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    SUM09/01 - First Entry

    By Kamu Kakizaki
    Aug 6, '09 3:30 AM EST

    Hello Archinect,

    Woohoo, first post. I hope this blog will be an interesting documentation of my experience as an undergrad of B.A. (*ehem, not B.Arch) in Architecture and International Studies. I’m going into my junior year here at the University of Washington, which means that I will be in the Department of Architecture doing mostly studio and ARCH classes.

    I was born in Japan, grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, and left Alaska for college. I applied to two schools, and between choosing University of Oregon’s B.Arch. program (with a scholarship) and University of Washington’s B.A. Architectural Studies program (without any scholarship), I chose UW because I wasn’t so set on doing architecture when I was 18. Meaning, I could choose my major after junior year, and I was debating what I wanted to study and what I wanted in life; business, engineering, international studies, or architecture. I felt that UW would still give me buffer time to choose. I really admire those who go to a B.Arch. program straight out of high school; I did not have the guts to be that grounded.

    A little intro to the undergraduate architecture program at UW – Year One and Two are general requirements + introductory classes. The introductory (or prerequisite) classes make up about 1/3 of the Year Two. There is a departmental application in May of Year Two, which accepts +/- 50 students. This is great, I think, because you can take other intro classes in any disciplines across the whole campus during the first two years, and test out architecture to see if you like it or not while you’re at it. I took a lot of international studies classes, and right now I have about half of the requirements to fulfill that major. Yes, I’ll probably do 5 years in undergraduate, but hey, I’ll have 2 degrees that are personally meaningful to me.

    I am hoping to do some research (later on my education of course) on architecture in the perspective to international studies. I’m particularly interested the transfer of knowledge and social-political-economic systems, not only in modernization, but in any transfer of information that may represent itself in architecture. What is lost, gained, or continuous across the importation process? Why do various societies interpret the imported information differently? At the same time, “globalization”, information technology, and pluralistic ideals seem to suggest that cities are getting “flatter.” Flatter in the sense that cities, architectures, lifestyles, and urban plannings are losing distinction, and cross-copying each other across the world. It may look like a stretch, but I think I can make a strong argument by relating it to global economics (such as Thomas Friedman – author or The World is Flat) and global politics (such as Francis Fukuyama’s “End of History” – which pretty much suggests that major conflicts of human evolution ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall, and that humanity has accepted capitalism as the ultimate model of society after hunter-gather economies, feudal economies, and communist economies). Anyways, I didn’t mean to get in an intellectual tangent; but I hope you get the sense that I’m trying to connect international studies and architecture. And I think the University of Washington has been pretty good at the liberties for my unconventional academic interests.

    From my experience, UW is expensive for out-of-state students and sucks at giving financial aide for the middle class. It’s really good for the financially unprivileged, I think like 20% get the Husky Promise (which is full financial aide for Washington residents whose parents make lower-middle-class income). But for us out-of-state students, UW is Washintonian-elistist with a “sorry can’t help you even though you have a $35,000/yr tuition bill” attitude. That’s the downside of state-schools, and upside if you’re from the state I guess.

    So, I’ve been working full time making espresso my second year to get Washington State residency. You can look at the residency website, but pretty much you have to work minimum 30 hours/wk in a non-student job for 12 consecutive months (email me if you have questions, I’m definitely up for helping). I didn’t go back to Alaska because there is no architecture program. It was frustrating trying to manage my time handicap in studio; I can go on about how it hurt my GPA, social life, and sanity, but this year’s experience turned out to be the most eye opening. I never gave up because I was so hard-headed on doing architecture, and then I realized how much architecture meant for me. Now, I’m confident to say that I have settled my career goals to become an architect.

    So that’s about it, I ended my second year and I’ll be entering the third in late September, this time as a UW Arch student with financial security. Summer will be – finishing residency work; living on bread and butter; (in order to) save money; (in order to) do a 5-week Europe trip; (in order to) make some sense of the architecture history series I just took.


    • Lian Chikako Chang

      Awesome first post! Wow, that's cool (heheh) that you grew up in Alaska. I hear you can see Russia from there(?!) Good work on getting your Washington state residency--that sounds like a real grind (heheh again, sorry!) to put in so many work hours while in school, but I bet you've gotten great at time-management.

      Your research interests sound really great too--looking forward to hearing more sometime!


      Aug 7, 09 10:29 am
      Kamu Kakizaki

      thanks Lian.

      first post first comment! woohoo

      fyi, i hate sarah palin and no, she did not see russia through the back door. but yeah, alaska is something special.

      Aug 7, 09 10:29 am

      WAIT... I've read (and been told -- by an Alaskan in fact) that there is a govt. program which provides tuition assistance to students whose home state universities do not offer the major they select. I was told the idea is that you are guaranteed effectual "in-state" tuition if you can show that you did not have the opportunity to stay in your own state and pursue your elected major. Might be worth looking into?

      I slung espresso for years in arch school and it sucked. Sorry. The free caffeine was a perk, but the downside was how badly you needed it when you are following up a 2am closing shift with studio time.

      Aug 8, 09 3:03 am
      Kamu Kakizaki

      mantanary - do you remember what the program is called? there's a program where you pay in-state to a whole bunch of *ehem* notsogoodschools around the northwest, but that doesn't sound like it.

      coffee and architecture. i DID do the 2am shift, and i know how badly it sucks. but mantaray - one thing - was it worth it in the long run?

      Aug 8, 09 3:37 pm

      Hey Luke,

      I'm curious, if you had the choice now would you be a part of a B-arch program? I'm currently debating due to financial reasons. I'm already an Arch student at Pratt, but I am going into massive debt. because of it, way beyond just the tuition, because of personal loans at terrible interest rates. But I'm from WA and my parents offered to let me live at home for free if I transfered to UW. Pretty tempting. I don't even know if I would get in, and the application process is a total pain in the ass there but I'm wondering if I should. I love my program and don't want to leave, but I'm worried that I'm just shooting myself in the financial foot. How do you like the UW arch classes and what is your opinion of the masters program for it? Any thoughts would be appreciated!

      cheers, Rose

      Aug 10, 09 4:32 pm
      Kamu Kakizaki


      i personally wouldn't do a b.arch (i though about transfering) because i'll be out of here in 2 or 3 years to do m.arch, and i can do international studies alongside architecture. i'm also quite hard-headed, and like to finish what i started off. nevertheless, our circumstances are incomparable, and so i don't think you should take my word for it as the solution for your situation.

      coming from pratt and a design background, i don't think you will have hard time getting into the architecture department for undergrad. you will have to do 3 years as an undergrad however, even if your credits transfer (1 year preparations + 2 years "upper division"). On top of that you will need a m.arch, so it all depends on when you want to start working (and paying off debt).

      although the undergraduate program in not very impressive at the national level, i believe it is so because uw department of architecture is in a midst of a transformation. on one side, we have francis ching and his crew teaching a strong traditional architectural discourse. others are more progressive and stress digital stuff, trying to "produce" i would say, designers for the modern architectural field. the college just re-named itself college of built environments in 2009, as opposed the the previous college of architecture and urban planning. things are changing, and i think for the better.

      in all, i think everyone can agree that uw stresses green architecture, especially at the m.arch level. i am sure you know seattle's activism for the environment; if you want to invest your education and network in that community, i think uw is good option.

      i think for you, think of yourself five years down the road. you can probably predict what education you will need, how much debt you will have, what kind of employment/pay you will be facing, and what experience is important for you. then chose the better option :)

      Aug 11, 09 2:14 am

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