GCA communications intern Haley Sandell (H) sat down with junior Architecture student Chanae Carter (C) to talk about her experience as an architecture student at GCA, projects she is currently working on, and her experience with travel study programs at GCA. Read on for highlights, or click the link below to access the full podcast.
Above: Listen to the full interview on the Gibbs Spotlight podcast.
H: Can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?
C: Yeah, sure! Like you said, I am a junior architecture major, I’m from Orange County, California, but I absolutely love OU, so now I’m a Sooner for sure! That’s a little bit about me!
H: Wow! That’s awesome! Why did you choose to study architecture? And why OU?
C: Those are big questions! As for architecture, I’ve known I wanted to be an architect since the fourth grade when someone offhandedly mentioned, “Hey Chanae, you’re really good at math and you like to be creative, so why don’t you think about architecture?” We didn’t know any architects at the time, but I just ran with it, and have fallen in love with it every day since. It’s really cool to have found that passion right away and stuck with it.
I’ve known I wanted to be an architect since the fourth grade when someone offhandedly mentioned, “Hey Chanae, you’re really good at math and you like to be creative, so why don’t you think about architecture?”Chanae Carter
As for OU, that’s a long story, but in short, I took a gap year after high school to do mission work in Papua New Guinea and Berlin. When applying to universities after, OU was the first school to be supportive of that decision. That really made me look more into the school, and started to fall in love with the people, the campus, the sports, everything. I actually got to meet the dean of the architecture school, and I knew this was where I belonged. When other schools came around, OU had supported me all along, and I knew that this was where I was supposed to be.
Image credit: Chanae Carter, gap year helping at a medical clinic in Papua New Guinea
H: That’s really cool! I love how that worked out for you!
C: Yeah, me too!
H: Sweet! So, who or what inspires your work?
C: Interesting question! There are some famous architects that I definitely look up to and admire. Alejandro Arevena and Bjarke Ingels come to mind with their innovative solutions, especially those that help the communities they serve, but ultimately, I think my faith is what inspires my work. I really aim to be an architect in a world that treats God’s creation well, so, thinking about sustainable solutions, solutions that unite people and bring people together in a community.
H: That’s really cool! You mentioned Bjarke Ingels, he is the CEO of Bjarke Ingels Group, BIG? They do a lot of sustainable architecture, right?
C: Yes, they do! They do really interesting work! All of his projects are big, grandeur, and very unique.
H: That’s so cool! So, what’s your favorite part about the architecture program at Gibbs?
C: What first comes to mind is the passionate faculty that I loved getting to work with: Dr. Pilat, Dr. Butko, Dean Butzer, how much they care about the students. But ultimately, my favorite part is how close-knit each class is. It’s a really unique program, unlike most majors, where we have almost every class together. All 40 of us going class to class, spending all-nighters in the studio together, working on group projects; it lends itself to a very family-type bond between the students in my class, so I think getting to know them and the awesome people I am blessed with has been my favorite part, for sure!
H: That’s awesome! Honestly, there’s nothing like pulling all-nighters in a studio together to bring you much closer to each other.
C: Oh, yeah, it’s inevitable for sure!
H: Sweet! Can you tell us about a project you’re currently working on? Any crazy all-nighters lately?
C: Yes, a few for this project, there always are! This project we’re working on is a Hyperloop station and housing to go along with it. If you haven’t heard about Hyperloop, it’s this really interesting technology. It’s basically a vacuum-tight tube that transports a train at 700 mph. We actually got to pitch our ideas to the staff at Hyperloop. Sadly, it was virtually; it was supposed to be in-person during our LA field trip, but that trip got cancelled. So, we got to virtually present to them, which was still very interesting, and it definitely put on a more realistic pressure of producing a design that you’re proud enough to show a client, even if that client might not implement your work. It’s been really interesting working on that.
H: That’s really awesome and definitely resume material.
C: Yeah, I hope so!
H: And the real-world experience is so important, especially as a junior, getting close to graduation.
C: Yes! I think it’s a great topic to introduce as well as interviews.
H: What’s been your favorite part of the projects so far?
C: The ability to take it as far as you want to. Within each project, we have our set deliverables, we have to produce, floor plans and sections and things like that, but we have the freedom to spend infinite hours or ideas or creative thoughts on how intricate you want to make your design, how realistic you want it. As I’ve grown in the program, I’ve learned ways to really apply myself to the design and to create something that is really worth creating, not only through the specific deliverables but within my skills. I think that’s my favorite part about the projects, that the professors are really willing to walk with you past that initial request and into a more technical and interesting design.
H: And it takes a certain degree of passion to move into that elevated level of design. Could you tell us about your experience with travel study?
C: Yes, absolutely! I think one of my favorite memories of college in general has been the opportunity the architecture college provided me my freshman year. It was only a few weeks into school and Hurricane Harvey hit in Houston, and I immediately felt my heart go out to those people and was looking for a way to somehow get involved, but I didn’t know what I could do to help from Norman. At the same time, I was wondering and wanting an opportunity; the college sent out an email inviting us to a weekend trip to Houston to gut houses and help the families there put their lives back in order.
I think one of my favorite memories of college in general has been the opportunity the architecture college provided me my freshman year. It was only a few weeks into school and Hurricane Harvey hit in Houston, and I immediately felt my heart go out to those people and was looking for a way to somehow get involved.Chanae Carter
This was the coolest opportunity. It totally solidified my love for OU and the passion for service I found on campus, and it was really neat to go with a group of students, there were eight of us, all from different disciplines, years, grades, backgrounds. We were so different, but we really bonded in that three-day span, and it was so exciting to meet the people that were affected by the hurricane and do our part to help. That was a really neat opportunity, I’m so thankful to the college for putting that together.
Image credit: Chanae Carter, Hurricane Harvey relief trip
H: Definitely! That sounds like it’s right up your alley after doing your mission work.
C: Yes, definitely! I was nervous that I was going to get back and really miss the opportunity to be serving every day, so that was really encouraging to have an opportunity right off the get-go. The second trip I’ve gotten to go on with the OU College of Architecture is our trip to Dallas last year. Our project was to design an urban farm in Deep Ellum, Dallas, if you’ve been. It was such a fun setting to explore, we stayed in the heart of downtown and walked or Lime-scootered all around Dallas. It was so fun meeting our classmates in such a new setting and using an existing parking lot as our site. It was really cool to see where it would fit in as an in-fill project and then to go back to Norman with the tangible experience of being on the site and in the context and using that to fuel our designs. And that was just a fun trip overall, aside from the educational aspect, and really fun to hang out with the students from my class in a new place.
Image credit: Chanae Carter, visiting site in Deep Ellum, Dallas
H: I think that’s really cool because a lot of people think that they have to study abroad or go international in order to get a cool experience like that, but his proves that you can go to literally one state south and have the time of your life and do something meaningful, too.
Thank you so much, Chanae, for taking the time to speak with us about your experiences at Gibbs!
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.