Throughout the month of April, design communities across the nation are celebrating Architecture Month in recognition of the importance, beauty, and significance of the profession. I am thrilled to share my architectural intern background and use this platform to acknowledge the big responsibilities and influences we transmit to create positivity in the world. I have come to reflect a lot about my growth in the profession, my personal life, and vision for the growth of American cities in the twenty-first century.

Overland taught me the importance of addressing global issues in today’s modern world. With rising economic inequality, climate change, and the persistent state of unaffordable housing in growing cities, I’ve come to understand that architecture is the tool through which I can create positive change in the world.

To illustrate the unique opportunities architecture has challenged me to identify, this post shares my thoughts and reflections I had over breakfast the morning of March 20th before starting my routine at work.

From Our Community focuses on the stories of people inspired by Overland and their discovery of embedded potential.

March 20, 2018—I am having oatmeal at my desk thinking about my to-do list for the day and opening my Revit model. My arms feel heavy. My body is sore. I am feeling tired because I worked late last night and only slept four hours before driving to swim practice this morning. I can smell the chlorine off my skin although I took a shower. It’s an odd detail to be so aware of, but it prompts me daily to recognize the present, who I am, where I’m from, and reinforce my passion for this profession called Architecture.

I have spent the last year as an Architectural Intern at Overland. I am also an Alamo Master Swimmer and CrossFit Athlete who loves to go out salsa dancing amongst other hobbies. My interests also include celebrating the arts and culture, engaging the public from a placemaking perspective, and addressing contemporary conditions such as climate change, globalization, and urbanization.

I am part Mexican, Lusitanian, Spanish, and Native American. My genome tells a unique story of my ancestry. I grew up in a beautiful country, rich in culture, colors, flavors, language, and customs. I’m a Latina who was raised in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Juarez is mostly known for its corruption, gang violence, and drug trafficking. The city was recognized as the most dangerous city in the world between 2008 and 2012. While living in Mexico I experienced a different quality of life than living in the United States. Not having the proper amenities for a good education, public safety, basic infrastructure, or bus systems. Juarez is socially divided. 37% of the population live in poverty. Among those numbers, 7 million indigenous people of 6 different ethnicities are physically isolated and discriminated against their government. These informal communities have no public services, or basic infrastructure.

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As a Latina, I share the dream of a prosperous and politically stable future for my home country, other Latin American countries, and cities such as San Antonio. Growing up I established this idea of changing the world through the practice of architecture. This aspiration has broadened beyond the built form as I’ve grown. As an aspiring architect, I believe my role is to be influential in shaping social and environmental policy. Architecture can empower, enable, and revitalize communities to serve the people who need it most.

But where do I begin? How do I create that change?

I started by researching firms and sticking to the idea of working at one of the most recognized firms in San Antonio. Overland was recognized as one of the top 50 architecture firms in the nation by Architect Magazine. I felt I was personally compatible with their work and values. Where I stand today is a manifestation of this powerful vision I had growing up. Believing that everything you want in life is on the other side of fear. Believing in yourself, believe in your work and visioning your future.

Before applying to Overland I spent long hours working on my portfolio and looked for innovative ways to display my work. I researched and bought a Virtual Reality headset for my phone. With this technology, I presented one of my projects in a virtual reality format. I didn’t really know what I was doing, to be honest, but I did know that virtual reality is a futuristic tool that is shaping the way we experience space, therefore the way we practice architecture in today’s contemporary world. This was my very own experiment to create change and it was risky.

Luckily, after interviewing, Overland called to offer me an intern position.

On my first day at the office, I met a woman from India, people from China, Scotland, Turkey – from all over the world! Being exposed to diversity was an exciting experience and I became more aware of diverse cultures, different languages, socioeconomic backgrounds.

As a side note: Sharing homemade lunch from your home country is my favorite way to learn about ethnicities.

Moving forward into my internship at Overland, I envision the evolution of architecture reliant on social, ecological, political and technological progress. I have been interested in exploring the purpose and meaning of “place” in a multifaceted, global society that is increasingly digitally driven and how this affects the social sustainability of cities. I was given the opportunity to work and understand architecture from a larger perspective—from an impact perspective, designing to create social equity in Downtown San Antonio through Hemisfair Development providing innovative office and retail space.

"In 1968, San Antonio, TX won the bid for the 1968 World’s Fair due, In large part, to broad community support. After receiving the bid, the city selected the theme “The Confluence of Civilizations in the Americas,” celebrating the many nations which settled the region—and drawing in 6.3 million visitors. As the City of San Antonio celebrates its 300th, a revitalization effort is in progress and will continue the legacy of inspired vision that brought the fair to this city fifty years ago. The City of San Antonio and Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation are the stewards of this vision and future of this urban park for our entire community. For nearly 60 years, Hemisfair has essentially been cut off from the heart of downtown behind a wall."
— Hemisfair Mixed Use Development Schematic Design Excerpt

I am proud to say I contribute to development that is designed to strengthen the connections between San Antonio and the new Civic Park. Applying design strategies and sustainability principles to enhance the quality and experience of the park for the community. I believe this development will become a destination that will integrate Hemisfair park back into the downtown festivities and heart of all citizens of San Antonio and visitors.

As I finish my oatmeal, I feel gratitude as I reflect on my internship. The Hemisfair Development, amongst other community projects at Overland like the Little Free Library, Birdie’s Nook, at Monticello Park and Girls and Boys Club, has planted a seed towards positive change in the communities and city of San Antonio. These projects foster environments where communities share stories with one another. They are examples of how place brings communities together through literacy, opportunity, and shared space is a start to transform great cities.

Over the course of my internship, I’ve come to recognize that my determination and resilience have empowered me throughout my personal life and have amplified throughout my career. I am eager to create progress in the world, study cultures and connect people as one unified society. If there’s anything I’ve learned over the past year, it is to embrace the desire for ceaseless improvement and inspiration of what the future has in store.

Follow more insights from Italia’s internship at Overland by watching her Story on our Instagram account.

  • Martha Durke

    Excellent post, Italia!
    I love how interns always come into Overland expecting to learn how buildings and living spaces are made and come out learning so much more —about themselves, their place in the world and what architecture can do for the people they design for. It’s a great launching pad. Overland was fortunate to have you, too. I can’t wait to see what you do next!