For several years, WDA has hired talented summer externs who are interested in pursuing architectural careers. This week, we are pleased to welcome back Desi Petkova, who has just finished her sophomore year at Columbia University. She recently declared a double major in Architecture and Spanish. We’re looking forward to reconnecting with Desi’s enthusiasm for architectural puzzles, intellectual approach to moving through space, and artist’s eye and sensitivity to detail during the summer of 2014.

Desi’s personal history and educational background moved her towards a career in architecture. She was born in Bulgaria and relocated to San Francisco in fifth grade. Raised in a family of engineers, she gravitated to art at a young age; for as long as she can remember, she’s loved to draw. Growing up, she honed her observation skills by experiencing San Francisco on frequent walks. She remembers taking in the varied architecture of the city at street level, traveling by foot through neighborhoods including the Financial District and Pacific Heights. She still prefers to see buildings in person than in 3-D images, savoring the experience of stepping around a corner and finding something new. She finds the history in facades, the ghostly reflection of neighborhoods past in plate-glass window panes.

Drawing led Desi to understand the importance of well-designed space. As a student at University High School, she found inspiration in the Julia Morgan designed main campus building, particularly the drawing studio. She remembers sitting there, looking out on the Pacific Heights homes through enormous windows, or going out on the deck and seeing people walking below, the olive green hues, and the framing shop across the way. Her art became focused on architecture; she developed an elaborate series of colorful mixed media pen and acrylic studies based on photographs of notable European buildings.

Desi finds that architecture combines her love of art and the engineering foundation she absorbed at home. During a Renaissance Architectural Theory class her freshman year, the combination of art history and as-built specifics clicked. Suddenly, she could walk into buildings and see the plans and sections in front of her, or find the i-beams that support the ceiling in its rise skyward. She’s excited by the conceptual shift that accompanied her move from visual art to architecture. Instead of trying to convey her own vision to others, she’s now trying to understand how others perceive space.

When Desi went back to school last August, she was looking forward to once again experiencing the dynamism of design of New York. Always drawn to details, her studies of rusty, misaligned A/C systems on the outside of Manhattan’s high-rises had piqued her interest in exploring alternative green cooling systems. In New York, Desi is intrigued by the multifaceted buildings, the history and design diversity, and the marked contrast between old and new. Here in San Francisco, she appreciates more subtle design details, particularly the emphasis on sustainability, rich materials palettes, and interiors spaces that enhance the experience inside.

Welcome back Desi! We’re excited to hear about what you’ve learned this year, and to have your unique perspective on San Francisco architecture back for another summer at WDA.

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