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YES24: Q & A with Graduate Curator Cody Heller

Cody Heller, MArch ’24, is curating the 2024 graduate architecture Year End Show. In this Q & A, he describes his ideas behind the exhibition as well as how his time at WashU has influenced his work.

Introduce us to the exhibition. What themes or materials are you working with?
The exhibition introduces a new spatial atmosphere within the gallery space, using generic materials and their nominal dimensions to generate an environment that is both familiar, yet strange and alien. It has a lab-like quality, not dissimilar to an incubator; a machine brewing this next generation of architectural ideas and discourse. The box-in-box typology tightens and concentrates the work into a more collective package, encouraging closer analysis and comparisons. While the works may be individual in approach and creator, they share in all being proposals for the St. Louis region, and their equal value and display within the exhibit.

What do you hope someone notices as they experience the exhibition?
I hope people notice the shadows, the layering, and the tensions between the existing introduced architectures.

Are there any questions you hope to answer with this exhibition?
I am hoping to better understand the scope and interests of this next generation of architectural thinkers. In curating the exhibit, I have been learning about every individual project and attempting to draw distinctions and consistencies that emerge within the collective narrative.

Fa22 419 rivera   heller cody final finalthresholdexterior

Coursework from FA22_419

Fa22 419 rivera   heller cody final siteaxo

Coursework from FA22_419

How does your research interact with this project?
The design of the exhibit, in retrospect, has many consistencies with my greater body of work. There is a strong concern for light and atmosphere, an emphasis on lines and visual repetition, and a desire for raw material and tectonic expression.

When or how did you know you were interested in architecture?
I have always held a desire to design and change the spaces I occupy, understanding the role space had in my wellbeing. It wasn’t until working at a contemporary art gallery that I confirmed my interest in pursuing design of the built environment, after observing the way that curated space could manipulate and control the way that it was inhabited and interpreted.

What was your path to becoming an architect like?
My path has involved a gradual shift in scales. I first studied interior design, which has a greater focus on the finer-grained finishes within space. After, I completed a bachelor of interior architecture, which emphasized atmosphere and experience, inverting the typical urban-in model of architecture, and starting from the human proportions. Now with the completion of a master of architecture, I feel I can understand with greater complexity the architecture I am designing, from the finest of material details to the larger urban systems it will contribute to.

Are there any faculty, courses, making spaces, or other WashU resources that have had a big impact on you?
Completing two back-to-back studios under Mónica Rivera has had a profound effect on my design process. The studios — both focused on housing in Puerto Rico and including a trip to the island nation — helped develop an awareness and sensibility toward calibrating space for social and climatic resiliency. The culture of rigorous testing and iteration that she fosters is critical to thoughtful design outcomes.