Graduate Admissions

Margaret Gerhart

4th Year Dual MArch/MLA Student

Hometown: Cleveland, OH
Education Background: BFA Industrial Design, Carnegie Mellon University
Degree Program: Master of Architecture/Master of Landscape Architecture

How did you get interested in your field? I've been interested in architecture and design since high school when I studied design at pre-college at Carnegie Mellon.

What was your background prior to coming to the Unviersity of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design? I studied industrial design at Carnegie Mellon. My senior year I took a communication design studio where I designed a day planner that streamlined long and short term goals together. The following year during my design apprenticeship at Reebok I updated the planner design and it is now being used in their US, Asia Pacific, and European headquarters. After that I was still interested in pursuing architecture as well and was lucky enough to work with Richard Fleischman and Partner's Architects as a designer for a year while applying to graduate school.

Why did you choose Penn? When I visited the open house in the spring, what interested me personally was the first studio project for the fall which was to design a chair. Coming from a background in industrial design I really appreciated how the studio used this as a starting point to familiarize us with the scale and behavior of the body. The following projects which involved contextualizing the chair within a space, and finally that space within a building intrigued me and I knew I was in the right place.

What has been your favorite class so far? 502 design studio was great because it allowed us to experience a full scale project from conception to final deliverables. Layering site analyses, programming, drawing and modeling techniques, while constantly filtering information to challenge intent, helped me better understand the scope of what we were doing.

What do you like best about Philadelphia? Old City

What kinds of activities and/or organizations are you involved in?I've been involved in student council since my second year -- first as a department representative and as co-president last year. Student council has been an integral part of my education at the Weitzman School because it introduced me to many students, staff, and faculty in other disciplines and years within the school and across the university. There are many interesting events happening in the school at any given time, two which I was the most involved in being the interdisciplinary 'Short Circuit' speaker series and Lunar New Year. My first year I participated in the national mentor outreach program Spark -- which was founded by Penn Alumn Chris Balme. A few other Weitzman students and I created a 8-week architectural based apprenticeships to help junior high school students reconnect with their education through the study of design fundamentals. Two of our students designed a zoo that essentially hybridizes a typical zoo with a park to allow the visitors to essentially ‘adopt an animal.’ In their plan you can see how the paths allow you to visit, feed, and even go on walks with the animals. Another student had an interest in lacrosse, so his plan was punctuated by a glass cafe that hugs the playing field to amplify the relationship between audience and game. In all of these projects, the emphasis is on the overall process of discovery, insight, and implementation in order to inspire and re-engage our students in their current education. Architecture and design are great fields to be mentored in because it can spark interest in students who are both liberal arts oriented, math & science savvy or somewhere in between. It's great practice for us as mentors as well, to have to boil down what we're learning in school in explaining it to someone else and why the techniques we employ are important. We always return to studio reinvigorated and recharged after meeting with them.

A few of us are also involved with the national mentor outreach program Spark. Last semester, Shiyun Wang, Joanna Karaman and I created 8-week architectural based apprenticeships to help junior high school students reconnect with their education through the study of design fundamentals. Two of our students designed a zoo that essentially hybridizes a typical zoo with a park to allow the visitors to essentially ‘adopt an animal.’ In their plan you can see how the paths allow you to visit, feed, and even go on walks with the animals. Another student had an interest in lacrosse, so his plan was punctuated by a glass cafe that hugs the playing field to amplify the relationship between audience and game. In all of these projects, the emphasis is on the overall process of discovery, insight, and implementation in order to inspire and re-engage our students in their current education.

Architecture is a great field to be mentored in because it can spark interest in students who are both liberal arts oriented, math & science savvy or somewhere in between. It's great practice for us as mentors as well, to have to boil down what we're learning in school in explaining it to someone else and why the techniques we employ are important. We always return to studio reinvigorated and recharged after meeting with them.

What are your career ambitions?It seems like what I'm interested in keeps changing after each semester -- which is a good thing I think! Probably one of the most difficult questions people ask is why the 'switch' from industrial design to architecture/landscape architecture. I think of my architecture and landscape studies as an evolution of what I learned as an undergraduate, building off of what I already know. I loved interning with Mikyoung Kim last summer and am excited to be working with Weiss/Manfredi for the 2015-2016 academic year. Ultimately I see myself working with people who value combining knowledge from other disciplines to create beautiful spaces and experiences that engage and give back to the public in fun and unexpected ways.

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