Conversation with Carol Vanderbosch
Midwesterner, architectural designer (almost ready to pass her final exam), and so much more. Let’s get rolling. Where are you from?
Vanderbosch is Dutch, meaning “of the woods.” I grew up in Fort Wayne, IN where my Dad’s side of the family is from and where my Mom moved after college. Her family is from southern Indiana and western Kentucky. Did you know there’s an actual fort there? Not many people do. It’s named after Revolutionary War General “Mad” Anthony Wayne. It’s a small city that feels like a small town. Folks from Ft. Wayne are Midwesterners through and through, very friendly, and I love it there.
What was it about growing up in Ft. Wayne that made you think, “I want to be an architect?”
I guess that does go along with growing up in the Midwest, where’s there’s lots of land and doing projects is very easy. My family was very involved with making home improvements. We were always working on projects: the bathroom, retiling the kitchen, putting in a patio in the backyard. Meticulous work. It’s probably related that my siblings and I have chosen detail-driven professions. I have three brothers, the oldest, Joey, is a dentist, Scott, is in food chemistry and my youngest brother, Mark, is studying to be an accountant and will go to grad school this fall to get his MBA.
In 8th grade I discovered architecture. A teacher assigned a book report, I think it was on the topic of biographies, and brought in all different books of famous people and I picked up the one on Frank Lloyd Wright. It had beautiful pictures of Frank Lloyd Wright houses. Until then I knew interior designer was a thing, and DIY, but I didn’t know architecture was a job. That you could do that for a living. I remember thinking, ‘That looks really cool; that’s what I want to do.’ I like being creative and putting things together to see how they work, which led me to interior design. But in class I’d ask, “can I move these walls?” and the answer was “no, the architect will do that.” That’s when I knew I wanted to be an architect. I could always do interior design as an architect, but I couldn’t go the other way.
I started at Purdue in interior design, then transferred to Syracuse University for architecture. Syracuse was intense, but the school has an amazing study abroad program. That’s what sold me on the school. I lived in London and Florence. It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing that I’m so glad I did.
I moved to DC for a job in 2012. At the time (during the recession), it was about finding a job. Any job. Ultimately, I got hired by a firm in Georgetown, which then downsized like so many at the time.
Luckily, shortly thereafter, you found Blackburn.
There came a time during the recession when I was trying to decide, ