Interning with EDSA || Time Away from the Interweb by Victoria DeWitt

I have been MIA from my blog and I do not apologize because I have been having an amazing time- BUT I have a lot to share.

Three weeks ago, I had the opportunity to change studios, get a new roomie for a short while and even travel.

My latest roomie was a Yachtie. Yachties are people who work on the many yachts down here. They live and work on the yacht getting to travel and adventure with their crew. It was eye opening to meet Sarah and see her perspective on work and life. It's amazing that she is getting to work on a yacht and adventure with no regret or heavy heart of missing home. I envy her drive to do exactly what she wants for herself and nobody else but her. This brings us back to my little chat on relationships. ITS ALL ABOUT THE RELATIONSHIPS WE MAKE. Sarah and I are most definitely going to stay in touch, and I cannot wait to hear about her adventures.

I am now working in the Larrea studio with Marco Larrea, Gabriela Patochhi, Ivan Donoso, Joanna Ibarra, Juan Hernandez, Michael Meyers, and Robert Jackson. I am so sad to leave the Grey studio but each studio at EDSA islittle different and it is great to be able to experience more than one. In the Larrea studio, I started my first day with assisting Gabi with a hand drawn plan and section. This studio is filled with very talented designers- each of them can draw like crazy. The master plans and sections they whip up are incredible and it takes them the amount of time it takes me to brush my teeth to finish them. Currently, I am working with Robert in the more final stages of a large "residential" project. I use quotes because this project is for a regular client and his upcoming home in the mountains of panama. It is massive. I am working on detail drawings and sections in AutoCad, as well as lighting and dimension plans. From working on this stage of the project I have learned the valuable lesson of working smarter versus harder. Robert is very smart on knowing how to refer certain drawings back to one with greater information to avoid redundant work. You do not need to do something five times. Do it once and remember to refer other drawings back to it. Clarity is also important in detail drawings, but I believe I ranted on this back a few Grey blogs ago. Besides working in a new studio and upping my CAD skill by a thousand, I recently traveled to Key West and had the time of my life.

The ride from Ft. Lauderdale to the southern most point of the US, Key West, is beautiful (we had to travel after work so it was dark but the stars were incredible!!!). The islands are connected with a series of bridges (obviously) but it is all so amazing to see so much ocean and island. Driving and flying are two completely different experiences. I stayed in an AirBnB in the most amazing condo just minutes away from Duval Street. The first day in Key West we explored the island on land as well as on the ocean with a jetski tour. The style of the island is so perfect, bright colors, layered shops and neighborhoods, the island feel is just there. If I want to get landscape architecturey I would have to say I very much appreciate the grid system. Its much different from Iowa, everything is much closer and smaller in scale but it makes it all that much more charming. From the water, the island is a little harder to study but the way things face the water and use the water as a resource is important. Many businesses like the jetski company, heavily rely on the water to keep their business going. The second day was filled with exploring, but a little less intensely due to a reminder of the previous night on Duval Street.

Duval Street is a famous downtown commercial zoned street in Key West, Florida, running north and south from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. From shore to shore, the street is just over 1.25 miles in length. It is named for William Pope Duval, the first territorial governor of Florida. Duval Street was designated a “Great Street” in 2012 by the American Planning Association. The beautiful Bahamian and Spanish influenced Victorian Mansions of Duval Street have been well preserved through local preservation efforts starting in the 1960s. On the Atlantic Ocean end of Duval Street there is a mix of early Key West Victorian mansions and bungalows’ dotting the neighborhood. Art galleries, boutiques, inns and Bodega’s line the wide sidewalks. Although this end of Duval is more residential and less filled with tourists, the sidewalks still bustle with activity. And besides from that, IT WAS A BLAST. Traveling to Key West allowed me to get my toes wet into all of the traveling I hope to do in the near future.

Here is to this mini adventure all in itself and to many more. It's good to finally be taking action in my desires and dreams.

Interning with EDSA || EARTH DAY EARTH DAY!! READ ALL ABOUT IT!! by Victoria DeWitt

This lovely week of April includes a very special day. One day of the week that we really all should celebrate each and every day, Earth Day! Such a green week!

Throughout the year, EDSA likes to help out the community and overall well being of our planet. Previously, the Gray Studio had put time into cleaning up the beaches during spring break. We filled at least ten extra large garbage bags full of trash. Surprisingly the spring breakers even helped us out, they were very grateful for our activity and insured us that they would stop littering. It was a very happy day! But this week's blog is about Earth Day and our special Earth Day activity, paddle boarding!!!

