August 10, 2010

Co-op Experience: Eric Danforth

"I can't express how fortunate I have been. As a third year architecture student, going to a foreign country and being the project manager for a major renovation of a building is a bit overwhelming, but an unbelievable opportunity."

Architecture (BSA) ’11
Co-op Employer: Chirimoto Development Project, Inc.
Position: Lead Designer

Learning in Peru

Eric Danforth, BSA ’11, knew he wanted to be an architect when he was working as a subcontractor in high school and became fascinated with construction sites, building techniques, and designs. However, he never dreamed that at the age of 21 he would serve as lead designer for a major renovation project in a foreign country.

In January, Danforth traveled to South America for his co-op as part of the Chirimoto Development Project, Inc. The project was started by Professor Jerry Hopcroft, Department of Civil, Construction, and Environment, to help rebuild Chirimoto, Peru, a small town located in the Amazonas region that was virtually wiped out by a flood in 1982. Danforth’s assignment was to design and oversee the renovations of the town’s community center, La Casa del Colibri (“the Hummingbird House”).

Once in a Lifetime Opportunity

While in Peru, Danforth assessed the building and function of the space, began schematic designs, and met with local vendors to determine renovation costs. He returned to campus in February, and for the remainder of his spring co-op is refining his designs with the support of Professor Hopcroft and a panel of professors from the architecture department.

“I can’t express how fortunate I have been. As a third year architecture student, going to a foreign country and being the project manager for a major renovation of a building is a bit overwhelming, but an unbelievable opportunity.”

Defining a Career Path

Danforth has learned much on his co-op which he feels he can apply to his education and future career. “I have learned that what really drives good architectural work is having an in-depth knowledge of how people would actually use a space,” says Danforth. “This understanding has shaped my architectural education.”  The experience has also helped to hone his passion for the vernacular school of architecture, meaning architecture that is derived from local building techniques and materials.

“I would advise other students to put yourself out there and expand your network because you never know when something will come up. I have realized the importance of just going out and applying for anything and everything.”

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