Rollin Walther

From a pottery student at Bennington College, to B.Arch. Student at Cooper Union School of Architecture

  • Arch. School Attended: Cooper Union, B.Arch. Program
  • Began working with ASR: 2017, as a 1st yr student at Bennington College
  • Design Background: Pottery 
  • Focus: Architecture and Urban Design

“The process of applying, via the mentorship of Architecture School Review, prepared me for my architectural education more than my architectural classes at Bennington College did.  … In hindsight, that did so much for me in being able to realize early on in the process of designing if my idea is going somewhere and how to work through it and itterate and get it to a place where it should be. … The essays and the writing, and all of the contextual information about you, makes the portfolio and application stand out even more because everything is representative of you. It is not generic. My portfolio, for example, would not work for another person … and I remember when I was looking at my portfolio I said ‘this feels like an extension of myself’. And I think a lot of that had to do with the amount of in depth analysis…”

Rollin Walther Interview

ASR: [00:13] Tell us a little bit about you, what’s your personal story?

Rollin: [00:18] I am 21 years old, my birthday’s in a few days so I’ll be 22 on the 9th. I kind of grew up all over the place. My parents are originally from Kentucky, but I lived in Japan for 5 years, then I also lived in Switzerland for 4 years, and I move to Los Angeles when I was 12. I studied ceramics of Bennington College for 1 year, before dropping out and moving to New York. I lived in New York for a year, and I worked construction, and I applied to architecture schools, and now I’m at Cooper Union.

ASR: [00:50] How did you decide to become an architect? While in New York or..?

Rollin: [00:57] It started honestly when I was a senior in high school. I played in the jazz band and I was into art shows, but I was also in calculus and physics. Those were the two classes I was good at, but I could never find a way to merge my love for mathematics and science with this more artistic freedom side of me. When I went to Bennington, it was actually suggested that I do a ceramics in architecture course as a supplemental part of my education, and I fell in love with it. I’d a great Professor named Anthony Titus who showed me the ways of Copper education at Bennington.

ASR: [01:33] And what are the ways? 

Rollin: [01:35] A very informed pedagogy that doesn’t focus particularly on architecture. It focuses more on historical context and also this idea of creating a narrative and a story around architecture, and using it more as an exploratory platform rather than just a means to build. 

ASR: [01:56] How did you apply to architecture schools? When did you decide to do that and how did you apply? 

Rollin: [02:06] I picked architecture schools through the architecture scope portfolio review as a way to aid me because I was 19. I had no idea what architecture school was going to be, and to be quite honest before I did do that mentoring, I had no actual idea of the difficulties and challenges of architectural education. What it takes to be a successful student in architecture doesn’t necessarily mean good grades, but, to actually get something from the pedagogy. I started applying when I was 19. I applied to 10 or 12 different schools.

ASR: [02:45] How did you do? Did you get into most of them?

Rollin: [02:47] I got into every school except for the University of St. Louis and USC.

ASR: [02:53] Which other schools other than Cooper did you get into?

Rollin: [02:59] I got into RISD, Pratt, I got into the Art Institute of Chicago with almost a full scholarship.

ASR: [03:14] How much is Cooper by the way? You said you got a scholarship. Cooper’s pretty affordable. It used to be free, but they started charging tuition, right? 

Rollin: [03:23] It’s roughly twenty thousand dollars a year.

ASR: [03:28] That’s like a third of any other school, that’s great. Especially for New York, it makes no sense. Yet people still complain.

Rollin: [03:33] We do have a plan in the next 10 years to get back to being free, but we’ll see how that goes.

ASR: [03:40] What are you doing while at Cooper now, let’s talk a little bit about your experience there. I did a little bit of research myself and it looks like you are involved with some extracurricular activities. You’ve got an exhibit as well as offering tours to the people around Cooper. Is that true? 

