No limits for architects in shop

Michael Galea, a fifth year architecture student demonstrates bowl making in the University of Miami Architecture department’s wood shop. He uses the lathe to reveal the star pattern of the Norfolk Island Pine in the bowl. Lindsay Brown//News Editor

The model shop could be mistaken for any other studio room within the School of Architecture if not for a large yellow sign that reads “Caution.” Inside, students with reputations for never sleeping build products that they only imagined in studios.
In the model shop, there are tools everywhere, small sculptures scatter the floor, shavings decorate tables and a strong smell of wood greets visitors at the door.
Somehow, amid the chaos, everything in the model shop seems to be in place.
“The role of the model shop within the School of Architecture is support for the students. We accommodate [them] with materials or guidance,” said Adrian Villaroas, model shop manager. “Whatever the students want to build, I try to steer them in the direction they should go with an emphasis on safety.”
Located next to the architecture design studios, the model shop’s 1,500 square feet is complete with milling and assembly rooms, where students can work with tools and machines for building with wood. Another feature of the model shop is an exhibition room that houses a collection of products created by students and faculty of the School of Architecture, as well as  professional architects.
The model shop also functions as an on-campus repair shop for problems like broken chairs or jammed doors. But more importantly, to architecture students it serves as a metropolis of ideas.
One of the smallest schools at the university, the School of Architecture consists of less than 400 enrolled students.
“Everybody knows everybody,” said Michael Galea, a fifth-year architecture student who works at the shop. “This definitely allows us to bounce ideas off each other.”
Galea recently sold a coffee table he built at the shop.
Villaroas, who has held the position of model shop manager for 12 years, stresses the importance of creativity, experience and innovation in the model shop.
“I have no monopoly on the good ideas. Therefore, a student is quite capable of coming up with a trick that I don’t know,” he said. “A Confucius analect says ‘A man learns three ways: by imitation, which is the easiest; by reason, which is the noblest; and by experience, which is the bitterest.’ [But experience allows] you to learn how to get out of the problems more quickly and easily.”
According to Villaroas, knowledge of how to build things has further implications.
“It used to be that America was a country where things were being manufactured,” he said. “We’ve now become a technological country where people know how to use computers, but if you were to put 10 different tools in front of them they wouldn’t even be able to name five, let alone know how to use them. The model shop fills that void in students’ educations.”

Chloe Herring can be contacted at