philadelphia. They primarily specialize in cultural and educational spaces, such as independent high schools, churches, college dorms, and residential. Daniela once described it as “spaces where people care about the space.” This intrigues me, as it gives the opportunity (and budget) to really consider and design meaningful and purposeful spaces, and consider what goes into that design. As I had done in my previous time at VMA, this semester I continued my support in producing renderings of current and past projects. These renderings mainly consist of elevations, plans (of both buildings and campuses), and sections. The buildings I have worked on are primarily educational settings – classrooms, dorms, administrative spaces.
The process starts with the designs being drawn into a modeling or drafting software such as CAD or Revit. In my time at VMA, I have been able to pick up a working knowledge of both programs, as well as Photoshop. The drawings need to be “cleaned,” by simplifying them. The purpose of this is to most clearly convey the purpose of the drawing – some are for presentations, some are for interviews, or the website. The goal is to make the drawings easily readable to anyone, students, other design professionals, visitors to the website or our social media pages. In addition to being readable, the goal is also to make them beautiful and distinctly VMA. After the drawings are “cleaned,” for any unnecessary or distracting lines or items, the linework is put into Photoshop. Here, using brushes and standard company colors, the renderings begin to come to life. The tactics used to create the VMA look are derived from founding partner Cameron Mactavish’s hand water colors that were an important part of the company’s original designs and work – their identity, even.
My skills come in through the cleaning, and then the reading of the drawings, working to figure out what each line represents in the real site, and what is important to convey the vision for the space to the viewer, as well as what is visually appealing. I work with the project architects to do this, they tell me what they want the rendering to convey or focus on, and what’s what in the drawing. I add in wall poche, coloring in the walls and adding in weight. After that comes programming, for plans. Programming is the delineation of spaces by function. To convey this artistically in a rendering, we use different standard colors to signify the usage of those spaces clearly (blue for a bathroom, or orange for a study, for instance). In renovations or additions, I also often usually am asked to depict the difference between existing and new walls. If I am doing a larger site plan, I may investigate the surrounding area via Google Earth to be able to produce a more comprehensive picture. The final touches are adding in trees and other relevant landscaping, as well as artistic fades and highlights. Depending on the “cleanup,” time and clarity of the original drawing linework, a rendering can take anywhere from a few days to a week or more. Part of this time is spent reviewing the work I have done with the project architect or my supervisor, Isabella Bartenstein, who taught me the company standards and tricks of the trade. Their feedback comes in the form of “redmarks,” their red markings on the drawing being instruction on how to tweak the renderings.
My experience at VMA has given me an incredibly valuable insight into the industry. What is it like to work in this type of environment? A smaller firm, a creative environment, a woman-owned business. I’ve been able to observe the day to day life of interior design professionals, architects, and the business administration of a firm like this, and consider what I want my life to look like. While I had hoped to have found a clearer vision of what exactly I would like to do as a career, this experience, like my experience at Bryn Mawr, has taught me that there are more paths than I could have ever imagined existed. I have also found that even after several years of immersion in architecture education and the industry, I still find that practically anything architecture related interests me. My work rendering, and past work drafting in the studio at Bryn Mawr and at VMA, is something I can become pleasantly highly engaged with and lose track of time doing. Beyond just observations, I have also made an effort to talk to my coworkers about their experiences. I feel this has provided me a real inside-look at the architecture and design industry that many don’t get the chance to experience until after they graduate. Besides the technical skills that VMA has imparted me with, my time with them has enhanced my professional and communication skills within an office. I am very pleased to not only have learned about the industry, but also about myself and my work style. I enjoy project based work, with a balance of logical creativity. I hope to continue my relationship with VMA, improve my hard and soft skills, and find a way to be as valuable as possible to the company!