A MODEL CITIZEN: Shaili Patel ’16

By Jacque E. Day.

“Rough hands, covered in ridges and valleys with small mountains, show pride in making. They are the hands of makers.” – Shaili Patel ’16.

When Shaili Patel ’16 completes a design project, she does a curious thing with her architectural models: stomps them to bits.

Model prototypes of design projects are a prolific facet of the landscape of Chaplin Hall, home to Norwich University’s Architecture + Art programs. Students build the models with painstaking attention to detail. They are tangible evidence of creativity, innovative thinking, and problem-solving. But a childhood spent moving taught Patel a valuable skill: travel light.

“Stomp, stomp, and into the trash it goes.” She shrugs. “It’s also kind of fun just getting rid of all the pain and problems it caused me.”

A life lesson if there ever was one.

Shaili Patel ’16 visits the Northfield Middle/High School outdoor classroom in September 2016, a year and a half after she helped design and build it as an undergraduate in the Norwich University School of Architecture + Art. She is now in the Master of Architecture program. Photo by Mark Collier.

Shaili Patel ’16 visits the Northfield Middle/High School outdoor classroom in September 2016, a year and a half after she helped design and build it as an undergraduate in the Norwich University School of Architecture + Art. She is now in the Master of Architecture program. Photo by Mark Collier.

Patel was born in Kenya, the home country of her father, Nilkanth. In 2002 her parents moved the family to the U.S. in search of better economic opportunities when Patel, an only child, was eight years old.

She graduated from Norwich University in 2016 with a bachelor’s in Architectural Studies. The day after May commencement, she was one of two architecture students to receive Norwich University’s inaugural Advanced Leadership Award, alongside Michelle Lee ’16. She returned to the Hill this past fall to continue her education in the Master of Architecture program. In fall 2017, she will enter the U.S. Navy on a commission with the Civil Engineering Corps.

We are delighted to introduce this exceptional student who will go on to lead, by making.

Grit

“I was very hesitant to take the design/build studio because I’m not comfortable working with my hands in that manner,” reflects Patel. But like the leader she is, she overcame her apprehensions to become “critical to making the outdoor classroom the success it is,” says Matthew Lutz, the Norwich architecture professor who directed the 802 Lab project. “She often offered a counterpoint to our discussions, which helped the team justify its design direction.”

“At the end of the process, I loved it,” she beams.

In the spring 2015 semester, students from the School of Architecture + Art’s 802 Lab, led by architecture professor Matthew Lutz, joined with the Northfield High School S.T.A.R. (Students Taking Alternative Routes) program to design and build an outdoor classroom in the woodlands adjacent to the high school’s soccer field on Garvey Hill. Photo courtesy of Matthew Lutz.

In the spring 2015 semester, students from the School of Architecture + Art’s 802 Lab, led by architecture professor Matthew Lutz, joined with the Northfield High School S.T.A.R. (Students Taking Alternative Routes) program to design and build an outdoor classroom in the woodlands adjacent to the high school’s soccer field on Garvey Hill. Photo courtesy of Matthew Lutz.

Process

Patel is much more interested in how a structure functions—what she calls the “guts”—than she is in the ornamentation, or outward presentation. A self-described process-oriented person, she takes interest in the aspects of a project that some would consider mundane. On the outdoor classroom project, she “coordinated the structural design with Professor Ed Schmeckpeper, co-led the budget and, like everyone else on the team, worked through a tough Vermont winter to get the project built by the deadline,” says architecture professor Matthew Lutz. The project was completed ahead of schedule by a few days, and under budget by a few hundred dollars.

Patel participates in an activity at the Northfield High School outdoor classroom with some high school students and S.T.A.R. co-director Luke Foley (right). Photo by Mark Collier.

Patel participates in an activity at the Northfield High School outdoor classroom with some high school students and S.T.A.R. co-director Luke Foley (right). Among the many uses of the space, Foley says they teach fire safety and wilderness skills. “Because whether you’re hunting, or mountain biking, or whatever you might be doing outside, it’s helpful to always feel like you’re capable in any situation.” Photo by Mark Collier.

Sense Diagram
Sense Diagram: “To further explore our diagramming skills we were asked to diagram one of our five senses: sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste. Then we were asked to create something that would change or alter the way our senses obtained its information. I chose to research and understand the sense of smell. I learned how the sense obtained information. Then I chose to create something that would change the way we smell things. Similar to a face mask, one would wear the smeller over the nose and it would block unwanted odors. It also had a part where one could refill parts with different scents that someone could in turn ‘smell’ when around displeasing odors.” – Shaili Patel ’16, senior portfolio

“To further explore our diagramming skills we were asked to diagram one of our five senses: sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste. Then we were asked to create something that would change or alter the way our senses obtained its information. I chose to research and understand the sense of smell. I learned how the sense obtained information. Then I chose to create something that would change the way we smell things. Similar to a face mask, one would wear the smeller over the nose and it would block unwanted odors. It also had a part where one could refill parts with different scents that someone could in turn ‘smell’ when around displeasing odors.” – Shaili Patel ’16, senior portfolio

Fun Facts

• In her undergraduate work, Patel pursued a double major in architecture and history in accordance with the theory that to build the future, we must understand the past.
• An aspiring architect will need to log 3,500 internship hours and pass seven exams to earn an architecture license in Vermont.
• She once made a model using soap as the primary material. “By concept it was supposed to be very transparent,” she says. Did she smash the soap model, too? She laughs. “I think I might have just bow-tied it and given it to someone.”
• Patel’s mother, Chhaya, hails from a tiny Indian village whose patron saint gave Shaili her name. Pronounced SHAY-lee, the name means “style” in the Gujarati language.

On behalf of the Norwich design-build team, Patel, along with Tim Bain ’16, present the outdoor classroom project to the Board of Trustees during their October meeting. Photo by Kate Alberghini.

On behalf of the Norwich design-build team, Patel, along with Tim Bain ’16, present the outdoor classroom project to the Board of Trustees during their October meeting. Photo by Kate Alberghini.

Paying it Forward

So many of us born in the U.S. take our citizenship, and our culture of privilege, for granted. Patel, who relinquished her dual-citizenship status years ago, has chosen to be solely an American citizen and is eager to support this country by serving in the military. “How do I say ‘thank you’ to a country that has given me and my family so many opportunities? The best way for me to help this country, the best use of the skills I learned at Norwich, is to serve.”

This is a sketch from Patel’s design of a microbrewery. Originally directed to design it for Boston’s Newbury Street, she instead opted to situate her conceptual design on the banks of the Charles River.

This is a sketch from Patel’s design of a microbrewery. Originally directed to design it for Boston’s Newbury Street, she instead opted to situate her conceptual design on the banks of the Charles River.

The Outdoor Classroom Team
Pictured (l-r): A. J. Bavaro ’15, Kyle Niehaus ’16, Tim Bain ’16, Andy Dubenetsky ’15, Eleazar Rausseo ’16, Deandra Musial ’15, Keith Stipe ’16, Jesse Gillette ’16, Shaili Patel ’16, and Jamie Lee Hartjen ’15. Photo courtesy of Matthew Lutz.

Pictured (l-r): A. J. Bavaro ’15, Kyle Niehaus ’16, Tim Bain ’16, Andy Dubenetsky ’15, Eleazar Rausseo ’16, Deandra Musial ’15, Keith Stipe ’16, Jesse Gillette ’16, Shaili Patel ’16, and Jamie Lee Hartjen ’15. Photo courtesy of Matthew Lutz.

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