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Brian Turner

Brian Turner '18

With a double major in architecture and political science (and a minor in art history), Brian Turner '18 explains how two seemingly different areas of academics actually intertwine in more ways than you’d think. He discusses traveling to many American cities in his childhood and the sense of community he feels in his hometown, Memphis, Tenn., both of which contribute to his love of architecture.


You’re a double major in Architecture and Political Science. How do you approach each field of study?

My focus for political science is to grow my understanding of the inner workings of political theory that can be applied in both American and world politics. With a better understanding of political theory, philosophy, and key concepts to our democracy such as liberty and freedom, creating effective dialogue within a seemingly increasingly polarized country will be readily obtainable. In addition, this knowledge will be give me a better grasp on current events, their underlying problems and potential outcomes. From this, I can better inform others and myself to make better informed decisions in life, in advancing our community, and in my designs, as well as for potential future political aspirations.

My goal in architecture is to create unique and comfortable spaces for urban communities. As cities have become more privatized, the need for green and inviting public space has grown. I want to give people powerful places to congregate. I traveled around the country as a kid for NAACP conventions. I've always been fascinated by the concept of the city and ways to improve my city, Memphis. This lead to an interest in the spaces that create the city, and thus my passion for architecture.

How would you incorporate your environmentally conscious mindset into urban architecture?

Indeed a plethora of environmentally conscious decisions inform architects today. Evidently, an increase in vegetation and parks or solar panels and skillful use of materials can improve productivity and lower energy costs. In my observation, excess flora and vegetation integrates the concept of wild nature within the built environment. This bridging of the two can create an integrated ecosystem in the city, allowing us to live with nature as oppose to a fruitless battle in spite of it.

In addition to this view, a meaningful and critical neighborhood planning and use of materials like the thermal characteristics of steel and concrete, or electric film on glass can lower energy cost. It can also incentivize people to walk and bike rather than drive and add to their carbon footprint. We can choose materials and plans that work with a specific climate, easing up on our use of energy.

You’ve mentioned being inspired by some of the new construction and buildings on campus. Is there any building in particular in which you are interested?

UMass has been expanding with an environmentally conscious mind. South College is a notable example of historic preservation and energy efficient design. However, singling out one project is challenging, as there are so many new buildings: J. Oliver DB, ILC, ISB, LSB, PSB, the Isenberg exp. Though my favorite would be the raingardens around the DB, the LSB, and in Southwest (I did a research project on them). Consequently, the project I know the best is the Design Building as it is the second home of LARP and Architecture students (I've spent my fair share of nights there, my sleeping bag is still in the studio). It's open and wooden interiors make for an inviting and educational space. Wood, the primary material inside, is scientifically proven to enhance learning. The main atrium acts as a dual lecture space that connects all three majors. The framed views of campus are gorgeous. The exposed structural frame of wooden posts and steel connectors make it a didactic and cool experience for visitors. However the best quality arguably belongs to its elegant conversation with the architectural language surrounding it. The DB compliment Clark, Franklin, and Studio Arts with its copper colors, angular shape, humble size, and shaping of local pedestrian traffic.

What are your plans for graduation, and how has your time at UMass informed your decision?

My next step is to apply for graduate school to further my skills and experience in designing. I hope to double major in a masters of architecture and master planning. My desire to advance my local community has grown to include many urban areas. Ultimately, I'd like to live in the northeast, working in a dense urban environment I've always longed for and helping a greater number of people through a combination of political activism and the design process.

My time at UMass Amherst has only accelerated this goal. I am enlightened by the many passionate students and professors I have met who are socially conscious on various issues from pollution to rights of minority groups, determined to make a difference in the world. I also conversed, befriended, and created a consensus with those of different views than me on gentrification, U.S. elections, police and race relations, and many more.