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Gensler Grants Golden Opportunity

Gensler Grants Golden Opportunity

Architecture grad student Chereth Hines-Channer MArch 16 is thrilled to have earned first prize in the 2015 Gensler Diversity Scholarship competition, which opens the door to a coveted opportunity to intern at one of the world’s leading architecture firms. Now in its seventh year, the competition is open to black students studying architecture in the US. A team of judges selected by Gensler – a large international architectural firm known for such edifices as the Shanghai Tower in China and Terminal 2 at the San Francisco International Airport – recognizes top students each year, providing each of them with an academic scholarship and a paid summer internship in one of the firm’s many offices.

“I’m hoping to work in the New York office, where I have family and an apartment I can use,” says Hines-Channer. After visiting the Gensler office in her hometown of San José, Costa Rica, she says she’s “really impressed by its collaborative atmosphere. It’s almost like a playground, where people get a chance to experiment.”

As Hines-Channer explains in this video (made by Andreas Nicholas 13 FAV), her winning project offers a modular solution to the many problems associated with low-income public housing – specifically in the failing Los Pinos projects in San José.

“I designed a live-work space with the help of the children and adults who live in the Los Pinos community,” Hines-Channer says. “The interior and exterior are connected and include social spaces to be used communally, and the structure of the modules suits the region’s sloped, mountainous terrain.”

In her work to date, Hines-Channer has focused on creating a sense of tranquility and on employing human-centered design, a process that – like her San José project – begins with listening to the on-site community. “Architects don’t always know what people really want,” she explains. “With this project, I asked the kids to draw what they wanted. And I spoke with their mothers – many of whom take in sewing and shoe repair work – about what they wanted to see. I learned that they are comfortable with shared, communal resources and not interested in [amenities like] private backyards, for example.”

From a young age Hines-Channer knew that she didn’t want to follow her parents’ footsteps into the field of medicine. “I can’t stand the sight of blood,” she admits with a laugh. So she began exploring architecture, earning her undergraduate degree from Universidad Veritas in Costa Rica, which she describes as having a “more technical” approach than at RISD. Here, she appreciates RISD’s liberal arts and varied fine arts offerings and says that the wide exposure helps her to think outside the box as an architect.

“I’m taking courses in photography, furniture design, landscape architecture . . . and it all plays into my work,” she says. “I also enjoy painting, which helps me with the conceptual part of design. And I’ll sometimes start an architecture project with a series of abstract drawings.”

Hines-Channer traveled to Sri Lanka last year as part of Northern Visions Sri Lanka, a Wintersession course taught by Landscape Architecture Professor Lili Hermann, whom she considers one of her mentors. “The trip was really inspiring,” she recalls. “Lili has encouraged me to build connections, as has [Architecture Department Head] Laura Briggs BArch 82. Laura is the reason I applied for the scholarship in the first place. She said I’d be a good candidate.”

After deciding to apply, Hines-Channer conferred with previous competition winners, including Nathalie Jolivert BArch 12, who was awarded first prize in 2011. “Everyone I spoke to said that the Gensler internship is an incredible learning experience – demanding but worth every second,” she notes. “I’m super excited to get started!”

Simone Solondz