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Alumni Abroad

Alumni Abroad

It ’s a rare APLA student who has not wondered about a professional path that might lead them to live and work outside their home country. Increasingly, our graduates are making that dream their reality!

This year we’ve reached out to these “APLA Expatriates” to ask them to share their stories with our StudioAPLA readers. From London to Beijing, East Africa to Honduras, and all parts between these Auburn alumni are showing the world the skill, talent, commitment, and passion that are the hallmarks of an Auburn APLA graduate.

As you read the stories that follow, I expect you’ll think of someone we’ve missed. Please pass these contacts on, and we’ll work to get their stories in a future issue. Mail us at: CADC.communications@auburn.edu

EUROPE

Amy Jo HolzAmy Jo Holz (B. Arch ’01)—London
Amy Holtz is a 2001 Auburn graduate in Architecture. After initially working at Cesar Pelli & Associates for three years, she moved to London in 2004 to complete a Master of Arts in Environmental Design at the Architectural Association. In 2004‒2005, Amy was recognized as the highest achieving student in that program.

After finishing her master’s degree, Amy initially worked for a small, two-person office, then joined Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF) London and soon became head of the office’s Sustainability Group. At KPF, Amy worked on feasibility studies for maximizing  use of buildings along Covent Garden and collaborated with the New York office on company-wide sustainability issues. As part of her work in sustainability, Amy collaborated on many projects in different stages of development, travelling to Abu Dhabi on numerous occasions while assisting with the Abu Dhabi International Airport.

In 2009, the partners in charge of KPF London started a stand-alone practice separate from KPF, called PLP Architecture.  Amy joined PLP Architecture as a Senior Associate Partner and Head of Sustainability. Currently Amy is the lead on the refurbishment, extension, and recladding strategies of an office building in Westminster in London due for completion in March 2013. The project is targeted to receive a BREEAM Excellent rating (UK equivalent to LEED). In March 2012, Amy was in Building.co.uk as one of the Top fifty Rising Stars in Sustainability.

Drew MerkleDrew Merkle (B. Arch ’08)—London
Drew Merkle is a 2008 Auburn graduate in Architecture. Originally from Fort Walton Beach, Florida, Drew is currently working for Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) in London. After graduation from Auburn, Drew worked for two years at Andras Allen Starr Architecture in Columbus, Georgia. Drew’s participation in the Auburn Rome Program sparked a  desire to study or work abroad. This goal led him to  move to London to pursue a Master in Architecture and Urbanism in the Design Research Laboratory (DRL) at the Architectural Association (AA). After completing his studies at the AA, Drew worked briefly for Minimaforms Architecture + Design, an experimental architecture and design practice based in London, where he worked on the master-plan and design of entry pavilions for a large public park in Europe. He has since been working at ZHA on large-scale, highly-complex projects in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. These projects range from a one-million square-foot master plan, including an opera house, art museum and mixed-use development to the design for a new parliamentary building. Along with his work at ZHA, Drew has co-founded mEmE, a contemporary atelier for the research and rethinking of advanced design and geometry in architecture, and is currently pursuing a teaching position in London.

Though Drew is geographically a long way from Auburn, Alabama, none of these experiences and opportunities would have been possible without the knowledge gained while studying at APLA. According to Drew, his time at Auburn was very instrumental in fostering an ambition for studying and working abroad not only through his exposure to the Rome studio, but also through the encouragement of faculty and friends during his studies. Apart from being encouraged to seek experiences and opportunities abroad for a more holistic grasp on the field of architecture, Drew was also exposed to a lot of the pragmatism of the design process throughout his coursework at Auburn, which he learned about  on a first-hand basis through his second-year and thesis work at the Rural Studio. It was there that he learned that a design needs to work not only conceptually, but also in a very practical manner.

