Reflections by Latoya
I remember my first day at Gunn Meyerhoff Shay like it was yesterday. It began with my first collaborative effort to scale a map which would be the base for a project the firm was tasked to design. A few weeks later, what started as a vision plan for a small area, had grown to a master plan that we were plotting out on 36” x 72” sheets! It was then that I realized just how much creativity, power and responsibility there is in the architectural design world, and though the project never materialized, it was an inspiring and eye-opening experience.
Growing up in the Caribbean—Jamaica to be exact—I was always fascinated by the natural and built environment around me. This appreciation began from a very early age, and although I don’t recall extensively playing with legos, I vividly remember drawing my interpretation of house plans. They consisted of stapled sheets of ruled or plain paper with sketch plans and elevations. It was clear that I was meant to take the path towards becoming an architect. I earned my bachelor’s Degree in Jamaica W.I in 2010, and soon after realized that I needed more education. We were encouraged to explore our horizons, and after spending two weeks with a group of preservation students from the University of Virginia, the idea to study abroad germinated and over the following months became a reality.
I searched for a school located in a place with temperate climate; being an ‘island girl’ the cold was not my friend. My journey led me to Savannah, Georgia, a Southern charm well known for its large historic district. In many ways it reminded me of my home, especially areas that featured similar architectural styles. This environment proved to be just what I needed to continue my journey into architecture and the world of preservation.
Though I gained a lot of knowledge and insight from the acclaimed Savannah College of art and Design, it was not until I began working at a practicing architecture firm that I began to see the relevance and direct applications of what I learned in school. I was excited to work with Gunn Meyerhoff Shay Architects, as they were working on projects that I had been introduced to during my time at SCAD. I also admired their values and their commitment to creating designs that were sustainable and thoughtful of their location. Every student dreams of completing their studies and being employed by an Architecture firm that’s committed to creating quality designs with respect to the environment; I could not have found a better ‘home’.
I became heavily involved in numerous projects that were at varying stages of the design process. I’ve been constantly challenged and encouraged to utilize my skills, and even harness new skills that I did not realize I had. Perhaps my proudest achievement to date was the completion of the design for a memorial garden which is now being erected at St. Benedict the Moor Catholic Church on 556 Gordon Street. The project was a great introduction into the stages of the design process, from the preliminary planning phase through its submission at the MPC for a Certificate of Appropriateness in the Historic District. I was also invited to numerous meetings in and out of the office with the client, contractor and other people involved in the process, thus gaining real-world experience and exposure.
I’ve grown so much and learned even more, not just about my career choice but also about myself. It is great to be a part of a dynamic and nurturing team that strives each day to achieve great things. Thank you GMS for a wonderful year, I look forward to sharing many more experiences and continuing my journey with you!