Rollin: [04:05] There wasn’t one point. I gave a little talk at the end of last summer. I was supposed to give a talk, but some complications happened, to all the alumni regarding this exhibition that I did in the former Village Voice building at Cooper Square. We were very lucky, my peers and I, to have the North American Sculpture Centre sponsor us, and pay for the materials and let us use their skins seeds. That was a great experience.

ASR: [04:34] Describe that experience more a little bit. What was the exhibit about?

Rollin: [04:39] It was part of a structures course and we had to design a structural object that would exist within a very minimal space. That could move, be held together, be very pre-monolithic, and take up a presence, but also be structurally sound. We used friction joints and compression ropes with no supposed use of glue. It gets difficult for me to explain without some of the orthographic drawings here to explain some concepts. 

ASR: [05:13] Maybe you can forward it to me and I can go over it.

Rollin: [05:15] That will be great, I’ll do that.

ASR: [05:18] About your education at Cooper, what are the pros and cons for that particular school. What do you like? What do you dislike about it? 

Rollin: [05:30] What I love about Cooper is the culture and attitude towards learning, which is that, it is not necessarily a means to an end, but it is an ongoing process. I see it with my professors, which is the relationship kind of transcends the professor-student relationship to where you’re both learning from each other. Its more like a reciprocal relationship, which I find extremely helpful. 

Some of the cons at Cooper, of the very few that there are; and this is prevalent in every architecture school, so this is not unique to Cooper. Studio culture can be a little limiting in what it exposes students to. The expectation to spend a majority of your weight within a singular room unless it’s absolutely necessary. I find will not give you experience outside of that environment to apply to your designs. 

ASR: [06:40] What is your proposed alternative to doing work mostly in the studio? 

Rollin: [06:46] Efficient time management. I find a lot of people; this is maybe my opinion, but, they’re still in the studio when they don’t need to be. Being in New York City, there is so much to see, and learn, and experience every single day. That you can bring into the studio and it can help you as a designer, as a person, as a learner. I don’t think there necessarily is an alternative because of the amount of work that architecture take. To be honest, if I didn’t need to sleep, I probably wouldn’t sleep but everyone has to sleep [chuckles].

ASR: [07:28] I remember when I was an architecture student, I spent hours in the architects studio and I was not the only one. That was mainly because of my insecurity of, “Have I done enough?” It was never enough and it was never enough for anybody, but it’s not the curricular requirement that you spend the time in the studio. You have a requirement for about 12 hours a week to be in the studio and then after that it’s your pick. You’re but you’re saying that most people spend way too much time in the studio because they don’t manage their time as well, right? 

Rollin: [08:08] Exactly. Architecture school really comes down to time management and priorities. I was taking 19 credits my first semester, including design studios, so that’s like six classes. You have to prioritize what work is going to benefit you in the long run. 

ASR: [08:29] How do you do that? 

Rollin: [08:31] How do I do that? Educated guesses? Generally I kind of reciprocate…

ASR: [08:35] Usually there’s one studio per semester, which is supposed to be the most important thing in your education. Therefore based on your hierarchy…

Rollin: [03:40] Studio is always number one. I feel like that’s just given [chuckles]. At Cooper, the pecking order is history of architecture and environmental structures, then the liberal arts classes are at the very bottom of the pecking order.

ASR: [09:18] And you feel that the hierarchy should be different?

Rollin: [09:20] A little bit. It is important to get a holistic education, but maybe it would be more useful for schools to consider intertwining a lot of these two credit classes into the studio.

ASR: [09:37] Can you be a little more specific in what you mean?

Rollin: [09:42] So structures is supplemental class that informs your studio design. Instead of having that three hours outside of the studio, in a lecture hall with the same professor that’s still in your design studio. How about we just say an extra hour, add three extra hours to that, and we have 15 hours a week when the professor is going to be in the studio. That would be far more informative rather than having them as separate classes. I guess pedagogically, it is nice for students to create their own connections between the classes, but also I do think it should be considered, how to interweave these courses into the design studio. Same with environmental technology, it’s very hard mixing your very theoretical studio about a ballet center in the Bronx with CVAC systems. 

