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Architecture Student Has a Co-op Far From the Mainstream

More living space for the Middle Eastern country of Bahrain means actually building islands off its coast…and UC co-op student Truitt Raun recently helped to design the land-use plans for those islands.

Date: 8/21/2007
By: M.B. Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Dottie Stover
UC ingot University of Cincinnati architecture graduate student Truitt Raun recently had a landmark co-op job – literally.

Truitt Raun
Truitt Raun points to the Middle Eastern country of Bahrain, his client on a recent co-op with SOM Architects.

Truitt, 24, of El Campo, Texas, recently worked for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) Architects of Chicago, and his client was the Middle Eastern country of Bahrain which is in the process of expanding its territory by constructing islands off of its northern coastline (in the Arabian Gulf). And Truitt was entrusted with major aspects of land-use planning for some of those islands, totaling 4,600 hectares in all. Basically, he sited where industry, commercial, residential, mixed-use and greenbelt areas would be located on several of the islands.

He contributed to SOM’s 18-month process of research, analysis, planning and design that will launch the country into the future by proposing every aspect of a new national infrastructure to guarantee sustainable development for stable, predictable, long-term economic growth.

“Basically,” explained Truitt, “Bahrain is planning for its future when its oil reserves are depleted. They are taking advantage of their location as a transportation hub and also plan to position themselves as a center for technologies and banking. And, finally, the population is growing. All of these motivations are behind the island-building efforts.”

Bahrain
The red markings to the north of the island nation of Bahrain indicate where some of the new islands are being built.

The planning process is incredible, according to Truitt. First came the decision as to where to build islands to begin with. One by one, certain locations were ruled out because of their importance to shipping or the environment. Other locales were unsuitable due to possible disturbance to archaeological or cultural treasures.

It was this kind of site- and land-use planning data that Truitt worked with as he analyzed data from many other firms and consultants involved in the massive undertaking that is scheduled to be complete in 2011. Even now that his SOM co-op is behind him, he follows the ongoing project with interest. “One idea floated by architects and planners working on this was a subway that traveled for a short space under the sea floor. That’s not likely to take place, but bridges across large portions of the Arabian Gulf will certainly connect Bahrain with Qatar and Saudi Arabia,” explained Truitt, adding, “I don’t see how anyone in architecture or planning wouldn’t be fascinated with the scale and scope of the project.”

He added that the sheer scale of the project can hardly be imagined since SOM was not only planning for and designing individual islands but also creating a master plan for the country, one ensuring a unified theme amongst all the new development to guide the nation for many years to come.

It would have been easy for him to be overwhelmed when he began his co-op work with SOM. “But just like everyone else on this project, I broke my responsibilities down into smaller tasks. That’s what got it done. In the end, I loved the larger-than-life scale of the project and the level of responsibility I was given.”

Better yet for Truitt, he says he wasn’t land-locked into a single role or job with SOM. When he returned to the firm for a second co-op quarter, he was able to shift from large-scale planning to responsibilities that drew upon his architecture skills and focused on individual building projects.

He explained, “That flexibility was great for me because I went to an undergraduate program that didn’t offer co-op so I want to get as much variety of experience as possible from my three graduate-level, co-op quarters. After all, it was co-op and the rankings of UC’s graduate architecture program that brought me to UC. So, I definitely wanted to take advantage of all that the co-op experiences had to offer.”


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