student pin up highlighted in valencia vitae

PinUP

Ryan Dey assembles his project for UCF’s pin-up review.

Valencia architecture students pin up their work–and their hopes for admission to architecture school. — By Linda Shrieves Beaty

The temperature in the room is rising. So is the level of stress and excitement. Architectural models, foam board and pins are scattered all over the floor at Valencia’s Special Events Center. Nearly 80 architecture students are painstakingly pinning their favorite models, sketches and paintings to a 4-foot-by-8-foot board. For the students, the boards represent more than a three-dimensional portfolio of their work.

These are their tickets to architecture school. How well they present their work on those boards—known as pin-ups—is crucial. Their admission to architecture school hangs in the balance. The excitement in the room is palpable. So is the exhaustion.

“We haven’t slept in, like, three days,” said Valencia architecture students Angel Almanzar, 19, and Juan Diaz, 20. Working side by side, they have been fueling themselves with energy drinks like Monster and 5-Hour Energy.

Held at Valencia’s Special Events Center on April 17 and 18, the UCF “pin-up” is an annual ritual for Valencia’s graduating architecture students. Valencia students who want to be admitted to the University of Central Florida’s architecture program present their best work—and then display it for a team of judges who will decide which students get the 38 seats in next year’s junior class at UCF.ShowtimeBut the Valencia students are not alone at the pin-up. Students from 10 other colleges and universities are also competing, just as eager to get admitted to the UCF architecture program. At UCF—and at architecture schools around the country—admission to the upper division (or junior and senior classes) in the architecture program is limited. This year, more than 80 students are competing for the 38 seats in the UCF program. Last year, only 44 students applied for admission to UCF’s architecture program, so the competition is getting stiffer, says Lynn McConnell Hepner, associate dean of UCF’s College of Arts & Humanities.

And that’s just the beginning. When the Valencia students take their work to the University of Florida’s pin-up—held only a few days after UCF’s—they’ll face even more competition.

“It’s competitive, but that’s a good thing,” says Valencia architecture professor Allen Watters. “The competition is a friendly competition and it brings out the best in the students.”

At the UCF pin-up, students have seven hours to pin-up their boards. When the doors to the Special Events Center open at noon, students stream in, carrying the models and work they’ve done during their first two years in architecture design classes.

They also come bearing tools—scissors, X-Acto knives and lots of pins—for pinning their models and work to the large foam boards, which will be the canvas that holds all their work.

“It’s always been a fantastic event,” says Watters, who gets excited by the energy the students generate. “There’s always been a lot of excitement, but the event gets better each year.”

Mauricio Zamora and Sara Ramirez at pin up. They are part of nearly 80 architecture students who painstakingly pinned their favorite models, sketches and paintings to a 4-foot-by-8-foot board to create a three-dimensional portfolio of their work.

Mauricio Zamora and Sara Ramirez at pin up. They are part of nearly 80 architecture students who painstakingly
pinned their favorite models, sketches and paintings to a 4-foot-by-8-foot board to create a three-dimensional portfolio of their work.

While other students are buzzing around the room, Paola Munoz, 21, is busy in one corner, carefully pinning models and sketches up on her board. “I think I got about four hours of sleep last night,” says Munoz. “I was up until 5 a.m. figuring out how and where to pin everything.”

There are many rules, both written and unwritten. The top quarter of the board must be devoted to work done in a student’s first year, so that judges can see the students’ progression. And though they don’t have to, most of the students display their best work at eye-level to attract the judges’ attention.

But it’s tricky, says Valencia student Chris O’Beirne, who is working next to Munoz. “You can’t have too much white space, but you don’t want too much clutter,” says O’Beirne, 22.