ASR: [10:48] Again, I’m going to use my own experience. We used to have a thing called the super studio when I was at MIT. The building technology professors and the studio professors based on the super studio concept, they used to work together, so that the structures professor would use the actual studio project for their midterm and finals in their course. So instead of designing a random bridge somewhere, for example, you would design a bridge that related to your project or some structure that was part of your project. That became part of your final presentation. I think they integrated other stuff. Do you think that’s a good model or there’s still more that we need to integrate? 

Rollin: [11:36] I think that is the first step but in terms of integration, I would love to see how we could incorporate 20th century history outside of the realm of architecture. So, the First World War, the Second World War, and global events into the architecture studio. Taking that even a step further. 

ASR: [11:58] That’s very interesting. So you’re saying integrating the structure of the curriculum and merging them all together. In a way that they’re more integrated, as opposed to taking a history course, and taking a sociology course, and then taking studio. Somehow allowing them all to merge together and then manifest in a project?

Rollin: [12:22] Exactly. 

ASR: [12:24] One of the issues with that, may be the fact that all schools have to abide by the NAAB rules and regulations. Do you feel that’s a problem for architectural education based on what you’re describing, that it limits us as opposed to… 

Rollin: [12:46] I think it’s a problem across every discipline, this is not unique to architecture. If you’re lawyer, doctor, you tend to stay focused within the realm of your profession. The psychology in architecture, for example, or the philosophy in architecture, there are so many connections between all of these disciplines. I think it is more limiting to not look outside of architecture than to just stick within architecture.

ASR: [13:19] Aside from the humanities and build technology. Do you feel the need to learn more about the practice of architecture at the moment or not?

Rollin: [13:33] I always feel like it very much. I just constantly want to learn. Right now I’m getting this restless feeling where I want to get out and start practicing.

ASR: [12:24] Lots of people feel that way that I’ve spoken with. Why is that in your case?

Rollin: [12:24] This ties into a question about why I want to become an architect. Which is that, right now I feel like all the work I’m doing simply for myself, but I want to become an architect because I thought it was a service to others. To create design spaces and constructs that enhance people’s lives or provides an opportunity for people to meet and learn more effectively. It’s a necessary step to get to where I would like to be, but it just feels like I’m a little bit in limbo. My work is not necessarily affecting people’s lives, but in my head, I’m trying to theoretically seeing how it could.

ASR: [14:40] So what do you? Do you bring a social agenda to the design so that you can always resolve an architectural problem with a social aspect in your mind? Is that how you do it? 

Rollin: [15:01] I think that a lot of architectural problems can be solved through enhancing social interaction and creating spaces that encourage people to interact with each other in a positive manner. I feel like many architects say this but how you approach it? I’m still in school. I’m still trying every which way to see which one I think works [chuckles].

ASR: [15:28] What do you want to do as an architect. You can’t wait to get out there and practice, but what is it that you want to really do? Do you have a well formatted dream or a very strong purpose that you want to start going after?

Rollin: [15:47] Within the past year, I’ve become very focused on this idea of becoming a city architect within the United States. [Crosstalk]. A city architect, so I would work for a local government in a big city like Houston, Los Angeles, or New York. It’s a pretty big responsibility, and I think that is a way that I could be of service in the most effective.

ASR: [16:15] Oh, that’s interesting. We don’t hear that that much, so working for the department of buildings or something?

Rollin: [16:22] Yeah.

ASR: [16:25] Being like a commissioner like Bob Moses was?

Rollin: [16:33] No, not being commissioner. Actually working for the city government, having a position. As a city architect, you approve certain constructions and you also look to see if you can waive certain regulations. You make a lot of decisions about how people can build with the context. 

ASR: [16:53] After we finish, I’m going to recommend you, if you want, to get in touch with a former colleague of mine from MIT. She actually does that. So maybe you want to talk to her:

Rollin: [17:06] I would love to. 

ASR: [17:08] Do you feel that your architectural education is preparing you to become the leader that you want to become?

