Words: MASONRY DESIGN Magazine
Photos: Megan Rajner
Editor’s Note: In this month’s installment of our Next Generation series, we talked with Megan Rajner. You may recognize her name from articles written in our magazine, Megan recently received a Masters of Architecture and is currently working for GMT Home Designs. We want to thank Megan for taking the time to chat with us.
MASONRY DESIGN Magazine: Tell us about yourself.
Megan Rajner: I’m 23 and from a very small town in the Thousand Islands region of northern New York called Clayton. While Clayton will always have a special place in my heart, I knew I wanted to experience a city while I was in school, and figured Boston would be the perfect place to start my career in architecture. I graduated with my Master of Architecture from Wentworth Institute of Technology this past April, and immediately start working GMT Home Designs in central Massachusetts.
M.D.M.: What made you interested in design/architecture?
M.R.: As a high schooler, I always thought that architecture was the perfect combination of math and art- two subjects I used to love. Although I don’t think I actually fell in love with my career path until I started my first full-time internship working at Aubertine & Currier, a firm near my hometown. As an intern I felt lucky to be able to spend a lot of time working directly with one of the principals of the firm, who was always showing me different design books and teaching me new things. He was so influential on my drive to learn more that I went back for two more internships, where we continued conversations about building science and how to design the perfect wall assembly.
M.D.M: Were you involved in any associations or clubs while in college or currently?
M.R.: At Wentworth, I started getting involved by joining our student chapter of AIAS, and Wentworth Architecture Club. While these extracurriculars were great, I still didn’t find myself feeling committed to them. When my sophomore year came around, a new club was starting, and it was a student chapter for the National Association of Home Builders, also known as NAHB. An older architecture student who also my R.A. the year before, saw my interest and invited me to the first few club meetings which were meant to engage students with professionals in the fields of design and construction.
The following year at a volunteer event our NAHB chapter participates in, this same student along with the club adviser asked if I would be the president of the club for my last two years at Wentworth. Although I didn’t see it coming, I was excited because I felt that I had finally found an avenue for myself to invest more interest in.
Each year the NAHB chapter participates in a competition known as RCMC, or the Residential Construction Management Competition. One of the reasons I was so invested in leading this organization was because I wanted to get to know other disciplines in the field, and was able to meet construction management and business students who also attended Wentworth.
My first year leading the RCMC team was the fall of 2016. We had seven students who all worked together to make a comprehensive report, including the design, construction phasing, estimates, and profit analysis for creating a hypothetical residential development.
Our team traveled to Orlando the following January to present our project submission at the International Building Show, where all the other teams presented as well. Aside from the competition, we were able to spend three days at the show, which was essentially three wings of a convention center filled with vendors and other professionals in the field.
One of the construction management students on my team walked the entire exhibit with me, talking about doors, windows, and thermal bridging. Both of us quickly learned about each other’s career goals and how motivated we were to achieve our dreams.
To make a long story short, I still find myself “nerding” out about doors and windows with this amazing, talented man I fell in love with nearly two and a half years ago. He presently owns Downing Construction, a business he established himself shortly after we started dating, and I help him with design, marketing, and making drawings for some of his work.
M.D.M.: Tell us about your course loads while you were in college. You mentioned the college had a 4 + 1 architecture program.
M.R.: Wentworth’s architecture programs, both undergraduate and graduate, are very strictly set up— meaning it can be very difficult to take courses that are not specifically part of your curriculum. However, the architecture curriculum they have set up strengthens its students very well, providing students with a well-rounded foundation of architectural history, theory, technology-based information, and design practice.
When starting Wentworth as a freshman, you can complete a master’s degree in 5 years, rather than the typical 4+2 program that most college have, which is the main reason why I applied to Wentworth to begin with. My favorite year academically was my thesis year, because I had very talented and inspiring advisers who kept me motivated, and feeling motivated and passionate about my career has always been one of the best feelings for me.
It helped that I was very passionate about my thesis topic to begin with- it was titled “Hot-Rodding Mobile,” which focused on multiple design options and scenarios for a customizable, mobile, dwelling unit. With influence from what is currently known as the tiny house movement, this is a type of architecture that my boyfriend and I think about really diving into, as far as design and prefab production, at some point in our future.
M.D.M.: Tell us more about your current roll at the company you’re working in.
M.R.: When I graduated, as I mentioned before, I started working at GMT Home Designs in central Massachusetts, to be closer to my boyfriend’s family, and to be in an area more affordable than the city. My role at this very small firm entailed measuring existing homes, developing CD sets for new construction, and attending weekly CA meetings for a commercial project being built in Rhode Island.
However, a recent decision has led us to relocate back to Boston for the next chapter of our lives where I will be working in a new firm, networking as much as possible, taking my architectural registration exams, and making the right connections to establish my own practice eventually.
M.D.M.: Where do you see yourself in five years?
M.R.: In five years, I‘ll be 28, and I have personal goals like starting a family and buying a house. I would like to think that I will already have my license and still be just as passionate about progressing the movement for mobile architecture as I was throughout my thesis year. A little ambitious, right?
M.D.M.: Have you had any internships in your field?
M.R.: Other than working with Aubertine and Currier close to home as I mentioned before, I also completed an internship at ZeroEnergy design, an award-winning architecture firm in Boston that focuses mainly on high-end, custom, residential design with either net-zero energy or net-positive energy. I was amazed by the work that they do and how building science really drives their design niche. Moving forward with my career, I will strive to design buildings with the same environmental values, using similar building science approaches.
M.D.M.: Have you faced any challenges thus far in your career?
M.R.: Challenges? Architecture is all about challenges. Each design is a new problem to solve- better yet, an entirely unique set of problems to solve. That’s what makes it interesting for designers, and even more so for the ones who are the most passionate about what they do.
M.D.M: Do you have any advice for anyone interested in going into this industry?
M.R.: You don’t have to know everything. You just have to be willing to learn about anything. I was once told by a professor that architects are like the “jacks of all trades”-you have to know at least a little bit about many types of things. You also have to learn what each client needs even if they don’t come right out and say it to you. Our job as designers of the built environment is a huge responsibility, and we need to be observant and very careful about the moves we make, because they influence things much bigger than ourselves. Being confident is key to getting where you want to be, which really goes for any field of work.