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Hello, this is Amanda Rosenfeld. Typically, you would find me in the warmer weather of the Miami office, but I am currently an Xchange Fellow in the Dallas office for the last quarter of the year. I have already been in “Big D” for a month and a half, and boy does time fly.
One of my “goals” for the Xchange Fellowship is to have as small of an environmental impact as I can. So, that means walking, public transportation and carpooling (and no UBER). I know that we are very dependent on our cars, and that is especially true in Miami, where public transportation is fairly limited. However, now that I have been here in Dallas for a while without a car, I have come to realize that I really can survive without one. So far, I have been getting a fair amount of exercise just walking to the grocery store, the drug store and many cool places that I have added to my “Texas bucket list.” In fact, on one weekend, I actually I walked over 40,000 steps (information courtesy of my smartphone app).
The apartment that I am living in is located across the street from the office, so the commute time is great. When my co-workers here ask me where I am living, and I point to the building across the street from the office, they are amazed and excited for me that I am so close to the office and the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART). They are also a bit confused because they thought that the building where the apartment is located looked more like an office tower. Funny how architecture can sway your opinion.
From the moment I first arrived at our office, when I stepped onto the third floor, where the hospitality and hospitality interior studios design some remarkable spaces, I was amazed. There were sketches, models and material samples EVERYWHERE. And my amazement didn’t stop with the third floor either. As I continued going up the open stair, from the fourth to the fifth and then to the sixth floor, I felt all of my creative juices flowing. It felt like an interactive gallery of all of the architecture we have accomplished together.
My first couple weeks were a bit unusual and intense. In fact, the first two days also happened to be one of the most important holidays in the Jewish culture. It was strange not being home with my family eating matzah ball soup and participating in the activities related to the holiday. On the positive side, my goal of limiting my environmental impact was put into action right away. I had to take a 40-minute bus ride and walk a few blocks in order to reach a synagogue. And it was great to see that there is a large Jewish population that I did not realize existed here. I also did this trek on the second day of the holiday, and on the next holiday the following week (though it proved to be a bit harder while fasting). During these first couple of weeks, I also was finishing up a project with my colleagues in Miami and Orlando. The project required a lot of coordination, and was mixed with a lot of worry and stress, because we had to deal with Hurricane Matthew at the same time. The hurricane was not only close to home, but also causing power outages and loss of internet. We were able to work through these challenges and complete the project on time. And fortunately, the hurricane did not create any major damage for us.
After I completed our Miami/Orlando project, I was finally assigned to a project here - a 233-key resort in Puerto Rico. It is a fairly fast-paced project, and I learned what is involved in an “SD-Lite” package and the type of information that is needed to help with a quasi-pricing package. Because this project is located on the edge of the island, with beautiful coves and lush mountains, I now realize the importance of understanding topography, and the benefits of working with both SketchUp and AutoCad simultaneously to make sure the design works both in 2D and 3D.
Outside the office, I am trying to experience as much of Dallas as I can. I’ve explored Deep Ellum with the Traveling Man; the Dallas Farmer’s Market where, I found a small local pop-up shop that encases and makes its own sausage — I tried a BBQ brisket and mac-n-cheese dog, and the Dallas Zoo, where a giraffe almost ate my umbrella. I also checked out Klyde Warren Park, a popular park over a highway system, got Coolhous (“architecturally inspired”) ice cream and walked past a few of our own HKS projects. Our 1900 Pearl project really stands out in my mind, because Richard Luis back in Miami worked on it while here in the Dallas office, and he and I have talked about the project and looked at pictures of it. I was excited to see it in person.
I also made it out to the State Fair of Texas the week before it closed for the year, and got to experience all of its fried food glory. When I first walked onto the grounds, I was a bit unsure of why everyone in the office said I had to go, but as I walked further in, I was in awe. There were so many things to do there - rides, shops and food. I watched the pig race and a rodeo. There was fried everything, from fried thanksgiving dinner to fried spaghetti and meatballs to fried Jell-O, and so much more. While I was there, I ate fried cookie dough and fried brisket balls injected with BBQ sauce. I think the most exciting part of the day happened while I was eating my fried brisket in an open turf area listening to a cover band from Louisiana, when they announced that the next act would be Nelly. The area quickly became packed, yet somehow I ended up being in the front row. The ultimate ending to an already great day.
Halloween in the Dallas office was very amusing. There were so many different costumes making their way around every floor. The morning started off with the sports team dressed up as, and re-enacting, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, complete with trotting around. There was a group performing an 80s workout, even with a video, on the Learning Center steps. The mayor from The Nightmare Before Christmas movie was there too, pacing the halls. I was a part of the hospitality Running of the Bulls. Many of us wore the traditional white with red bandanas outfits, while several dressed up as the bulls, wearing all black and bull masks that we made in the model shop. We started by taking the elevators up to the 6th floor, runners first, the bulls next, and then the stampede began. It was great seeing all the smiles on our faces along with others from the office watching the spectacle, but what a workout we had.
This past weekend I was able to take a quick trip down to Austin and San Antonio to visit a friend who is working on her Ph.D at the University of Texas. On Saturday, I joined her and some of her friends in her program and the geology program to search for fossils in a river bed in Blanco. It was amazing to see the fossils of the different creatures that once lived there. We may have even seen dinosaur prints! Now isn’t that cool? We then headed to San Antonio to visit the Alamo, where we learned about its history and got to experience the social atmosphere of the underground river walk. On Sunday, we headed to Austin, the capital of Texas. We window shopped at all of the stores on South Congress. Uncommon Objects was probably my favorite place; you can find anything there, from used postcards to old trinkets and dolls to animal artifacts. After South Congress, we headed to Austin Lake and Barton Springs where we found a food truck for Thai ice cream, which was a bowl of deliciously rolled ice cream. We then made our way to the capitol building, where we learned that if you took the Statue of Liberty off of her podium, she would not even touch the top of the Capitol dome. We also learned that when a new governor is sworn in, all of the portraits of the prior governors are shifted over one spot. This is a major project, and takes 3 full days to complete, because the portraits are hanging throughout the 4 stories of the dome. Before heading back to Dallas, we made a stop to see the HOPE Outdoor Gallery, where everyone is free to express their artistic talent by using spray-paint on the walls.
Now back in Dallas and working hard, but there is still so much to explore, both in and out of the office. Until next time.