“The experiences and knowledge gained such as those from the Rural Studio are something that most students never receive until actually practicing architecture, and it's great to think that this can be achieved while still in school at Auburn. This sort of knowledge base is not only limited to the work that is happening in the Rural Studio, which is perhaps one of the most exciting and striking things about the program, but in fact in any studio or seminar course you are learning valuable and practical information for the future,” notes Drew, adding, “ the rounded approach to design education and mentoring I received at Auburn was invaluable and has proven to make my transition to an international architecture practice a very smooth one.”

Carrie JaxonCarrie Jaxon (B. Arch ’05)Madrid, Spain
Upon graduating in the class of 2005 from the Architecture Program, Carrie Jaxon left Auburn with great enthusiasm to embark into the world of design. Her career began at Gensler in New York City, where she spent almost two and a half years working on a range interesting projects, including the Clark Art Institute, a  collaboration between Gensler and Tadao Ando. While thoroughly enjoying the bustling streets of Manhattan, the art and vibrant life, she had a strong desire to see other parts of the world. Carrie credits Professor Tarik Orgen and the late Professor D.K. Ruth for helping spur her love of travel through the 2004 Architecture study abroad course in Europe. At the end of 2007, she decided to venture to Madrid for a three month sabbatical. Those three months turned into five years, within which she’s been fortunate enough to have wonderful experiences in the world of design. Carrie served as the International Architecture Representative at a local Madrid architecture/engineering studio, Ingenor. There she was in charge of international collaborations within the studio as well as performing duties as a designer for studio projects and competitions. During 2009-2011, she completed a Master of Art, Creation and Investigation in the School of Fine Arts at the University of Madrid (UCM). Her studies then led to interesting collaborations in furniture design, as well as work in the photography profession. Currently, she’s studying advanced photography at MadPhoto Photography School, as well as working for the Snoot Photography Collective in Madrid.

Carrie’s most current exciting design adventure is working for Serrano Brothers, a multidisciplinary design studio based in Catalonia. The studio focuses on interior and space design, product and branding design. It’s an inspiring, young team, with projects in Spain and the UK. Also, she is collaborating with a local architect on a Spanish icon-inspired furniture line.

When thinking about how she ended up in Europe, Carrie says, “I definitely have to say that Auburn, along with the confidence my professors instilled in me during my five-year program, have so much to do with where I am now. I owe a huge thanks to each of my professors and to the CADC!”

www.carriejaxon.com

Mike KaneMike and Whitner KaneGermany
Before moving to Europe, Michael Kane (B.Arch / B.Int.Arch. ’01) was an associate at LS3P Associates, Inc. in Charleston, South Carolina and Raleigh, North Carolina. Working within the interior architecture studio of LS3P allowed Michael to work on a variety of project typologies from healthcare to higher education to retail. In 2007, Michael went back to graduate school to get a Master of Business Administration focusing on product development and innovation management.

After graduating at the height of the recession, Michael provided business and design consulting to several small businesses and non-profit organizations in North Carolina and Georgia. Michael now works with M.C. Dean, a multi-national systems integration corporation. Mike worksin the facility management and development department in Stuttgart, Germany where he works with several U.S. and NATO agencies helping build mission-critical operating environments in Europe and the Middle East.Whitner Kane

Whitner (Stewart) Kane (MLA ‘02) worked as a Landscape Designer in Florida and South Carolina, and completed her Landscape Architecture registration after moving to Raleigh, North Carolina. Her focus was primarily on large-scale urban planning projects and mixed-use developments. After their daughter Lucy was born in 2008, she took some time off to stay home and started a small residential landscape design practice. With the move to Europe, she has been at home with Lucy and second daughter Anna, born in Germany in 2012.

 

Fouad KhalilFouad Khalil(B.Arch ’01)Sweden
Fouad Khalil is currently working in the Linköping Office of White Arkitekter. White is the largest architectural practice in Sweden with offices throughout Sweden as well as in Norway, Denmark and London. The practice was founded more than sixty years ago by Sydney White and PA Eckholm in Goteborg, Sweden and currently employs over 700 Architects, Landscape Architects, Planners and Engineers working on a diverse set of project types.

