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For those of you who don't know me, my name is Alissa Bozza. I currently work for the HKS Hospitality Group in our Dallas headquarters and have been living in Dallas for two years. I am a second-quarter Xchange Fellow and will be working out of our Washington, D.C. office for three months (July through September).
The majority of my life has been spent in the Midwest, growing up in a suburb of Chicago and going to school at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. My architectural education was rooted in classical design, so we modeled our design principals on architects like Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Palladio. Our program allowed us to travel the world and marvel in some of the greatest architectural wonders that have ruled the earth. I lived in Rome for nine months and studied traditional architecture throughout Europe.
We also had a large urban planning sector at our school, where I was able to study under some of the "new urbanism" greats and learn of ways to use planning and architecture to better a city. Because of my background, I was particularly excited about moving to D.C. I knew that the urbanism and architecture of D.C. reflected my background, and I was excited to see how some of these principles that were developed hundreds, if not thousands of years ago, could be incorporated into a modern-day city.
Article One: Made it!
Well that sure came up fast. It feels like it was just days ago that I found out I was going to D.C. for the summer. On the plane ride over, I began reading "Devil in the White City" and wondering if we'll ever have another world's fair as significant as the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. I landed and was greeted by two people from the office, Kim Coates and Chau Tran, who were anxious to get me settled into the city. As we drove through the city, I could not help but have flashbacks of the text I had just read about the World's Fair. We passed a number of grandiose monuments, museums and congressional buildings. It felt like every time I dwelled on one, we passed another and I'd miss it. Talk about a little kid in a candy shop, the history and architecture we were passing was enough to not only get me through three months, but enough to get me through a lifetime.
Article Two: U Street
We arrived at the apartment, which is located on 14th Street near U Street. The first thing I noticed was the amount of people around the U Street and 14th Street corridors. D.C. is a very diverse city, but particularly the U Street area. There are people of all ages, sizes, ethnicities, races and cultures pouring out of the bars, restaurants and shops. There's not one theme or trend in the area and it makes the area feel so dynamic. It's almost the idea that nobody fits the mold so everybody fits the mold. Jane Jacobs' idea of "eyes on the street" really shines through here. With people always around, you feel comfortable walking, running or biking, no matter the day or time. I was excited for this to be my new home for next three months.
Article Three: Meet the Office
Starting work was kind of strange, because it was like starting a new job, except having never interviewed. I didn't know who I would be working with or what I would be working on. Right off the bat, the D.C. office welcomed me with open arms. Both principals, Shannon and Mike, sat down with me individually to find out what I wanted to work on and get to know me better. They got me signed up for a number of company activities including a tubing trip in West Virginia, a sand volleyball team, a foosball tournament and even a Nats game. I was anxious to get to know everyone and start working on a team.
Article Four: the Metro and Buses
One of the best parts of living in D.C. is how easy it is to navigate the buses and metro. This may have something to do with the fact that the city is gridded, but I also think it's the overall mentality of the city. The majority of people would prefer to bus, bike, train or walk than drive, so a lot of people do not even own a car. Not only can I use any of those options to get to work, but I have been using the metro to get to other neighborhoods around D.C. Whether it be a quick trip to the zoo, Old Town Alexandria, Georgetown or Arlington, Virginia, I have been able to get around with minimal confusion, time or money. There is also something refreshing and special about taking a city in by walking. You are able to connect at a human scale and really engage with the monuments and buildings on a day-to-day basis.
Article Five: New York
Not only can you use the buses and trains to get around D.C., you can use them to get to other East Coast cities. My first stop, New York City. I got off the train at Penn Station, walked outside and immediately was transported to a new world. Talk about a jump in scale. I cranked my neck all the way back to try and take in the massive scale of the city. In stopping to look at these huge high-rise buildings, I almost got knocked over by the insane crowds of people. New York has such a unique, high energy to it that I don't think any other city I have ever been to possesses. I spent the weekend going to the tops of high buildings, strolling through Central Park, going in and out of museums and eating my way through the city. I would say out of everything I did that weekend, I was most affected by the One World Trade Center. Not only was the tower beautifully done as it disappeared into the oblivion, but the serenity of the falling water into the foundations of the Twin Towers was so incredibly powerful and impactful.