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Thoughtful Construction

Senior Architecture Student Changed Schools, Majors to Build His Future

Article by David Jackson, University Communications and Marketing.
Photo by Rio Spiering, University of Idaho Visual Productions, and courtesy photos from College of Art and Architecture

Ryan Lorensen doesn’t remember making a conscious decision to declare civil engineering as his major when he started college. Getting good grades in school was always easy for him and, somewhere along the line, the idea of becoming an engineer and making a lot of money after he graduated stuck with him.

The Kuna native started his higher education journey at Boise State University but realized after one semester that civil engineering wasn’t for him. He then received what turned out to be a life-changing suggestion.

“I started looking at other options and other schools,” he said. “A friend was going to University of Idaho Boise and said I should check it out. It looked interesting so I gave it a shot.”

Man sitting at head of table with four people sitting around him
Ryan Lorensen listens to feedback at the Vandal Healing Garden charette.

After completing his freshman year at BSU, he transferred to U of I Boise, changing his major to architecture. He completed his sophomore year in Boise before moving to the Moscow campus for his junior and senior years, per the requirements for completing a B.S. in Architecture when starting the program in Boise.

Right Place, Right Time

Lorensen worked on many projects during his time in the College of Art and Architecture (CAA) , but one had a much higher profile than the others — the Vandal Healing Garden and Memorial.

He spent his entire senior year immersed in the project, working with a team of architecture and landscape architecture students last fall on two designs that were submitted to university and CAA representatives, then working this spring as part of the architecture studio tasked with choosing and fine-tuning the final design so it can be submitted for approval.

“Working on this project definitely stood out,” said Lorensen. “It’s been amazing to work on something so tied to the community and the university. I think it’s going to be an important part of our campus and help a lot of people heal.”

I think that’s why architecture is more interesting to me. You’re going out and building what you’ve created instead of just sitting in a classroom making designs but not looking at every detail to see if it’s possible to even create what you’ve drawn. Ryan Lorensen, senior

Working on the memorial garden helped him find his passion for design and being involved in community-based projects. Where civil engineering allowed him come up with creative solutions for hypothetical concepts, being on the architecture side of projects as part of the Design-Build Program allowed him to build what he draws.

“I think that’s why architecture is more interesting to me,” he said. “You’re going out and building what you’ve created instead of just sitting in a classroom making designs but not looking at every detail to see if it’s possible to even create what you’ve drawn.”

Being involved on the memorial garden project also exposed Lorensen to often overlooked aspects of the architectural process. He attended several meetings with a diverse set of clients or stakeholders, including the charette conducted by CAA last October. He also took part in progress reports to CAA and university representatives prior to designs being chosen.

Throughout the process, Lorensen discovered that the world of architectural design was where he belonged.

“He moved easily between roles throughout the project,” said Scott Lawrence, associate professor of architecture. “As a team member, he’s easy to work with and has a seemingly boundless positive energy that raises the moral of the whole group.”

Looking into the Future

Lorensen’s short-term plans involve staying in Moscow to enter the Master’s in Architecture program at U of I this fall. His long-term plans could hinge on how design and construction in the U.S. evolves.

Photo of three people standing and two people sitting around a table
Ryan Lorensen, second from right, and architecture students review designs.

As part of his U of I experience, Lorensen took part in a Study Abroad trip to Malaysia and Singapore to study urban design with Xiao Hu, associate professor of architecture. While some of the things he saw in densely populated areas like Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, wouldn’t necessarily translate to the Pacific Northwest, the trip left an impression on him.

“Getting to see a well-designed public transportation system was great,” he said. “Having trains take you everywhere and not needing a car was cool to see. Seeing different green designs and green buildings was interesting. Maybe there might be more opportunities for those things in this area someday.”

As Lorensen prepares for life after graduation, he’s certain about one thing — moving on from civil engineering, transferring to U of I and immersing himself in architecture prepared him to find a career where his passion lies.

“His willingness to pour his whole self into any challenge thrown at him is inspiring,” said Lawrence. “That drive has translated into a lot of growth for him as an emerging designer and future architect.”

Campus Locations

Physical Address:
Bruce M. Pitman Center
875 Perimeter Drive MS 4264
Moscow, ID 83844-4264

Phone: 208-885-6111

Fax: 208-885-9119