Rollin: [17:16] Yes. I think Cooper’s giving me every single opportunity to become the leader I want to become. It is more of a willingness to take those opportunities, which is something that in architecture school, no one’s going to force you to not fail this class. You’re going to figure out you failed at the end of the semester when you get your letter grade. No one’s going to come after you, you have to take initiative.

ASR: [17:52] I don’t remember anyone who’s failed, in my knowledge but maybe you know someone [laughter]. That’s a plus, by the way [laughter].

Rollin: [18:05] Every year, freshman class starts with 40, and then you know your thesis year it’s 11 people.

ASR: [18:11] Really. Wow. 

Rollin: [12:24] Yeah. It’s very cutthroat, but… I’ve lost my train of thought completely. 

ASR: [18:28] So the question was, as far as becoming a leader in the building industry, does architectural education help you do that?

Rollin: [18:31] It does provide every opportunity to do such, it is me. I would say that I need to start taking more initiative as a student and taking more responsibility for not using those opportunities lie. No, we have internship opportunities that are sent out every week via email. We have, job fairs where there’s not even enough students to fill all the firms that come to visit. 

ASR: [19:02] Really?

Rollin: [19:03] Yeah, but time management. Even though I think I’m decent at it. It still hurts, outside of the studio, and with all your other classes, and trying to maintain a social life, and a relationship with family friends, to also take opportunity. 

ASR: [19:24] What interferes with your education? What’s in your way? What’s the obstacle as far as choosing to do the right thing? 

Rollin: [19:41] [Laughter] This is speaking probably about my experience as a young person. Being 21/22 in New York City, you have friends, you have girlfriends, boyfriends. You want to live a social life, too. But then also with architecture, I know I committed to a profession that is going to take up so much of my time and I’m going to have to sacrifice a lot of those moments. For me, it’s more about finding a balance between my social life and my work life that keeps me happy. 

ASR: [20:30] Alright, so time management is one thing. That makes absolute sense, but aside from that, are you saying that Cooper provides you with all the opportunities? In your case, what has Cooper not provided you with, as far as things that you need to become the city design leader in the way that you want to? What is missing from your education?

Rollin: [21:04] It’s just hard to speak ill about your school when you’re so devoted. I feel like I’m very biased.

ASR: [21:14] Well, it’s your attempt to, when you externalize it.

[Crosstalk]

[Break]

Rollin: [21:50] The one thing that I would say, is that Cooper does have this fetishization of old ways of working, like handcrafted and descriptive geometry. I don’t know how many people actually still have learned how to do descriptive geometry by hand with calipers. I spent a whole semester of my life every Thursday, pulling an all-nighter with calipers. Tracking hundreds of little dots to do projected orthographic geometry. I do understand that usefulness of it, because it is the underlying logic to programs like Rhino, AutoCAD, and just general thinking about geometry. But I don’t need to spend that much time on it. I would rather learn how to use V-RAY or Maxwell, something that is a requirement to intern working a lot of firms, which is something I still struggle with. So I would say technology, every year stay up to date with the profession. The new versions of Revit and AutoCAD, right now they’ve come out and there’s always so many new commands and features to use, create a more efficient workflow, allow opportunities for more efficient design. That’s the only downfall of Cooper Union I would say.

ASR: [23:11] Why do you think Cooper is quote-unquote, “Fetishizing traditional techniques”?

Rollin: [23:20] This might be a controversial opinion, but I think it is kind of a rite-of-passage. It seems to smell a lot for older professors that it is a rite-of-passage. They came up at this time where, in the 80s and 90s, they were shifting away from hand drawing into digital CAD drawing. It made their work flow so efficient, they could do a drawing in half the amount of time and iterate that drawing so much faster. Also, every professor I’ve had has gone, “We used to have to draft that by hand,” or, “We couldn’t laser-cut our models.” I feel like in the first year, they force you to go through these processes to appreciate the advance of technology, and how useful are. This is what I think the fetishization is. It’s like not hazing, because hazing sounds extreme, but a form of such.

