Alumni studio provides opportunities for out-of-work architects

First-year graduate student Alex Lin works on the design of an artist’s studio on Mohegan Island. "I'€™m struggling with modern and traditional designs… I’m trying to find a balance between them." Jessica Hodder//The Miami Hurricane

Unemployed architects may find an alternative in the alumni studio at the School of Architecture.

Established two years ago when the unemployment rate was at its peak, the alumni studio was developed to help distressed graduates and alumni from the School of Architecture utilize their skills by working on various not-for-profit projects.

With limited openings and continuous layoffs in various architecture firms, many graduates have gone into the alumni studio to continue sharpening their skills and work on different projects.

Luis Del Valle, a 2007 graduate, joined the studio when he was laid off from an architecture firm in Washington, D.C.

“It was a difficult situation because people lost their jobs,” Del Valle said. “The alumni studio was able to get me to network with different professionals and exposed me to many responsibilities that have given me confidence to do more freelance work.”

Through its two-year trajectory, the alumni studio has not only been able to gather projects for graduates community-wide, but also nationwide.

“This is a network and we use different means, including social networking like Facebook, to keep in touch with different professionals that tip us on openings and projects for the graduates that are part of the studio,” said Steve Fett, alumni director of the School of Architecture.

One of the projects was to perform an urban analysis and charette, or an intensive project, in the city of Beaufort, S.C.

“The intensive planning session that took place at Beaufort is one of the most recognized events for the alumni studio because it touched base with the main concept of the School of Architecture, New Urbanism,” Fett said.

The alumni studio is also becoming a resource for many local firms.

“It’s great to be a part of the network and being exposed to real life design exercises because it can open many doors,” Del Valle said. “I am now assisting to design an exhibit that will open next month at the Coral Gables Museum to educate about the original homes in Coral Gables.”

To learn more about the alumni studio at the School of Architecture, join their Facebook group, “UM Alumni Studio.”

Thania Potosme may be contacted at