Like many of Valencia’s architecture students, Munoz took a circuitous route to architecture school. She started her college career at UCF as an engineering major. When she discovered she didn’t like engineering, she transferred to Valencia to study architecture. “I wanted to do something more creative,” she says. “Besides, it runs in the family,” she adds, noting that her uncle is an architect in Ecuador and her cousin is currently studying architecture too. While Munoz wants to attend UCF—and hasn’t applied elsewhere—Juan Diaz is aiming for admission to the University of Florida’s architecture school. So when he takes apart his pin-up board, taking down the models and sketches and artwork, he’ll drive to Gainesville and start all over again the next day, for UF’s pin-up. “For me, this is more of a practice for UF,” Diaz said. But the process—the nights without sleep and the madness of producing a 3-D portfolio in a matter of hours—is nerve wracking.

Even the professors, most of who went through the same process as undergraduates, remember pin-up vividly. “You didn’t sleep for weeks beforehand,” says Valencia professor Jennifer Princivil. “This was Show Time. If your board didn’t sing, forget it.”

Adds Professor Christine Daelo: “This process is extremely nerve-wracking. Even if the air conditioning is cranked down to 30 degrees, you can feel the heat in the room.”

Valencia’s reputation heats up

The day after the students finish pinning their work to their boards, the judges—local architects and architecture professors at Valencia, UCF and UF—converge on the Special Events Center to score the students’ work. Judges hand out scores from 1 to 10 for each board.

“I look at the density of the board, meaning almost the entire board is covered, the work is pretty well laid out and the content is interesting,” says Daelo. “I always look for ones that are doing something different. Are they experimenting with different materials, for instance?”

The pin-up process even attracts former students, eager to see what this year’s crop of graduates has produced. This year, one of the visitors is Charles Green, who graduated from Valencia’s architecture program in 2011 and is graduating from UF’s architecture program in May. Now he’s headed to the University of California- Berkeley for graduate school. Green applied to Harvard, MIT, Columbia University, University of Florida and Washington University in St. Louis, as well as Berkeley for graduate school—and was thrilled to get into Berkeley. He—and many other Valencia graduates who’ve been accepted to top-flight graduate schools—is proof that Valencia’s architecture program is producing excellent students.

“I strongly believe in Valencia’s program,” said Green, 23, who transferred to Valencia after growing frustrated in an engineering program at the University of South Florida. “Wherever students want to go after this—whether it’s UF or UCF or Berkeley—Valencia gives you a good base of design knowledge. The work here is comparable, if not better than, UF.”

As Valencia students spread out to architecture schools around the country, they are discovering that word about the program is spreading. At the University of Michigan—one of the top architecture schools in the country—professors are offering encouragement to applicants from Valencia. “Some of our students went up there and the professors were raving about them because they already have two Valencia students there who are doing quite well,” said Valencia professor Kourtney Baldwin.

“They already know the reputation of our program.” Here in Orlando, the architecture community is supporting—and noticing—the progress at Valencia’s program. “I’ve been to three pin-ups now and I think that the quality of the work for pin-up is improving,” said Dr. Frank Bosworth, director of the University of Florida’s Citylab architecture program, an Orlando master’s level program that has partnered with Valencia and UCF. Bosworth believes the

Valencia program is maturing rapidly, thanks to contributions from Orlando’s well-established architecture community and the value of the 2+2+2 partnership between Valencia, UCF and UF. The partnership doesn’t guarantee Valencia students admission to UCF and UF, but is a transfer agreement that ensures a student is taking the right classes for a seamless transition. The growing maturity of Valencia’s architecture program, says Bosworth, is demonstrated at pin-up events and by the large number of Valencia students being admitted to the University of Florida’s architecture school. “Getting into the University of Florida is not easy. It requires a certain level of attention to detail, and to the quality of the work,” Bosworth says. Meanwhile, back on the floor of the Special Events Center, the Valencia students are relieved to finish their pin-up boards, but anxious to hear the results.

Jamie Connell, for instance, has applied to UCF and the University of South Florida architecture programs. And though she has already been accepted to USF’s program, she’s waiting to hear from UCF. “I really love Orlando and would like to stay here,” says Connell, 22. But whether she lands at UCF or USF, she’ll be content. “There’s a lot of competition every year because there are only a few seats available. Architecture is a competitive program.”

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