The canals of Fort Lauderdale that are surrounded by busy streets and larger parks and homes are quite dirty. It's unbelievable the amount of waste that is thrown into the water out of peoples pure laziness. IT MAKES ME SICK. I don't understand how people can be so naive about the damage they are truly doing to our Mother. Enough negativity. Let's focus on the positive times of us having a truly one of a kind trash picking experience. It was my very first time paddle boarding. I did not fall but our butterfly nets and home depot buckets were pretty challenging to use no matter how easy we made it all look. We filled our buckets!!! No matter how big or small our trash was- we still made a difference. Carson and James picked out two huge road signs and cones, Kona was the lucky winner of a giant trash bag floating through the water and the rest of us had your typical nastiness.

Each and every day people should be cautious of what they don't recycle or throw away, if we would all just help out.. it would make a HUGE difference. Luckily as a landscape architect I can put eco friendly and sustainable systems into my projects. Its great to see every day activities inspire my career. :) 

Here are some awesome pictures of the Grey Studio celebrating Earth Day (in style of course)!!!


Interning with EDSA || Beginnings by Victoria DeWitt

As expected, EDSA has brought on a lot of firsts. First internship, farthest distance from home, most learning, longest time spent away and so on- a lot of things are different. EXCEPT . the beginning of a new project!

This past week we received a new project with the title: Marassi. It is a high-end residential development, intended for vacations or holidays. To kick start ideas and get the design process flowing, we had a mini workshop with our studio and two special guests outside of our studio. We got the low down on the project, the three housing types: V18 (large) QTY: 27, V16 (normal) QTY: 26, TH (townhomes) QTY:48 (total), and of course twenty rolls of trace paper.

During this time everyone got a base map and the opportunity to throw down ideas through diagrams and other sketches. Every few seconds you would be hearing a new piece of trace paper being freed from the roll. It was just like the first few days back in our college studio after being introduced to a new site and project. Iowa State does a great job of encouraging quick sketches to get ideas out. Most of us started with bubble diagrams showing access points, views, green space and circulation of some sort. Each sheet of trace got a little more detailed but I say that very lightly. Everything was quick- you could see the design process on each sheet.

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to borrow some of our diagrams from the workshop. One thing I have noted while interning here is the use of EDSA's ability to do quick diagrams that still read well and are, believe it or not, visually appealing (shown above).

Interning with EDSA || Construction Documents by Victoria DeWitt

Detail is very important in any design. It helps create the the desired 'feel' by the architect, it makes a design unique. When designing, it's fun to call out a specific material or paving layout or even to not that you will have some sort of structure in space b. Usually in studio, we call the details out without knowing if it will actually work there or be functional for the specific space. This week, looking at the Tanger Outlet Mall in Daytona Beach, Florida, my whole world was about detail and making sure it was functional and even more importantly, understandable.

Like I said, it's very easy to call something out and put it down on the plan. You can sell your design by how beautiful it will be and that works most of the time. When it comes down to actually installing the project, how the project turns out is all up to you and how understandable your construction documents are. To simplify this concept, I'm going to ask you to think of a piece of furniture you purchased. That special piece looks so beautiful and you can't wait until it gets back to your new apartment. BAM it's from Ikea and its in box completely disassembled. Now you get to look at a little booklet filled with step by step instructions. You really appreciate clear, simple and understandable instructions.

Obviously our work as landscapes architects, is a little more complicated than putting a new bed set together but the concept is still the same. The installer needs to know how and where to install everything or else your design could turn out to be pretty horrific- and then we all know a few law suits would come shortly after- but that is a different topic. This week at work, we finalized all the paving, the furniture, the concrete, the planters, the everything else you can imagine that goes into a design. We had to know exactly what we wanted to order, how much to order, and the size of everything. We also had to take care of the drawings and make sure every single thing was called out, from irrigation to electrical to hardscape, it was all important (kind of like the layers to a perfect pizza, everything needs to work together). I was under appreciative of the CD's and their importance in school, but taking what I learned then, from Mr. Carl Rodgers, and now (to real life), CD's and I have a whole new relationship. They still drive me insane due to the constant minor changes you have to make in multiple drawings- but they do have purpose and it's very satisfying when all the drawings coincide.


Interning with EDSA || Cairo, Cairo, Cairo by Victoria DeWitt

When somebody thinks landscape architecture, they usually just think landscaping. When we, the actual landscape architects think landscape architecture, we think EVERYTHING. Landscape architects have the opportunity to tackle anything and everything. We have so much power and opportunity to blend the out door with the indoor. We can dip our toes or completely dive into anything we feel passionate about.

