ZGF gives emerging designers the chance to learn about the profession through internships, scholarship awards, and other forms of exposure. Julie Choe, the recipient of the 2017 ZGF Scholarship, chose to return to ZGF after graduating from the University of Michigan with a Master of Architecture largely because of her experience shadowing members of the firm.
The University of Michigan offers a one-week ‘externship’ program that allows graduate students to gain experience in the field during their Spring Break. Julie was able to participate in the program thanks to ZGF Associate Partner Kristina Thomsen, and cited the culture, project work, and sustainable ethos of the company as leading factors in her decision to return after completing her degree. While at ZGF, Julie also learned about the symbiosis between design and research, and how to design with both aesthetics and the end user in mind. She applied this lesson to her graduate thesis, which involved research on VR and curating viewers’ experience of perspective through 2D designs.
We sat down with Julie to learn more about her experience with ZGF as a student, why she decided to come back, and what projects she’s excited about now:
How was your experience during your one-week learning program at ZGF?
In February 2017, I had a chance to participate in the externship program thanks to Kristina Thomsen. I shadowed a few architects at the ZGF Portland office, learning about their roles and the knowledge that they’ve accumulated from their various healthcare projects. One day, I was given a mission to go out on a city tour with a map that shows the location of projects designed by ZGF. Seeing those places for myself and feeling the buildings and spaces in the context of the city was a very impressive way to see how the firm affects the culture of their community and interacts with the public.
What influenced your decision to return to ZGF?
I’m very grateful for the scholarship I received from the ZGF Scholarship fund and the Oregon Community Foundation. That support allowed me to move beyond my architectural imagination and successfully complete my own research while in school. Since receiving that scholarship, I’ve wanted to give back to the place that recognized my potential and gave me such a great opportunity.
I also learned from my experience here that ZGF values sustainability not only for the firm’s projects, but for employees’ working environment. My experience of this office culture and the good work life balance was the most important factor in my decision to work at ZGF.
What did you learn at ZGF that you were able to apply in grad school?
Since ZGF focuses on architecture and design services based in research, my experience here inspired me to consider how the research process affects each phase of a project. One of the architects I shadowed showed me a manual created for a hospital expansion project that examined how everyone used the space – nurses, doctors, and patients. I had never thought about people inhabiting that space in that way, or in that much detail, before.
It really inspired me to think about how spaces affect people, and how research affects design. When I returned to school, I started to do my own research and exhibited my work to peers and the public. It was a great chance to get the whole community thinking about our relationship to the space as users.
Since returning to ZGF, Julie has been engaged in analyzing the design and energy performance of a new medical center project and enjoys being part of such a collaborative environment. As her career at ZGF progresses, she hopes to continue growing her knowledge of sustainable design.
Check back on November 1, 2018 for more information on the 2019 scholarship application.