When they were children, Nate MacDonald ’14 and Ron Wassmer, Jr. ’14 loved playing with Legos and spent countless hours building make-believe houses. Now, these recent graduates are moving on to bigger, very real creations. They have spent the summer designing a 20,000-square-foot Caribbean home for a billionaire. The other details are secret, at the request of their wealthy client.
It all started when Seth Holmes, assistant professor of architecture in the University’s College of Engineering, Technology and Architecture (CETA), received an offer to work on the project from his former employers at Kao Design Group. Holmes could not commit to a full-time job, so the firm agreed to also hire MacDonald and Wassmer.
“I recommended them because they showed initiative when I had them in my classes,” explains Holmes. “They went beyond what I was asking for. If someone is interested in what they are doing, they are going to try hard. That’s what we want.”
Holmes specializes in sustainable design, which helps with the environmental guidelines the house must meet. MacDonald and Wassmer are contributing their knowledge of rapidly changing software and technology. The trio works together in a satellite office in Holmes’s West Hartford home. The arrangement allows for constant collaboration with each other and the architects at Kao Design Group headquarters.
“It’s been fun,” says Wassmer. “As someone who has worked for an architecture firm for just a few months, I’ve been able to do more designing and to be more creative than I expected.”
He and MacDonald both chose the University for its Architectural Engineering Technology major, which is one of only six of its kind in the United States.
“I didn’t want to only study architecture,” explains MacDonald. “This broadens the scope of what I can get a job in, which is really important to me. I like the technical side of it, but I also like the artistic side.”
MacDonald does not have to worry about looking for a job anytime soon. He will be staying on full-time with Kao Design Group. Wassmer will continue on to the University’s Master of Architecture program. When he graduates, he will have a position with a prestigious architectural firm on his résumé.