Throughout school we have been exposed to a number of different project types. We have looked at planting design, urban design, ecological design, grading projects and overall planning. While I was in school, without real world experience, I sometimes thought it was just another school project. I never put the projects and value they held into perspective because I had no reason to at that time.  This week I had the pleasure to work on a neighborhood design in Cairo, Egypt. I worked on a small section of the large plan called Village B. My tasks included editing Lot Lines in AutoCad and making sure they followed all contract requirements, as well as placing elevations for each home.

-- another important note: requirements on the project description at school should be followed more closely to prepare for real world projects, it helps start a great habit for when requirements weigh a lot more ie work or an internship --

In school we had a group project of developing a neighborhood with major grade change as well as Eco friendly housing and overall design, along with a community center in Ames, Iowa. We took that plan and ensured the road ways were realistic with correct grades and attempted to look at the home elevations. I am so grateful for that project because ultimately, I was doing the exact same thing in a real world project for a successful company. Do not take small projects or large projects in school for granite, you learn so much from most things you do in school, no matter how time consuming or pointless they seem to be.

Taking my prior knowledge from school to this past week at EDSA, I really challenged myself. I have never been the best at numbers but this week I WAS A PRO. Mihaela Zaharescu had placed base contours on the site. These contours allowed myself to place the garage, finished floor, and basement elevations for each home. Easy, some would say. Yes, it was simple until we had made our way to the four-plexes that have a very particular requirement of all having the same FFE with a minimum of 3 steps, each 15 cm high to 5 steps. Each housing block over looked the next- the contours were very particular to ensure the desired views. This challenged us do the four-plexes due to the fact that we sometimes could not find the right numbers to allow the required steps. This week involved a lot of brain puzzles and communication with the client.

Communication and Relationships are a major key to success when it comes to landscape architecture.

Interning with EDSA by Victoria DeWitt

January 3rd: I and my three overweight suitcases arrived in South Florida to begin the next chapter of my life:  an internship with EDSA in Fort Lauderdale. I was overwhelmed to say the least, fueled with excitement to be apart of such an incredible company, restless to start charrette week.

Charrette week is an optional week for EDSA interns where we all get to know each other as well as the company, through a week long project. The first day was spent touring South Florida, visiting Miami, Hollywood and of course, Fort Lauderdale. (I wore the very wrong pair of shoes that day. Never wear a new pair of flats to a first day of work where you have no idea what you will be doing- no matter how cute). We toured tons of really cool places like Sound Scape in Miami as well as some Food Trucks in Hollywood (super cool after working with Ken McCown the past semester). We also spent quite some time that day learning about Fort Lauderdale's River Walk, which led right to our sight. 

Fort Lauderdale's River walk was initially intended to host a large retail scene of shops and restaurants overlooking what else but the New River. Over time restaurants and stores failed and a main hub of the river walk failed, left to look like a spooky ghost town rather than a booming "go to" place. Our site was located along the River Walk next to the Performing Arts Center. We looked at programs and included a Levitt Pavilion, to re-engage and revive the River Walk with the Arts District of Fort Lauderdale.

That week was like a long week of studio- except all day long and longer with a nice cash bonus. As a team we got to learn everyone's strengths and challenges. A lot of new ideas were flowing, it was an adjustment to work with a new group of people rather then my studio mates. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday all included critics with people from the office. We learned tons. Not only did we learn more about our design but EDSA as well. We learned about their specific style and how important it is even in the diagram stage. Diagrams are important to simplify your idea for the client. It allows the client opportunity to think with you and allows yourself to really make sure you idea works and flows nicely. It was a great challenge that helped each of us grow, even in a short week. We produced an exciting project with a Levitt Pavilion that encouraged River Walk activity while fitting in with the location like it was meant for it.

Below is our presentation from the week long charrette.

Below are more site images.

We had the honor of presenting our project to the entire office at the end of the week. It was very nerve-wracking but worth every second. We had some feedback but mostly, the office got a taste of who we were as designers. Our presentation was followed with drinks and the BIG announcement of who's studio we would be joining for the first half of our internship.

I was placed in the Gray Studio!!! After the big announcement I got to tour the studio and meet the team. The Gray Studio is a "close knit team that is personally invested in meaningful and purposeful assignments that energize local economies and create environments that residents and communities are proud of. Their diverse skill set allows for explorative insights when overcoming challenges and a pragmatic realism to project design." Yes that sounds cliche, but is so true. All of EDSA is one big family but the Gray Studio definitely makes you feel apart of the big picture.

