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Blueprint for life

Architectural studies graduate has big plans

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  • Story by Nancy Moen
  • Video by Shane Epping
  • Published: May 14, 2010

What’s your favorite structure on campus? It’s a logical question to ask August Miller, an outstanding graduating senior in architectural studies.

Miller diverges from the norm when asked to name a preferred MU landmark. Most students point to Jesse Hall, Memorial Union or the Columns as most-attractive features, but Miller waxes poetic about the Life Sciences Center, added in 2004.

He likes the building’s sweeping lines, functional space, light-filled atrium and the ground-floor walkway that invites visitors to stroll through the building. 

Miller may be slightly prejudiced in his pick because he has a special connection to the architectural firm that designed the Christopher S. Bond Life Sciences Center.

After a national search, Anshen + Allen architects selected Miller for a prestigious internship for spring semester 2009 at the international company’s headquarters in San Francisco.

Miller worked on in-design and under-construction projects with the educational-facilities team, including a dormitory renovation for the University of California—Santa Cruz. Interns typically serve at the whim of an architect as an extra pair of hands to do the work. 

“August was more than just an intern,” says Al Lee, senior project director. “He was a junior member of the team and able to handle real drafting assignments. We treated him as a team member. Lots of interns come, and it’s a hand-holding session. He required very little attention. He’s self-initiated and understands quickly.”

Drawn to design

Miller knew when he applied for the internship it was unlikely he would be chosen. It’s difficult for students from small programs (MU architectural studies has seven full-time faculty members) to compete successfully against students from schools with 60 to 70 faculty members. But he was determined to try.

Creating designs that evolve is Miller’s normal operating procedure. He worked at least 40 hours on a portfolio for the internship application, then spent another month making changes.

“Clearly, August is the standout student in the department,” says Ronald Phillips, associate professor of architectural studies. “His strength is he’s an incredible diagnostician. He has an unbelievable way of looking at the world and has the skills to match.”

Faculty members and fellow Mizzou students consider Miller a young man of few words who doesn’t make a big deal of his achievements. He’s not much on social activities or athletics either, so as attractive as the new Student Recreation Complex is, he doesn’t spend much time there.

Class time and free time are pretty much the same for Miller, who prefers to work on his architectural designs through sketches or computer applications. “I’m a nerd. I read and draw,” he says.

He figures the constant drawing he did during classes, particularly in high school in his hometown of Springfield, Mo., may have annoyed some teachers. But the sketching — an intersection of mathematics and art — keeps him focused.

Miller’s notebook demonstrates artistic talent mixed with architectural form. There are pages of details of curves and angles; views of chairs with u-shaped backs; intricate metal work; roofs with solar panels; soaring vertical lines on exterior walls; a pavilion for outdoor classes; and complete buildings with topography.

He likes the whole problem-solving process of architectural studies. What could be more fun than producing designs to fit a client’s need, staying in budget, understanding the engineering and creating a beautiful building that is structurally sound?

Building plans

Miller loved playing with building toys, particularly Legos, as a kid and may have inherited an interest in architecture from his grandfather, who drew designs for several houses in a small Alabama town.

After Miller’s high school record and national test scores brought scholarship offers, he opted for a Mizzou education, funded through Curators and Bright Flight scholarships.

By his senior year, Miller had demonstrated his ability to work independently. He received permission to do an individual capstone project rather than a studio project with several students presenting designs for a terminal building at Columbia Regional Airport.

Miller’s capstone expanded a project he had begun in 2008, an animated computer segment of a design proposal for a $30 million education and resource innovation center targeted for construction near Boonville, Missouri. Fundraisers, marketing specialists and an architectural firm already are using the animation, Phillips says.

Miller will receive a bachelor’s degree May 14 from the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences. Going from wearing a mortarboard to working in the world of brick and mortar is part of his personal master plan. He will attend the University of Cincinnati School of Architecture and Interior Design — one of several schools that accepted him into their master’s programs.

He expects to complete a degree in three years and will then follow some advice from Anshen + Allen to get back in touch.

Read more in:  Science & TechnologyOn CampusEducationArts & Culture

Reader feedback

  • I cannot begin to explain my appreciation for your focus on August Miller. Having been in class with him and seen the way his mind works — it is truly amazing. I graduated a year ahead of August but had the chance to really get to know him. He was someone I could turn to for help in conceptual thinking, for help perfecting the use of computer programs or when I needed a good laugh. The Architectural Studies Program is so small in comparison to the other programs at Mizzou that we are often overlooked. Yet, in my few years within the program, I saw the great potential it has. So many intelligent and creative students are opting to go to Mizzou for this program that, more and more, we’ll see students like August emerge. Again, thank you for highlighting the Architectural Studies Program. I loved every minute of it and look forward to seeing its great successes!

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Last updated: Feb. 22, 2012