Summer Intern Series: Cole Rembecki

For the past 18 years, David M. Schwarz Architects has maintained a travel fellowship program which offers undergraduate and graduate architecture students an opportunity to travel and intern in our office. Cole Rembecki is a 2018 Summer Fellow from University of Notre Dame School of Architecture and will be receiving his Bachelor of Architecture degree from Notre Dame in 2019. Keep reading to learn more about Cole Rembecki and his plans to travel to Germany and Poland.


Favorite place to eat in DC: Matchbox Pizza in Chinatown

Favorite DC building: Pan American Union Building

What is the best thing that has happened for you in the city? Capitals winning the Stanley Cup. That was awesome.

What is your favorite building, in DC or elsewhere? Villa Farnesina in Rome, Italy

What is on your Spotify playlist? Queens of the Stone Age, Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin

Favorite ice cream flavor: I’m a huge double fudge brownie kind of person. It’s the Ben and Jerry’s kind that’s specifically my favorite.

What was your first job? I worked at a valve factory. We made valves for refrigerators and air conditioners.

How do you like your eggs? scrambled


What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on brick patterns for the Vanderbilt project. Basically, David M Schwarz is in the office and we had this whole review based on what kind of bricks we should be using on the exterior, what kind of patterns, and then what kind of bricks within those patterns and then different combinations and all that. There’s a lot of different possibilities. For the last few days I’ve been taking little paper clips, cutting them, and then hot-gluing them to the back of these accent bricks so that we can hang them off of this palette of normal brick to see what the accent brick would look like on the regular wall. There was a lot paper clips and a lot of bricks that needed to be fixed up like that.

What is something you have done during your time at DMSAS that you had never done or tried before?

Pretty much everything. I had never modeled before—basically cutting foam, cutting museum board—mostly the manual labor side of it. I feel like everything I’m doing here I can use back in my last year of school, which is next year, which makes me really excited.

I think building models is a pretty helpful exercise because it’s easy to do and it really does give you a great idea of where the light’s coming and how it looks 3-dimensionsally. That’s the biggest thing I have trouble with, just imagining the 3D aspect of my projects, because most of the time I work in 2D.

What is your favorite DMSAS project? Is there is another project (past or present) that you wish you could have worked on?

I really like the Texas Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, TX. I’m a big baseball fan and the stadium in St Louis is kind of like what this firm would do—traditional, blends in well with the rest of the city—so that’s what they did their stadium in TX. That would have been a neat thing—to have been a part of that project. Also because how often do you get design a stadium? That’s got to be one of the hardest things to design ever.

Why do you study architecture?

I really like the idea of architecture as the basis of society because no matter what you do in this world, you need architecture to do it. Everything happens in a building or some kind of designed atmosphere. Even more so, when I graduate, I think I want to do urban design, which is more so related to the idea that if your city is well designed, people generally want to be there and want to visit. Places like DC, for example, it was always planned out to be what it is now. It started with a vision and I think you can make some really nice spaces within cities, especially now. Especially where I live, there are good areas and there are bad areas, and if you could string them together into one cohesive unit as a city, then I think your city works a lot better. Finding ways to solve that challenge is pretty exciting to me.

If you weren’t studying architecture, what would you be doing?

In high school we had this news program. We did it every morning for home room, 15 minute shows, and I was the sportscaster guy. I would always go look at the games, look at the results and then report on them the next morning. That was a lot of fun, so I guess I might have pursued something like journalism.

Why did you choose your particular destinations? The basis of the trip is looking at the postwar reconstruction in Germany after WWII. The plan right now is to go to Warsaw, Poland first, then Dresden, then Berlin. We did a project last semester in our studio at Notre Dame and it was a project in Aleppo, Syria. We did a reconstructed district within the historical part of the city as one of our projects and that just got me interested in reconstruction. And I was always interested in European history so it just intrigued me.

Once you arrive, what are you most looking forward to?

I am actually looking forward to Dresden the most. There is a cathedral there that they had been rebuilding since the 1990s. But it was destroyed in the war and they didn’t decide on what to do with it until a few decades after and they wanted to rebuild it exactly the way it was, using the part that was still standing to rebuild it. That must have been a huge challenge. They just finished it not too long ago and I would love to go see it in person.

What do you hope to gain from your travels?

Just a good insight into repair in an urban area that’s been damaged by something. The way I see it, in WWII you had whole city blocks that had been bombed out and all the people had been displaced, so they became basically shells of buildings. Looking at how they rebuilt and filled that area with people again would be something that I really want to look at. One of the things I want to do for my thesis is some sort of urban regeneration in this neighborhood in St. Louis that’s very depleted. Within this neighborhood they cleared all the land—because the area had become rundown economically and phsyically—and their solution to that problem was to wreck all the buildings and then allow for redevelopment. In doing that, they completely tore out entire neighborhoods and all the people dispersed. They had hopes that people would buy the land again and rebuild, but nobody really did. So now they’re empty city blocks, kind of like the city blocks that had been bombed out. So, how do you get people back into those areas?

Are there any souvenirs (free or bought) that you want to bring back with you? Many travel fellows say they treasure the filled sketchbook they bring back with them.

Not just in Europe; from DC too. Sometimes before work I sit in the coffee shop across the street and sometimes I’ll draw something while I’m sitting there. The sketchbook I’m using I actually got in Rome a few years ago and I had planned to fill it with stuff in Rome, but since I never got around to doing that, I guess I can fill it up with things from DC.

What techniques do you most enjoy using to document architecture—photos, sketches, watercolors, 3D models, etc.?

When we do 3D work in school it’s always constructed and perspectives. Anyone in this office will tell you that Notre Dame students are good at drawing, all the handwork, all the rendering—we do watercolor rendering as our basis—but they are not good at computer drawing or modeling. Our school places such a heavy emphasis on doing everything by hand and making it truly like a work of art. When you draw the borders on watercolor paper the pencil makes a little indentation so it creates a natural barrier for the paint to stop at. You could print your drawings from a computer but it doesn’t have the same effect as hand renderings. Hand rendering teaches artistic value, which there is a lot of in our work. I have never done modeling before but would like to start.