Fouad and family started considering a move to Sweden about a year ago when his wife, who is a Swedish national, was thinking about going back to school. They found that while salaries for architects were generally comparable or only slightly higher than those in the U.S., benefits in terms of childcare, healthcare and education were much more generous in Sweden. They were also pleasantly surprised to find that despite the differences in language, the skills and experience Fouad had gained in the U.S. were transferable to the Swedish job market (provided that one could gain residency). So Fouad began looking for work around the end of the year and had an offer in the city were his wife was looking at a school by the following March.

According to Fouad, Linköping is very much a traditional Northern European medieval city. It's located about an hour and a half by train to the south of Stockholm. The urban fabric is very dense in the center, with commercial activity clustered around several traditional town squares. The city has about 150,000 inhabitants and is home to both a historic medieval cathedral and the manufacturing headquarters of Saab aircraft where the Gripen jet fighter is made. The city has an intriguing mix of old and new. It is growing steadily, and there seems to be a fair amount of work in the urban core coming on line in the next few years.

The Khalil family is excited to be in Sweden. Fouad reports he is learning the language (slowly) and that everyone has been very welcoming. His final comment,”It's a great place to visit! I'm told the cross country skiing here is amazing, but I'd probably recommend the beautiful Nordic summer to the uninitiated.”

Ana Souza and Joao BrazAna Souza (MLA ’08) and Joao Braz (MLA ’09)—Lisbon, Portugal
Ana Souza and Joao Braz came to Auburn University from Lisbon, Portugal as participants of an exchange program with Lusiada University. Joao graduated from Lusiada University with a degree in Real Estate Evaluation and Management; Ana received a degree in Architecture.  Chosen for the exchange program by faculty from Lusiada and Auburn, Ana and Joao completed the Master of Landscape Architecture Program at Auburn and assisted  with research opportunities and teaching during their stay. Back in Lisbon now, Joao’s work ranges from urban and regional planning to architecture and landscape architecture, and Ana works for a multinational firm that produces wood-based panel products. In her position, Ana handles construction management while collaborating with architects, engineers and constructors.

About his experience at Auburn, Joao says, “I must say that the expectations I had before going to Auburn were largely exceeded, as (Auburn) helped me to grow professionally and personally at a very fast pace. The Auburn experience made me face questions that I had never faced before. It actually changed the way I saw the world, and ultimately changed the way that I (practice) architecture.” Ana and Joao were married in Lisbon in 2010.

ASIA

Lu BaiLu Bai(B.Arch ’08)—Beijing
Lu Bai moved to Beijing two and a half years after graduating from Auburn University with a Bachelor of Architecture degree. After living and working in Birmingham for three years (including the thesis year of Urban Studio), she thought it was time to make a change. When the opportunity to work for the Beijing, China branch of a British-based corporate firm came up, she immediately jumped on it. According to Lu, the projects she encountered there were enormous, and she worked within a team of twenty architects projects ranging from a 600 foot-tall hotels to seven-story shopping malls - all with multiple design options.

About the experience, Lu says, “The hours were intense, very similar to studio, in that we would stay up for deadlines often until 8:00 a.m. The good thing about corporate offices in Beijing is that the salary is high, and the cost of living is Beijing is extremely low.” She also observes that the project delivery models employed in China has its downside, noting that “the projects are large and impersonal; there is really not enough time to design in these circumstances. Also, because a foreign office cannot stamp construction drawings after the Design Development stage, the drawings are handed over to the local design institute. You may never see the building again until construction is finished, and of course it would be completely different from the initial design you spent numbers of late nights slaving over.”

Lu reports that the dynamic pace of development in China results in a very different practice experience from what she experienced in the U.S. “The pace of the city is fast. The architecture industry is extremely competitive because there is so much construction happening. Young, inexperienced, unattached architects flee here from all over the world to compete for the same jobs. The opportunities (for young architects) are limitless. You could be twenty-five year old and project managing multiple multi-million dollar skyscrapers and urban developments at the same time. The Chinese market really craves the foreigner's outlook on design, therefore opening more doors for expatriates than if we were to stay back home.”