ASR: [24:29] As far as becoming a leader in the building industry or achieving your goal as an architect. Do you feel that you’re missing exposure to more pragmatic aspects of the profession, such as management skills, business skills, stuff like that?

Rollin: [24:50] Yes. That’s exactly what I’m saying. I don’t know how to use Revit and I would love to work…

ASR: [24:55] The business skills, I’m talking about business.

Rollin: [25:04] I’m going into my third year. I know that in the fourth and fifth years, there are more classes focused on that. I think in high school, we should start teaching children about money management taxes, very basic things like that. How be a person in society, and I would say that across the spectrum. I would love to have those business management classes, and those classes where I learn how to theoretically deal with subcontractors and clients starting my freshman year. 

ASR: [25:37] How do you propose that happens considering that you have very limited exposure to the tools of the trade, as well as the thinking of the profession? Do you feel that if you did that from your first year, it would interfere with the philosophy of architecture or would it be a good thing? 

Rollin: [26:02] Well, it depends on what your philosophy of architecture is, and your approach to that particular philosophy. I guess the very neoliberal capitalist way of thinking about architecture is that, “Keep building because it will ultimately benefit more people.” Then you can think about it on the more leftist socialist communist spectrum, which is that, “I want to build strictly in service for others, no money. I don’t care about money.” We’re not going to overthrow American capitalist society. We’re going to exist within a society where things are about money. That labor is an asset, time is an asset, and quite frankly, we need to start teaching kids younger that that’s the real world. Not pretend that they’re not going to have to go work in an architecture firm, where they’re going to be making USD$50,000 a year living in New York. Paying half of that to their rent. 

ASR: [27:09] What do you think about that reality, by the way? I want to get back to what we were discussing now, because I think that’s a very interesting point you were making, but I also want to discuss from a different point of view. What do you think about the reality of having to actually make a living in large urban centers? I don’t know in your case, but for some people, architectural education costs multiple thousands of dollars. USD$60,000 or USD$50,000. M. Arch education is three and a half years, so that’s a total close to 200,000 right? If you take a loan on that, then on top of that you have to live in a large city to pay that loan off, because that’s where the bigger salaries are, and you have to pay a higher rental and all that stuff. What do you think about that reality, as far as the course versus realities of the profession? 

Rollin: [28:22] There’s my idealist thoughts about it. Which is that I hate it, and I think that the government should provide free college education, free healthcare, etc. I think that architectural education given the current starting rates that at a salary in the profession; there’s a huge gap. Especially given the amount of hours worked. This is from a young person’s perspective, but I can like feel like I’ve already seen it. That, the people who are really in charge are the people who are funding the project so developers etc. Sorry I keep losing my train of thought.

ASR: [29:11] We’re talking about the cost benefits, whether the professional makes sense considering the realities. 

Rollin: [29:24] Don’t be an architect if you don’t love it, because you’ll just be mad that you’re not making more money the whole time. People think architects make a lot of money and it’s a decent salary. You will live a comfortable life, but you are not going to be rich. If you care about money, go into finance your business or something, but do architecture because you love architecture.

ASR: [29:54] Right. Do you feel that architecture as an education gives you the ability to branch out beyond the limited square of the profession itself? From making ‘buildings’ quote-unquote, to become something else?

Rollin: [30:13] One-hundred percent.

ASR: [30:14] Like what? What other careers do you feel that you are equipped to pursue, outside this?

Rollin: [30:24] Studio art, ceramics, industrial design, teacher, basic engineering, advertising. There are just so many things that architecture school has taught me how to do effectively. In my experience working outside of architecture school, I was head studio assistant for an artist named Jean Kegel in Jersey for a few months. He went to UCLA architecture school, and he worked as a practicing architect for years, but now he is a salvaged studio artist. I had a friend whose father worked for Gensler for many years, and now he is an exhibited potter at Melma, in Latvia. Architecture opens up so many opportunities that the list would be very long. 

