Posted: April 22, 2010
By Magdalena Georgieva '10
Back in the early 1970s, when sustainable living was not yet fashionable, T.I.A. Architects emerged as one of the first ecological architecture firms in the United States. Today, Amber Knee '10 is interning there, learning firsthand about environmental housing.
"I have learned a lot about sustainability and want to bring that into my future work," said Knee about her experience at the small Amherst-based architectural design office. The internship nurtures the student's passion for eco-friendly and affordable architecture.
"Sustainability is very trendy now, but this firm has been practicing it since the 1970s," said Knee, who is an architectural studies major with a minor in economics. "It is interesting to see the differences between what is trendy now and the work of someone who has been doing it for a while."
T.I.A. Architects develops projects with an emphasis on sustainable issues, including energy conservation, waste management, and site harmony, she explained. Its residential projects, for instance, include passive solar design, nontoxic materials, and energy efficient systems.
Knee is now working on two major projects at the firm. For the first one, she is creating a proposed city plan for high-density living environments—in her case, Shanghai. Suited for a large number of citizens, the site will be designed to offer different services, such as childcare facilities, entertainment centers, offices, and rooftop gardens.
"I have been doing a lot of graphics work for that," said Knee, who uses 3-D architectural design software to build her models. In her second project, however, Knee focuses on traditional hand drawing and model building. She is helping to develop plans for a small and sustainable family house that will eventually be for sale.
Knee incorporates much of the insight and knowledge that she gains at her internship into her academic work. For example, her senior thesis project, titled "Building Blocks for Change: A Transitional Housing Project for Alphabet City," tries to create affordable and permanent housing for homeless people in New York City.