When she first arrived in Beijing the only thing Lu wanted was to be a part of the Zaha or OMA type landmark projects because (these projects) where such a contrast to her experience of practice  in Alabama. However, after being in Beijing for two years and riding past these vacant landmarks everyday, Lu reflects, “They ARE beautiful buildings, but the mega structures seem lifeless almost, un-utilized, and (are) merely propaganda.”

After a year at the corporate office, Lu started looking for a change of pace and found a Chinese office that has a more down to earth and practical approach, similar to the way things were taught at Auburn. She now works at Atelier FCJZ, a small Beijing design studio that is located inside of the Summer Palace. The firm places emphasis on experimenting with materials and giving traditional Chinese architecture a contemporary twist. The projects are smaller and more manageable so she can actually reach the level of detailing. Since joining this practice, Lu has finished the twenty-year retrospective exhibition of the works from Atelier FCJZ and Yung Ho Chang (the founder of the office). The exhibition provided the opportunity  to test materials such as rammed earth, plaster, and concrete and formed the concept of spaces around these materials. Working with her FCJZ colleagues, Lu was able to test plaster mixes and rammed dirt just inside their office yard. Lu found the experience reminded her of her experience at the Rural Studio., Lu can see herself staying in Beijing for a while longer, “at least until the jobs run out, which seems very unlikely at the moment.

Matt MuellerMatt Mueller (B.Arch ’08)Beijing
Matt Mueller graduated from Auburn with a Bachelor of Architecture degree in May of 2008, but his path to working abroad began at the end of his third year of architecture school.  As a child of suburbia, the desire to travel had been growing inside him from quite a young age, and by the summer of 2006, the desire was overwhelming.

He recalls, “I remember approaching Professor Rusty Smith.  I’m sure he was amused by the slight desperation in my voice, and my complete ignorance when I asked him to ‘please help me find a job in another country.’  He was incredibly patient with me, advising me on my first portfolio, and putting me in contact with Jennifer Bonner, a former Auburn University and Rural Studio graduate (then working in London.) Before I knew it, I was building study models in London for Sir Norman Foster. That was an amazing summer abroad, full of invaluable professional experience as well as memorable and often hilarious misadventures.”        

Matt’s plan was to return to Europe after graduation but, as he observed, “the financial crisis put a bit of a kink in my plans.” After wrapping up his thesis project at the Rural Studio, Matt worked for a short while in Birmingham.   In mid-2009, Matt received an e-mail from his former boss at Foster and Partners, who was moving to China to run the Beijing architecture branch of Atkins Global.  He offered Matt a job in his new office.  Matt’s idea of the future had never included China, but it was the only part of the world that was building, and as Matt says, “I was never one to shy away from a challenge.”

Matt has been working in China for nearly three years now, and says “it has been a life altering experience.”  As one of the first employees hired, he was charged with helping to build an office from scratch.  “I must admit, the challenge of building an office from the ground up, in a culture that is so profoundly different than America, was the most difficult and rewarding task I have ever undertaken.  Imagine trying to collaborate with a person who's approach to creativity is fundamentally different that your own.  Imagine trying to satisfy a client whose idea of beautiful architecture is to literally copy the Paris Opera house brick for brick.  Imagine trying to survive in a market that is based solely on interpersonal relationships, when you can barely speak the language,” explains Matt.

Despite these challenges, Matt reports that his time in China has been an incredible experience.  He has had the opportunity to design projects whose scope and scale couldn't be matched anywhere else in the world.  He has worked on 400-meter towers and million square meter developments.  He has also had the chance to work with local charities, designing innovative community centers for migrant worker communities.  Matt says that “I would never have received the opportunities, nor had the fortitude to overcome such circumstances, without my invaluable education and the wonderful mentorship that I received at Auburn.”