ASR: [31:25] In that sense, maybe we could argue that the exposure to the potential career of the architect in unlimited. And that architecture schools perhaps when they teach architectural practice, should begin expanding a little bit and opening people’s horizons to other careers. Do you feel that way?

Rollin: [31:48] Definitely. I think Cooper is doing that already.

ASR: [31:53] How?

Rollin: [31:54] We have the choice to take a lot of electives in the third year, forth year and fifth year. Which mean that we can go to the engineering school. I spent a whole semester taking a free-hand drawing course for 4 hours every Friday night. That was a 3 credit course, but that was as important as my history of architecture course. I think more schools should incorporate that, and Cooper is already starting to do that, but I would like to see more of it.

ASR: [32:24] How important do you feel that the experience of the individual architecture student is to their own education? For example, your experience in the city of New York as well as generally observing everything around you. How important is that for your education?

Rollin: [32:48] I would state hugely important. Especially because of the way I approach architecture as a social practice. Even in New York, you’re exposed to so many different types of people. Class, gender, religion, everything. You can use that to inform how to design for everyone and not just a particular group of people. That’s what I say the most informative thing about being in New York is. The exposure to so many different cultures, religions, beliefs, I feel that I’m a more effective designer.

ASR: [33:20] But you mentioned in the beginning, that school does not allow you enough time to do that?

Rollin: [33:27] That’s right. Yes.

ASR: [33:31] So how do you bring the two together? How do you create a situation were all the experiences somehow distil into something productive, that you could as an educator say, “You know, that’s measurably something positive for one’s education?” You can’t just say, “ Ok guys, here is three credits this semester, just go around and hang out in the subway.” You can’t do that. How do you create something that integrates that kind of experience and produces something productive? Do you understand what I’m trying to say?

Rollin: [34:24] Yeah, so like a structured class that exposes you more to the city outside of just that rigorous academic environment?

ASR: [34:44] Yeah, something that structures that individual experience? The independent experience is fantastic in New York, and you pick up all kinds of things, but it’s not well structured. Is universal for everybody, whether it be you or someone else who is not studying at Cooper. They have the New York experience, but how do you structure that experience so that it becomes useful to a future architect? So that it becomes part of the curriculum? I think that you are proposing something like that? Do you think that is should happen by integrating it with studio, or what?

Rollin: [35:25] I think through integration with studio which we already spoke about, but also the responsibility lies on the student. If you don’t have someone breathing down your neck telling you what to do, you have to take ownership for your education. For example my art professor, we had an assignment where we had to go sit on the 6 Subway and do blind contours of people. Staring at them for minutes. At complete strangers. I did not love doing that, and I don’t think I could have really done that in any other city. Assignments and projects like that force you to get outside of the building, and engage with the larger public. That’s not a great example, but it’s an example nonetheless, of how professors can give assignments and projects that get you outside the classroom.

ASR: [36:23] I want to talk a little bit about, if you want to talk about it, the process of applying. The process that you went through, how would you describe it from your point of view? Every time we work with someone it’s a different thing, but how would you describe it from your point of view?

Rollin: [36:40] The process of applying is difficult because there’s a lot of insecurities, like, “Am I good enough?” You’re going to have to learn to deal with failure. You’re not going to get into everywhere, you might not get into your dream school, you might not get the scholarship that you want at your dream school. The process of applying, via the mentorship that I had through the architecture portfolio with you, prepared me for architecture education more than my architecture classes at Bennington college did

ASR: [38:14] Can you be more specific? Interpret on that.

Rollin: [38:19] In terms of expectations and iteration of design you had me do hundreds of drawings for just one project. After I did like five hundred drawings for just a proposal for a project I could do, you would say, “Nah, it’s not working out.” And we would start all over again. In the moment it sucks, but in hindsight, that did so much for me. Being able to realize early on in the process of designing if an idea is going somewhere, and how to work through it and iterate to get it to a place where it should be.

