Student Spotlight: Will Prescott
Will Prescott's creative mind began designing at an early age, although he wasn't aware of its impact.
“Looking back on it, I think it was growing up playing computer games like The Sims or Rollercoaster Tycoon, which gave you the ability to design these digital environments for people to inhabit and interact with, that nurtured this desire to create things in the real world,” he said. “They were really early exercises in creatively conceptualizing spaces and expanding your imagination, disguised as simple games.”
But his love of architecture took time to develop. In fact, in high school, he was having a hard time staying focused on any subject.
“I struggled to find any kind of motivation to work hard my last two years of high school, and this was reflected in my grades,” he said. “My parents and I decided that rather than send me to a four-year university and shell out $30,000 a year for me to aimlessly wander through multiple majors, I would go to College of DuPage and pay a small fraction of the price while I went in search of something that would interest me and get me excited about school again.”
That's exactly what happened. Prescott took his time before discovering his interest in architecture. After enrolling in COD’s Architecture program, he was immediately guided toward classes that would help him transfer into the school of his choice.
Prescott graduated with high honors with an Associate in General Studies and a Pre-Architecture Certificate. He also was accepted into the prestigious Versailles program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and spent the 2012-2013 year in France studying architecture, an opportunity that may not have happened at another school.
“I studied at l'Ecole Nationale Superieure d'Architecture de Versailles (ENSA-V). I lived in a tiny little apartment on a completely stereotypical French street, dotted with boulangeries and cafes, a two-block walk from the chateau of Louis XIV. Remembering a day there is like recalling a dream,” he said. “In addition to our regular curriculum, time was set aside for us to travel and discover new architecture across Europe on both guided and self-guided trips. I had the opportunity to visit 10 countries – France, Belgium, England, Spain, Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Greece, Turkey and Switzerland – and many more cities during my time abroad.”
Prescott is inspired by Peter Zumthor, a Swiss architect who is a major part of a movement emphasizing the “atmospheric” qualities of architecture, those that engage all five senses through the use of light and material.
“His writings and designs come off as poetic and timeless, and really strike a chord with me personally,” he said. “His Therme Vals, a hotel and spa in Switzerland, has become one of my favorite buildings. While in Europe, I did get a chance to visit Therme Vals on my birthday weekend, and it managed to exceed my already lofty expectations.”
Prescott earned his bachelor’s degree and is now working at Worn Jerabek Architects in the River North neighborhood of Chicago. His boss, William Worn, was actually Prescott’s first studio professor at UIUC, and that connection was essential in his hiring. The firm mainly works on senior living and affordable housing communities, the same high density and low-income projects that he wanted to pursue.
“My travels in Europe exposed me to all kinds of social housing that we just don't see here in the U.S. due to differing social beliefs about government influence on housing and public attitudes toward high density living,” he said. “Experiencing these buildings in person allowed me to discover effective ways of dealing with the issue -- or opportunity -- of low-income housing, and I’m hopeful that I can be a part of expanding and improving our situation here in the U.S.
“I plan on working in Chicago for at least a couple of years, after which I would like to either spend some time working in Europe or return to graduate school to complete my education. My desire to expose myself to new experiences was definitely cemented in Versailles, and my original grad school search has expanded its boundaries from merely the west coast to schools in Montreal, Glasgow and Copenhagen.”
Prescott thanks College of DuPage for giving him the opportunity to develop this passion for architecture.
“This whole path derived itself from one school in Glen Ellyn, without which I don't know what my life would be like now outside of regret,” he said. “More than anything, COD allowed me to take a risk. My time there was invaluable in creating the opportunities I have now been presented with, and the relationships I made with the people there have lasted to this day. The architecture faculty in particular have remained in constant contact with me as I completed my undergraduate education. Professors Mark Pearson and Jane Ostergaard have shown this same commitment to all of the students who have passed through their program, and they have a genuine interest in the success of their former pupils.
“Mark drove all the way down to Champaign to see myself and several other COD students graduate from UIUC. It didn't seem like that big of a deal at the time, mostly because Mark has really become a friend of ours more than a professor. But I now realize just how special it is to have had a professor who really cares that much about his former students. I struggle to think of another program that could boast a similar commitment.”
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