A New Point of View

What is architecture without collaboration?

“When we talk about architecture, some people think it’s just art or design,” says Ui Jun “UJ” Song, a senior in UT Austin’s School of Architecture.

“But it’s actually math, physics, art, even history — all those things coming together. I didn’t really know that when I was in high school.”

In his four years as an architecture student at UT Austin, Song has learned an entirely new way of thinking, drawing, building and communicating, and even new ways to understand the world around him through the variety of ideas and practices he’s encountered.

“The transition was tough at first,” he admits. “It was completely different than what I thought it’d be.” Song smiles when he remembers his B grade in Design I — the first B he’d ever gotten. “In high school I was so used to results and grades,” he explains. “But in architecture, you really have to know the process.”

That process requires many ideas, drawings and plans, but that’s not all: as Song has learned through his projects, internships and fieldwork, there are even more things to consider.

“Mechanical and electrical engineering, structure, space, materiality, sustainability — one person cannot do all of that,” he explains. “The architect works with the structural engineer, the interior designer, the landscape architect, the contractors and the client.”

He’s experienced that collaboration in a multitude of opportunities through the School of Architecture: a team competition to design the urban plan for a new bullet train station in Dallas, an internship with faculty member Matt Fajkus’ firm, and a place on the Gulf Coast DesignLab team, which designed a poetic, sustainable structure called “Habitat” for the Galveston Island State Park.

Getting outside the studio has been transformative for Song, who’s now applying to graduate programs in landscape architecture and urban design. “It changed my perspective on architecture projects,” he says of his time in Galveston. “When you actually build a project, you respect construction workers and architects so much more because of the thought, detail and hard work going into it.”

Song credits his expanded interests and experience to the wide and balanced variety of resources at UT, from the faculty to the curriculum.

“We have great landscape historians, architectural historians, engineers, architects, experts in sustainable design, urban design, landscape — and not many schools offer that. Here you can look at a project, and do your work, in so many different ways.”