ASR: [39:12] It’s interesting when I would say for example, “It’s not working out.” Deep inside I felt, “It is working out, because I just have to squeeze this guy as much as I can, to produce 10 times better than he has already” Ironically, you have to go through these ugly phases of sketches until you get to were you need to go. Normally we begin with strategy and all that stuff. Did you feel that the process we followed was a little unorthodox, starting with the essay and then developing the actual work. I remember you couldn’t wait to jump in and get things done, but I was stepping on the brakes at that point. What do you feel about that process?

Rollin: [40:13]  I think you know how important it is maybe more than I do, but I think that the essays and the writing, and all the contextual information about you makes the portfolio and the application stand out so much more, because everything is intertwined. Every aspect of the portfolio is representative of the individual. It’s not generic. My portfolio would not work for another person. I’m certain that all the essays are contextual forms that, because I remember, by the time that my portfolio was done that, “This feels like an extension of myself. This feels like it’s mine.” I feel a lot of that probably had to do with the amount of in-depth information you get to know about the person.

ASR: [41:06] I would love to show your portfolio, in a little video if it’s okay with you?

Rollin: [41:14] Yeah.

ASR: [41:17] I really love your portfolio, I mean that. It’s one of my favorites because of how poetic it is,  and because of the reference to people that were important to you. Can you talk a little about the people that were the basis of your different projects? How did that bring together an idea of who Rollin really is?

Rollin: [41:52] I think the project that really encapsulates what I was trying to go for in my portfolio, was the ceramics project. My uncle and my father have been collecting Japanese ceramics since I was a child. The idea of a water jug just gives me the sense of comfort and remembrance of my uncle. The act of pottery also does that too. Also letting go of certain ideas about childhood. When I did part of the pottery, I reconstructed it through this inhabitable sculpture that was in Japan but I did it with clay from the States. It also represented moving around a lot. That project really encapsulated how all of the projects in my portfolio where. They represented an interest of mine, my historical experience growing up, and also my familial relations to people.

ASR: [42:59] What was your second favorite project? Not so much concept, but in terms of media used?

Rollin: [43:07] The Piranesi drawing. I loved that. That drawing exercise is… I still love Piranesi to this day [laughter].

ASR: [43:19] Because of that exercise? [Laughter]

Rollin: [43:21] Yeah because of that exercise. I also couldn’t draw before them.

ASR: [43:31] We sure went through a lot of drawings. Do you feel that your drawing ability improved, and did you bring that into your education at Copper? Did it help you a little bit, or no?

Rollin: [43:42] Absolutely. I look at drawings from years ago, that I did. Quick doodle sketches and I’m like, “This cannot communicate anything.” From simple minute sketches to 40-hour long ultra-detailed pen-ink drawings. I learned how to be intentional with my strokes. How to control different mediums, and how to relight in space, and create those spaces with emotion and depth in a drawing. Which I could not do before. 

ASR: [44:22] Perfect. Do you feel that you can think better as an architectural student thanks to these drawings? Before you were saying how you disagree with Copper’s fascination with traditional techniques.

Rollin: [44:35] I’m talking about orthographic hand drawings and descriptive geometry. 

ASR: [44:45] So you feel that here is a place for more expressive drawing in architectural education?

Rollin: [44:53] Yeah. Free hand drawing. Charcoal on a huge piece of newspaper. That is…

ASR: [44:59] That’s huge.

Rollin: [45:00] Yeah, that’s huge. That’s an experience. If you’ve done it, you know. [Laughter]

ASR: We totally agree on that. My lead favorite drawing to do by hand was the perspectives. The hand drawn perspectives. They are purely mathematical and it doesn’t make any sense why anyone wants to spend that much time doing it. [Laughter]. You start with a giant sheet of paper and you end up with a tiny drawing like this sometimes, because you made it wrong. It’s horrible. 

Is there anything else you want to share that we can throw in there?

Rollin: [45:47] No, this was a great conversation. Thanks for emailing me, it was really nice to catch up.

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