José Miguel Barría
Hometown: Ciudad de Panamá, Panamá
Education Background: BArch from Isthmus, Escuela de Arquitectura y Diseño de América Latina y El Caribe
Degree Program: Master in Environmental Design
How did you get interested in your field?
From an early age, I remember constantly contemplating my surroundings and asking myself “who created this?”. I came across the realization that designers such as architects quite literally shape our physical environment. Growing up I realized I wanted to become one, to further define everyday life through the creation and redefinition of physical space. The architectural object is very particular. It is extremely resource intensive and is very long lasting, almost eternal compared to other products of industry. This very reasoning made me look for better, more respectful ways of conceiving projects, which some may label “sustainable design”. I don’t consider myself an environmentalist, or a treehugger. I believe it is simply logical to care for our surroundings: natural or otherwise.
What was your background prior to coming to the Weitzman School?
I come from a small design school in Panamá, known for its hands-on practical approach to design. I had the opportunity to do a 6 month internship with the Panamá Green Building Council, where I was exposed to some of the greatest minds behind sustainable development in our country. After graduating I had the opportunity to experience work in both small and medium sized architectural firms. Further down the road, I decided to start my own journey as an architect, and co-founded a design practice with a couple like-minded friends, called Pentagrama Estudio de Diseño.
Why did you choose Penn?
I stumbled across the Weitzman School’s MEBD program while reading the intro to William Braham’s “Architecture and Energy: Performance and Style” and immediately made a quick research. Minutes later found myself opening an application to the school. I have yet to find another program that has such a well rounded approach and with great balance between the philosophical and technical side of this ideology. Penn exposes you to both the people and the tools for you to become a leader of progressive and critical thinking. It is a truly encouraging environment.
What do you like best about Philadelphia?
I really like Philadelphia because it just feels like a big neighborhood, pretty much like my hometown. The weather is nice and there is a lot to do almost every day.
What kinds of activities and/or organizations are you involved in?
Panamá GBC’s Scientific Committee, The Congress of New Urbanism (Panamá Chapter), and most recently Global Urban Development.
What are your career ambitions?
I wish to go back to Panamá and apply the MEBD know-how to my everyday practice, especially in Panamá’s fast paced, aggressively growing construction industry.