Matt has a final piece of advice for other students, “I would encourage any students who have a bit of wanderlust, to trust those instincts and enjoy wherever your life takes you.”

Justin PatwinJustin Patwin (B.Arch /B.Int. Arch ’00)—Singapore
While attending Auburn's School of Architecture, Justin Patwin was able to participate in two unique programs that compelled him to pursue a career outside of the United States. The first was the Rural Studio, which helped prepare him to address local poverty issues by providing innovative architectural solutions and also taught him about identifying building infrastructure principles that can be applied to underdeveloped communities all over the world. The second was Auburn's European Study Abroad program, which provided him with the opportunity to visit and study some of the most historical architectural sites in the world while interacting with many different people and cultures. Justin credits both experiences with helping him to  develop a sensitivity to diverse cultures  that has proven invaluable to living and working abroad.

As a result of these experiences, Justin has been able to pursue a career in architecture and real estate development in the Republic of Singapore. There, he is able to work among a culturally diverse group of expatriates and locals to develop properties that will help facilitate economic growth in the emerging markets of Southeast Asia. About his educational experience at Auburn, Justin says, “I feel Auburn University's focus on community and diversity gave me a professional and ethical foundation to be successful in any international professional environment.”

AMERICAS

Julieta CollartJulieta Collart(B.Arch / B.Int.Arch. ’07) andBenjamin Krauss (B.Arch / B.Int.Arch. ’09)—San Pedro Sula, Cortes, Honduras
Julieta Collart and Benjamin Krauss, both Auburn architecture and interior architecture dual-degree graduates, currently live in San Pedro Sula, Honduras where they started a small design-build firm in 2009 called mix|design. According to Julieta, “the name comes from an interest in all things designed.” The husband and wife team have designed everything from graphics to furniture, to interiors, small remodels, new residential construction, commercial construction and even public projects. The couple credit their “hands-on” education and training at Auburn -  from building furniture pieces in the workshop, to handmade models coupled with their experience at Rural Studio – with their confidence to take on such a diverse scope of projects. Both Julieta and Benjamin feel that “when we design something we are empowered by the knowledge that we also know how to build it.”

Julieta explains, “That is one of the things that really set us apart from other designers in Honduras. We try to push the boundaries and if a carpenter, welder or concrete worker has never done it before we know how to explain it in a way that they can build it.”

The couple also has a few architecture students that are interning with them. While they do teach them AutoCAD (“ among other things, correct layer usage”), they also try to teach them design principles, techniques and skills that they learned at Auburn, but not taught at the local universities in Honduras. For example, Julieta notes that they teach their interns how to develop a concept for their projects, how to analyze a project’s necessities and how to develop a program. They also have charrettes and resumé and portfolio-making competitions, presentations, and critiques within the office. These are simple things that they find makes a big difference not only to the liveliness of the office environment but also to the practice itself. Mostly, Julieta and Benjamin “try to make it fun for everyone.” 

“So far,” the couple reports, “we are really enjoying our small office and all the rewards and hardships that come with owning our own business,” adding, “we would like to thank Auburn’s Architecture Program and all our professors for having prepared us for the real world, for teaching us the essentials and delivering what we have now come to realize was a high quality design education. WAR EAGLE!“

MIDDLE EAST

Ginger DosierGinger Dosier(B.Arch / B.Int.Arch. ’00)—Abu Dahbi, UAE
Ginger (Kreig) Dosier currently divides her time between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Research Triangle area in North Carolina.  After completing degrees in architecture and interior architecture at Auburn, Ginger moved on to Cranbrook Academy of Art, where she earned a Master of Architecture degree.

After teaching for two years at North Carolina State University, Ginger accepted a position on the faculty at the American University of Sharjah (AUS) in Abu Dahbi, UAE in 2007 where she and her husband, Michael Dosier, work on the development of a digital fabrication lab and a design build curriculum at the university’s architecture program. At AUS, the Dosiers work with a diverse group of students from over forty different cultures and countries. Ginger reports, “The experience has been life changing and the exposure to a new extreme desert environment fueled my personal research agenda.”

