Faculty Profile: Jessica Wolff and Gabriela Baierle
August 11, 2020
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Jessica and Gabriela are faculty members and co-instructors at the BAC. Regardless of where they are at in the world, Jessica and Gabriela thrive in their collaborative online classroom.
(Photo credit: Su)
Tell me a little about yourself. Where are you from? What brought you to the BAC?
Jessica Wolff: I'm originally from Pittsburgh (PA), and since I graduated from Penn State University with a BLA, I have lived in Alexandria, (VA) Minneapolis (MN) Cambridge and Boston (MA), and the Philadelphia region. I grew up with a number of family influences in the fields of landscape architecture, horticulture and design, and these influences, coupled with my love of the outdoors, drew me to the field of landscape architecture. I then got my MLA from the GSD. I started teaching at the BAC in 2013 in the landscape architecture department under the tutelage of Maria Bellalta, and since then have taught a number of studios and elective courses in both the landscape architecture and architecture departments, and in both on-site and online programs. I currently live in the Philadelphia region but I teach the online Arch3 course, and it is wonderful to still be engaged with the Boston community!
Gabriela Baierle: I was born and raised in Southern Brazil, and came to the US to study architecture. After practicing in the Midwest for a few years after graduating, I found my way to Boston and its tight-knit network of architects and design educators. I was invited to be a co-instructor with a coworker of mine in Spring of 2019, which led to my position as Jessica's co-instructor for ARC3308 that coming Fall.
What first made you become interested in architecture?
Baierle: I've always had a passion for the arts, particularly drawing. It makes sense to everyone that knew me as a child that I ended in a profession where one draws for a living! Beyond that, my interests in math, physics, and history all led to the same architect role. I was also fortunate to have grown up with Brazilian influences such as Niemeyer and Costa - Brazilian Modernism is very tangible and easily graspable in general culture.
Wolff: My professional background is in the fields of landscape architecture, urban design and planning, however ever since I started studying spatial design I have been interested in the integration of design professions. This started with my involvement in an interdisciplinary design club at Penn State, then working in a number of firms with mixed disciplines, and taking classes in a variety of design fields in graduate school. I love the discourse between professions but also the interaction of site and structure, and those are concepts that I teach in Arch3.
What is your favorite part of teaching at the BAC?
Wolff: The students! I have always been impressed with the work ethic of BAC students, and their drive to learn while balancing many other life circumstances. I believe that this makes BAC students well-rounded, as well as being very skilled communicators. I also find them to showcase a sincerity in both their personalities and their work.
Baierle: The practical side of the programs, partnered with the diversity of the students and faculty, really make the experience so rewarding for me. As a practitioner, I have tremendous respect for those who graduate from the BAC - their dedication and work ethic come through in the professional environment. It's a privilege to work with the students to better their work, and see their dedication and creativity come through in the projects they end up developing.
After teaching together for two semesters, what are the different styles and approaches to teaching that you both bring to the online classroom?
Baierle: I think we are nicely complementary to one another! Jess brings her knowledge and sensitivity to landscape, and I bring mine to architecture. Together, we push our students forward by providing criticism and advice positively. We also make it clear to our students that we are available to them, to provide critiques and to review their work, whenever needed - all they need to do is be communicative with us.
Wolff: Both Gabi and I use our specific disciplines within teaching Arch3, with Gabi focusing on architecture and with my focus on the site, however we are both able to talk about the interface of these disciplines and how they form a symbiotic relationship in each student's design proposal. I try to utilize my professional background as a site-based designer to incorporate similar themes of bridging consultant relationships, and also being able to design at a wide range of scales. I draw upon this flexible thinking approach to encourage students to not become too immersed in details before exploring the building's relationship to its context and the needs of its users. We often hear from students that Arch3 is challenging due to the many complexities of working with site, but we also hear that students learn a lot from the course and the process of designing with site in mind.
What would you say to somebody considering an online degree at the BAC?
Wolff: Congratulations! You have found a program that will try its best to be customized to your professional and personal needs and goals. Beyond the incredible lessons you will learn at the BAC, you will also be prepared to handle many other things that life throws at you since you have learned how to time manage like a pro!
Baierle: I echo Jess's words, and would add that oftentimes, it's really about how much you put in as a student. Be prepared to push yourself to produce your very best work. And we will make sure to do the same!
August 11, 2020
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