18 JAN 17 | Ivan — AIA North Chapter Intern of the Year


First of all, all of us hard-working, black turtle-neckin’, coffee drinking wannabes are technically interns until we become licensed architects. Then and only then can we purchase a pair of “architect” glasses, order a rubber stamp, take on liability that no one really wants and try to become our own starchitects.

Architect glasses

From left to right: 1. It’s true, architects wear weird glasses and black turtlenecks. 2. My parents are both architects and I remember them downing 2 pots of coffee before work each morning. I love coffee too, but try to limit it to a cup a day. 3. Starchitect Frank Gehry flips off a Spanish journalist after he was asked what he thought of critics accusing him of producing “architecture for show.” He went on to say, “Let me tell you one thing. In the world we live in, 98% of what gets built and designed today is pure shit.” Gehry, I feel you. Like that M.I.T. building you designed that leaked. That’s not to say that I haven’t been impressed by Gehry’s work (the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain is amazing).

Anyway, this blog post is to let you know about one of those hard-working wannabes I work with. His name is Ivan. We’re very close. Literally. He sits anywhere from 4 to 12 inches behind me depending on where our chairs are at any given moment.

Ivan has been at WORKSHOP8 for about a year and a half and I think I can safely say that he’s learned a great deal about architecture and the process involved. He has also been an integral part of many projects. I nominated Ivan for the AIA North Chapter’s “Intern of the Year” award and I want to share the top 5 reasons I nominated him:


From drafting up details to managing residential projects to cleaning the basement, Ivan has done it all and is always willing to do whatever gets thrown at him.

Ivan's arch. work

A sample of projects Ivan has worked on at W8.


Ivan was born in Bogotá, Colombia. He came to the US in 1995 when he was 12 and the only English Ivan knew was a nursery rhyme called “Ten Little Indians.” I had the opportunity to visit Colombia this summer and learned about some of the culture and history. Colombia is relatively safe now and has a growing tourism industry, but the Colombia Ivan was born into was a very different place and time. Over 50,000 people died in the Drug Wars in the 1980s and in the guerrilla warfare of the 1990s. Violence was everywhere. When Ivan turned 18 he joined the US Navy and served our country for 4 years.

For someone who had to leave his home country, learn a new language and culture as a teenager and then serve that country in the military- that’s impressive. America is great because of people like Ivan.

Colombia map

Photo credit.

3. “PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE.” -William Langland

If you’ve ever been to a WORKSHOP8 desk crit, you know that we can get catty and feisty. A range of emotions takes over designers when they are critiquing—it takes a thick skinned person to stay cool, calm, and collected when getting their work mulled over. Ivan is always open to ideas and never lets anyone get under his skin.

Tim Gunn

Tim Gunn from Project Runway exemplifies the stages one goes through in a critique:
1. Applaud. “This looks greatttttttt!”
(5 second pause and stare at computer screen)
2. “Hmm.. OK, one sec. Wait, why is that space kinked like that? I’m not sure that makes sense. And
what is that??”
3. “Hold on. Hold on. It must be my glasses fogging up. Can you go back?”
4. “Hmm.. OK, it wasn’t my glasses. It’s your design. This needs A LOT of work. Maybe move this here, that there. Take that piece out.”
(everyone breaks into opinion- people are getting heated)
5. “OK! OK! Let’s just all take a step back.”
6. Breathe. “Lalalalala”.
7. “What?!”
8. “Let’s just chop this part off and please start over. Make it work!!”


Stressful situations are always easier when you can crack a joke. Thanks for keeping us laughing Ivan.

Photo credit.


As a project manager, I am usually busy working on schedules, emailing consultants, meeting with clients, and compiling construction drawings. It often leaves little time to actually get into project files and draw. Ivan picks up everywhere I leave off! He can run with directions and get the work done.

Ivan at ceremony

Congrats on your award Ivan! We appreciate all that you do. Now get back to work.


Emily's Dad

Emily Axtman, “Project Manager” aka “Wannabe architect” aka “Intern” with her Dad, aka “A real Architect.” Both love good design and good beer.