Category Archives: Architecture School

“If You Build It”-Film Review

This past week was the 20th anniversary of the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival. All week long dozens of world class films were shown throughout the county at every film venue you can imagine. This year Journeyman International and ConsciousBuild Inc. proudly sponsored the viewing of If You Build It at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. The film, “follows designer-activists Emily Pilloton and Matthew Miller to rural Bertie County, the poorest in North Carolina, where they work with local high school students to help transform both their community and their lives. Living on credit and grant money and fighting a change-resistant school board, Pilloton and Miller lead their students through a year-long, full-scale design and build project that does much more than just teach basic construction skills: it shows ten teenagers the power of design-thinking to re-invent not just their town but their own sense of what’s possible” (

#1 - Emily Pilloton with Studio H students CJ Robertson and Stevie Mizelle. From IF YOU BUILD IT, a Long Shot Factory Release 2013_small

Emily Pilloton with Studio H students CJ Robertson and Stevie Mizelle. From IF YOU BUILD IT, a Long Shot Factory Release 2013

#10 - The completed Windsor Farmers Market at dusk. From IF YOU BUILD IT, a Long Shot Factory Release 2013. Courtesy of Brad Feinknopf_small

The completed Windsor Farmers Market at dusk. From IF YOU BUILD IT, a Long Shot Factory Release 2013. Courtesy of Brad Feinknopf.


This documentary is a slam dunk in my opinion! The high-end production quality, witty humor, and captivating story line will keep you in your seat for the entire 95 minutes. The film starts off by introducing rural Bertie County and the high school students it will follow. The film maker depicts the town as this degrading sinkhole that has no future outlook for its youth. The current working class is barely making it and all the youth are leaving town with every opportunity they get. Emily and Matt arrive to change all that and to instill hope for their town by motivating a group of high school students to build a community center.

After completing this film I was completely astonished with what high school students could achieve with a little support and guidance. At first, most of the students resisted and didn’t want to be in the program. However, after completing some smaller projects they realized how rewarding design can be. Towards the end of the two years each and every student had grown tremendously in their character, skills, and passion for Bertie County. If you are passionate about design & community then this is a must see film for you!

Official Trailer:

Panel Discussion:

After the film had ended,  Journeyman International and ConsciousBuild hosted a special panel discussion to share what public interest design meant to them. The audience was mostly SLO County residents that were non-students, which was very useful in creating a dynamic discussion. Most of the questions were centered around how Journeyman operates and what their current projects consisted of. I think the discussion was important, because it allowed the audience to meet professionals in their own community who are doing projects similar to what If You Build It had depicted. Public Interest Design is steadily growing each year, with many companies devoting a portion of their time and profit towards improving communities in need all over the world. Journeyman International is working hard every day to put San Luis Obispo on the map as a leader in public interest design and community based architecture in an international capability. To learn more visit


Panel discussion followed by the film. Left to right: Matthew Linden, Daniel Wiens, Stephanie Fellows, and Andrew Goodwin.

+ M. Farid Shahid
Continue reading ...

Pay Tuition or Get Paid?

This time of year in San Luis Obispo hundreds of architecture students are preparing for a new semester/quarter in college. Many students have feelings of excitement and fulfillment, while others have feelings of frustration and resentment. I have been in college for three years now and have seen friends graduate with degrees as well as drop out with lots of debt. Too often I talk to students who seem to have no purpose at a college, and are simply there because it’s a natural stepping stone to “figure it out”, whatever “it” may be. I am now going to highlight some pros and cons of studying architecture at a college versus working for an architect and learning the trade. This should be helpful for anyone in college, thinking about studying at college, or knows someone who wants to apply.


1. Attending college will allow you to surround yourself with hundreds of diverse minds and will allow you to learn many abstract ideas that are hard to develop individually or in the workplace . (PRO)

2. Most colleges require you to spend more than half your time in general education courses. Although those courses provide a solid foundation for you to be a well rounded person, students who know exactly where they want to be feel like it’s a waste of their time . (CON)


1. Unfortunately design is a very small percentage of the business of architecture, but a large percentage of architecture school. Working in an office allows you to quickly familiarize yourself with industry specific vocabulary and real-world practices that are relevant to an architect’s day-to-day responsibilities.  It also allows you to see the bigger picture of how the various trades work together to complete a project. (PRO)

2. Unless you are constantly developing your creative & abstract talents, not attending architecture school might stifle the creative maturation, which is present through college programs. It is very common for someone to start working in an office as a full time drafter while others work on the design. This might make it harder for you to learn the fundamentals of design, while a college student can immediately participate in it for four to five years. (CON)


Both career routes are an excellent choice and one shouldn’t be looked down upon over the other. The best way to decide is to make a list of Pro’s and Con’s for your specific situation and consult with architecture students, professors – as well as architects in the field. I strongly believe a hybrid system is the best way to approach this career. This can be accomplished by regularly meeting with a mentor who is currently working in the field. This should also be combined with summer internships at an office. The combination of school and practical experience will give you a remarkable edge over your peers!

+ M. Farid Shahid
High school graduates throwing their mortarboards in the air
Image Courtesy Of:
Continue reading ...