Charley Andrews graduates with community building lessons


When Charley Andrews addresses the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture graduating class of 2021 during the June 12 virtual start, she plans to talk about the importance of community.

Andrews, who receives her bachelor’s degree in architectural studies with a minor in classical civilizations, was chosen by UCLA Arts to be the keynote speaker for her outstanding academic achievements. Although Andrews and his cohort had to switch to distance learning in March 2020, the friendships she made with her classmates helped them overcome the challenges of collaborating online.

“It’s called studio culture,” she said. “You spend your whole life in the studio – you eat your meals there, sometimes you sleep there – and that’s how you make friends.”

Andrews, who grew up primarily in the eastern part of Los Angeles County – in the Alhambra, Monterey Park and Whittier – attended UCLA, in part, to stay close to his family, which includes six younger siblings. “It would have been really weird to get away from them all,” Andrews said.

Her academic interests developed while attending Applied Technology Center High School in Montebello, where she took courses in architecture, construction and engineering. She learned about woodworking and how to use AutoCAD, computer-aided design and drafting software. During her freshman year of high school, she designed tiny living spaces using shipping containers.

“I think it was the start of an obsession with small housing,” she said. “Everything is a puzzle. You have to use everything to the best of your ability.

At UCLA, Andrews enrolled in Jimenez Lai’s architecture studio course, which she described as “absolutely everything I expected and dreamed of in an architecture class.”

She designed an innovative housing project called “Normie House”, which was eye-catching on the outside but intentionally unremarkable on the inside.

“[Lai] wanted plans, he wanted sections, he wanted physical models. It was so much fun, ”she said. “And I think he was also just a great teacher.”

For a lesson given by Jason Payne, she worked with a group on “Flying Cloud,” a bubble-shaped hangar for an Airstream trailer.

She especially enjoyed designing a project she calls “Oasis”, which she created while studying with Kutan Ayata. It is designed to be a living space for two separate families sharing a single plot.

“I’m just so proud of how it seems to be a cohesive unit, but when you look further at the plan you realize that you have two separate communities inside,” she said.

“Charley has the perfect temper as a curious learner,” said Ayata. “She listens to comments with a calm and responsive demeanor. She turns every suggestion into tangible results that can be evaluated for the future growth of her projects. She is not afraid to go out of her comfort zone to explore new trajectories and, above all, she does not hesitate to take risks in her explorations.

Andrews came to UCLA hoping to major in structural engineering, but when she realized she wanted to play a bigger role in structural design, she switched to architecture. She says she likes having constraints to follow, like a single plot of land, specific functions that a structure has to fulfill, or an intangible feeling that the space is meant to evoke.

“You have to put everything in the right place or it just doesn’t work,” she said.

Andrews uses the Rhinoceros (known simply as Rhino by the designers), Illustrator, and Photoshop programs to design detailed 2D and 3D renderings of spaces. She and her classmates also use Enscape and Premiere Pro to create animated videos, which at first she and other students didn’t understand the need for.

“We all thought, ‘Why are we making a movie? Why are we making a GIF? Is it really architecture? ‘ She said. “But I see its merits now. I think it’s super important. I think its biggest asset is that it does what a lot of drawings and sometimes renderers can’t. And it gives you an idea of ​​the space without having to go there. I think it’s really powerful sometimes.

Andrews says she and her classmates are thrilled to see how the field of architecture is diversifying and making room for voices that are generally not heard in the profession. She recently learned that her two grandmothers were interested in architecture, but did not pursue it as there were so few female architects in their time.

She and her classmates are also eager to see the teaching of architecture decolonize the curriculum and advance the understanding and appreciation of under-represented cultural traditions.

“You take these architectural theory classes and you realize that all the history you learn is super European, and in particular, you almost always talk about Paris and Vienna,” Andrews said. She is particularly interested in learning more about the architecture of South America and Africa.

In addition to his compulsory architecture courses, Andrews has completed six American Sign Language courses.

“I don’t know any languages ​​other than English and a little ASL. It was much easier to pick up [ASL] than the languages ​​spoken that I tried to learn, and it was really interesting to learn the culture of the deaf, ”she said.

Andrews also enjoys slow-paced hobbies like painting, bookbinding, embroidery, and needlework. Like many people during the pandemic, she started baking sourdough bread and acquired a number of houseplants.

Andrews will be returning to UCLA in the fall to begin the three-year Master of Architecture program. Although her interest in architecture is broad, she is particularly interested in the design of housing, especially small houses. And she hopes to work in Southern California, where the need for affordable housing solutions is so dire.


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