Learning By Doing
A DIY project at home leads graduate student Sadie Thurston to a path in architecture.Jan 11, 2021
Sadie Thurston came home from college one summer and designed her bedroom. Not in the sense of choosing fabrics and arranging furniture. Rather, she built the walls, the windows, the doors, the works – more or less on her own. Her mother and stepfather had recently moved into a smaller house, and if Sadie wanted her own room, she’d have to build it. Then 20 years old and studying chemistry on a volleyball scholarship, the Florida native was undaunted by the task. “I had to understand the boundaries, the timeframe, and the budget while problem-solving throughout,” Sadie explains. An uncle who had a background in construction, like much of her family, guided Sadie through the process, and within a month the bedroom was finished.
While architects are known for designing spaces, their role in the actual building process tends to be more supervisory. Less often do they swing a hammer or fit a joint to bring their designs to life. CU Denver’s Design Build program provides just that type of practical experience in the College of Architecture and Planning, as students see projects through, from conception to design to construction. Sadie’s satisfaction in building her own room attracted her to the program and the unique perspective Design Build provides to aspiring architects as they develop a deeper understanding of the construction process. “When I was talking to other schools about their programs, none of them seemed as strong as this one,” she says.
Sadie is now fully immersed not only in Design Build but in earning her graduate degree in architecture with support from the Brian Hovey Memorial Scholarship and the Mike Kephart, AIA Scholarship. Having lost her father, Sadie is particularly moved by the story of Brian Hovey, who planned to study architecture at CU Denver but whose life was cut short in a tragic car accident. “I would like to thank the Hovey family for providing this scholarship and honor their son’s memory through my work,” Sadie says.
Sadie goes on to explain that her scholarship support removes a substantial amount of stress. “This support allows me to cut back on work so I can spend more time in the studio,” she says, referring to the immersive activity architecture and planning students participate in to develop their ideas for projects, many of which are real-world and provide hands-on learning experiences. As Sadie discovered when building her bedroom, sometimes learning by doing is the best approach.