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Bachelor of Architecture

Alex Zhao

Perhaps it was the memories of late night hot chocolate to keep ourselves warm on the sixth floor or perhaps it was the in-person bonding over tough critiques during our Final Reviews, but the transition from in-person studio desks to our little corners of the globe has been a real challenge. A hard, difficult challenge -- tearful goodbyes to our friends and closing our studio desk drawers for the last time. Buying the very last midnight energy drink from the vending machines for the last time. Re-plotting that same drawing for the fifth time because the line weights were all wrong. We knew this “COVID” thing was going to change everything but the extent was completely unknown as we hunkered down in our homes.

In truth, the moments getting pizza at 3AM with hungry studiomates and hopping to every virtual livestreamed review are cherished equally whether or not I was able to see my peers face-to-face or not. The laughs from either across the room or across the screen are equally hilarious, whether that technical difficulty was actually funny or not. Just like our projects, architecture students effortlessly adapted and, truthfully, succeeded with our virtual studio spaces and painstaking rendering rendezvous. I didn’t know I could manipulate my renders so easily and certainly my studiomates were in constant awe of how much they could get done without running for the 51B or BART-ing from San Francisco every day. And it’s absolutely true -- the mere extent and visual qualities and sheer achievement of our class’s work has skyrocketed. In a pandemic, nonetheless!

And for the virtual communities that filled in every gap of the otherwise in-person experience… the work has been ruthless. Running the CED Undergraduate Student Council from an entirely different state has made for funny time zone mix-ups but certainly increased our motivation to bond with each other and our CED community. Teaching a class as an undergraduate has encouraged a persistent open-mindedness and meticulous schedule-keeping to ensure that all of my students -- from California to New York and overseas -- can experience a deep passion for their own cities that may be much closer to reach than the class’s city of choice: Chicago. Participating day-after-day in this reluctant and awkward virtual environment seriously kicked my procrastination tendencies… although I cannot say for how long.

Finally, designing in this pandemic and post-pandemic world will certainly be a challenge -- not without bulk bottles of hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes stashed away in our desks -- but it’s one that the Class of 2021 has spent fond time adapting to. Sticking together in this once-in-a-century pandemic is something that I won’t forget in my lifetime. The models, hot chocolate and energy drinks, and misbehaving software doesn’t matter -- it’s all of us. Every person who made us “keep pushing” and questioning everything. It’s our community that never left even when we never knew if it would come back in two… six…. twelve months and beyond.

It did.