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Campus News
Your faculty and staff news since 1965
Current Issue: July 7, 2003
Volume 38, Number 23

Architecture faculty create field opportunities
Students work on basement, Habitat house, robot challenge course

By Carolyn Gonzales

Gabriella Gutierrez, Geoffrey Adams and Al Becente prepare a foundation to pump cement into a form against the house. Photos by Carolyn Gonzales.

Gabriella Gutierrez and Geoff Adams from the UNM School of Architecture and Planning recently involved two students in a little “homework” on an Albuquerque-area structure.

The project: to build a basement against the foundation at the back of the house. “The original plan was to build the basement in block, but we decided to build one wall out of concrete,” said Gutierrez, associate dean.

Gutierrez called Adams, an assistant professor, to assist because of his expertise in designing and building forms used to create concrete structures.

Vehlen Bandurski shovels cement while creating a planter.

“Even though they’re temporary – the forms go away after the concrete sets – I enjoy building them,” said Adams, pointing out that this project had its challenges because it was being created against an existing wall. He added, “I was glad to have the chance to get and work with my hands.”

The students, Al Becente and Vehlen Bandurski, brought decidedly different experiences to the project. Becente, one of Adams’ students, is a fourth year architecture student with years of construction work under his belt.

“I was getting too old to be working so hard physically. I decided to go into architecture because of the work I’d done,” said Becente, who, as a construction worker, labored in welding, framing, drywall and sign construction.

A Navajo from Sanders, Ariz., Becente is working on his own house and said that his education has given him a different perspective on construction. “It’s helped me set my standards higher. I have a different sense of perspective, design and materials. I also understand sustainability,” he said.

The muscle of the project, Becente held the pipe through which the cement poured into the frame. “When the pipe gets clogged, it whips around like a fireman’s hose. You’ve got to hold on tight,” he said. Using saw and sledgehammer, Becente quickly braced the form when it started to pull away from the house.

The project gave Bandurski, a third-year graduate student, his first experience in concrete or construction. He earned his undergraduate degree at Indiana University in painting and Chinese and decided to study architecture because he wants “control over everything. As a painter I want to design and set up galleries the way I envision them,” he said.

In need of a summer job, Gutierrez gave him the chance to “pick up a shovel” and learn what takes place on the receiving end of architectural plans.

As with each School of Architecture and Planning project, the faculty encouraged students to get involved. In this case, they even got paid. Other projects Adams and his students have taken on include a Habitat for Humanity house and another habitat – for the NASA Pursue Program – a student built and programmed challenge course for mini robots that is easily transportable to conferences, said Adams.

“The students get much more out of their education if they have a chance to work at projects in various stages, from the initial design concept through completion. As teachers, it’s rewarding to watch the students grow and share with one another,” said Gutierrez.