Ginger recently invented a new sustainable brick that is ”grown” using bacteria. The material is made by mixing a friendly bacteria, urea, sand and calcium into formwork. The bacteria have the ability to induce the formation of crystals in between the grains of sand and have a final strength equal to traditional fired brick.

Ginger is now the CEO and founder of bioMASON located in Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. The firm is working to commercialize ”biobricks” on a global scale.

Hawra BahmanHawra Bahman(B.Arch / B.Int.Arch. ’04)—Kuwait
When Hawra Bahman arrived back in Kuwait after five years of studying at Auburn University, she would often be asked “Where's Auburn?” When she'd tell them “Alabama,” the response would most often be “Isn't it a bit too country?” While for some Kuwaitis Auburn might   “be a bit too country,” Hawra says she “loved everything about it.” Hawra’s time at Auburn was her first time to live alone (and in a foreign country nonetheless,) making Auburn’s combination of strong academic reputation and small-town scale a good fit for her. “Auburn was a great place to attend. It was a small enough town (so it was safe,) the school was good, and the campus had a great academic feel to it,” she notes, adding, “ (Auburn) had all the amenities a student needed.”

But Hawra says she found more than just these qualities at Auburn, “ These are just the basic needs for survival. What people don't understand is how connected the Auburn family is. From the moment I arrived at Auburn it just felt like home, and still does after all these years. This feeling doesn't come easy. I know that from experience.”

Eight years later, Hawra is back in Kuwait where she works with the Consultant Selection Committee  at the Supreme Council for Planning and Development. While her job career path has deviated from the practice-based career she envisioned when she was in Auburn, she sees her work as an important  part of the design and construction process. In describing her work, Hawra explains that “what we do is basically aid different governmental entities in preparing the documents needed to hire a consultant for everything from studies to construction and master planning projects. The preparation of a Terms of Reference to short-listing consultants to the evaluation of the selected consultants up until the signing of the contract is done through this department.”

 

AFRICA

Sarah DunnSarah Dunn (B.Arch ‘03)Uganda
Hovering over drafting paper during her years at Auburn, Sarah Dunn never dreamed of practicing architecture in East Africa, but the path she followed to get there was influenced by her experiences with Auburn’s Rural Studio and the DESIGNhabitat program, which cultivated the belief that “architecture is for everyone—even those who cannot afford an architect.”

In the summer of 2002, between her semester with the first DESIGNhabitat studio and her thesis year at the Rural Studio, Sarah spent a summer working in the Colorado Springs, CO office of Engineering Ministries International (eMi), a non-profit organization providing design and construction management services for Christian organizations reaching the poor. Last year, eMi designed seventy-one projects around the world, donating over $7.9 million in services for hospitals, orphanages, schools, sanitation projects among others.

That summer, she spent three weeks in Guatemala designing for an orphanage. Together, these experiences fueled her desire to maximize her education on behalf of the poor, and in 2011, after completing her degree at Auburn and working through the process of becoming a licensed architect at ArchitectureWorks in Birmingham, AL,  Sarah’s Christian faith and her desire to apply her talents to “design for the poor” led her accept a full-time position with eMi in Uganda.

Since moving to Uganda, Sarah has worked on a variety of projects spanning East Africa: from a nursing school in the D.R. Congo, to a leadership academy in South Sudan, to orphanages in South Sudan and Uganda. Sarah also mobilizes and leads teams of Western architects, surveyors, and engineers who volunteer for two-week design trips to East African project sites. Preliminary designs from these trips are later refined into project reports, fundraising materials, and construction drawings for the non-profit organizations they serve. This coming February and May, Sarah plans to lead teams of design professionals to provide design recommendations for a hospital, school for the deaf, school for the blind, and church in Burundi.

Sarah relates, “I find deep satisfaction in being well-equipped to do what I love to help some of the poorest of the poor—for the sake of a faith that compels me.”