BECAUSE I have not been bloggin' lately I had to give you all the quick run down, above. After getting situated into a real studio and the real deal internship, I felt that I was a little under prepared in my technology skills. I know the adobe creative suite, AutoCad, SketchUp and all that jazz, I just did not know the big parts of Photoshop like I should have. I did not know how to render a plan because I have never done it before and felt embarrassed to admit I was unable to complete a task.

This really bummed me out. I was never one to get discouraged and I certainly am not one to give up, but at that moment I felt that I was disappointing my team. They wanted work done fast and well. It took me a moment to realize who I actually was: a student interning at EDSA in efforts to LEARN. I am a sponge soaking up all the information and knowledge I can possibly consume. After a few phone calls home and snap back into reality, I was no longer embarrassed. I have asked more questions than I can put a number on, resulting in learning more in these past three months then I ever expected. My advice here for anyone reading, is to not belittle yourself. Don't be afraid to admit you do not know how to do something, not knowing just allows that much more opportunity to learn. Ask as many questions as you need because you are an intern and learning is what you are there for. You will also learn faster and better ways to do things-- compared to secretly googling your questions online :)

Now that we are all caught up with a brief tag about whats been going on. We can talk about the big project I have been working on at work. Lets start with Central Park. Yes, the one in New York. Yes the huge one. Now imagine 6 of those combined. Now take that humongous central park and place it in Egypt. Cairo, Egypt.

This huge central park in Egypt is still in it's design development stage so no idea is too crazy. They want programs and beyond. We have put anything from a jogging trail to a safari to drone surfing in this park. The Egyptian government is loving our ideas and really challenging us to create something great. We have worked on a 5000m scaled plan that is over 160in long and that is just half scaled. Our full size plan allows myself to lay next to it about three times, and I am tall. This project is unique not only because of its scale, but because we are also working with MELK, another landscape architecture firm. I have been able to sit through conference calls with them to be apart of the entire design and presentation process. Its been a great opportunity to be a part of this project from its near beginning. I have helped draw this plan from concept to setingt up InDesign presentations, helping with design elements as well as rendering this more developed plan on Photoshop (yes round of applause I have learned how to render a plan on Photoshop!!!).

The concept of the plan is flow. The design looks like a system of veins- putting the life into Cairo's Central Park. Our series of path and roadways, plants and green spaces to hinterland all help reinforce our flow concept.





The Arts District by Victoria DeWitt

Being a huge fan of Art, the Art District was my favorite part of the tour. Las Vegas actually as a lot of giant murals and street art throughout. I enjoyed the openness and underdevelopment that framed the large wall murals. The are of town was more unfamiliar for us due to the small hike it took to get there but it was very enjoyable and even a little inspiring.

The Metropolitan Area Tour, LV by Victoria DeWitt

The day of our long tour of the metropolitan area, we all proceeded to start our early morning with Roots smoothies. Roots is an all natural juice bar, blending all and everything healthy. Personally I like to start my mornings with a nice Mc Donalds breakfast but in the spirit of food hubs, I had a giant glass of blended green things. It left me starving, but word on the streets is it's good for you.

Our tour started at the historic 5th Street school then went all over the downtown business area, to multiple plazas, then the transportation hub, the City Hall, passing the jail and then finally ending in, my favorite: the Arts District (soon to be on my next blog). Throughout the tour we noticed street plantings and shade patterns. Large palms shaded the pathways to big businesses- the dress pants and button downs probably are not the most comfortable in the Las Vegas sun. Small places to get lunch had outside eating areas also shaded by trees and umbrellas, within walking distance to other businesses. The street included a bus lane as well as a bike lane. Something I found strange was motorcycles driving onto the pedestrian side walk to park next to the pedal bikes. Getting back on topic to relations of buildings, the City Hall is located down the street from jail, very convenient. I did not find a particular pattern in location of plazas, but I did find it interesting to see their very strategic designs to prevent the homeless from taking over. One of the plazas we visited had Lego looking planter caps and benches preventing anyone to lay comfortably. I understand the idea and intent to keep the homeless out, I just wish they could find a much more attractive way to do so. The entry plaza space in front of City Hall used very minimal seating, but being an entry plaza it is more for a flow of people. It was surrounded by lush beds with tall palms and shade trees, creating shaded areas of large boulders for an informal seat, that we all did not have a problem taking.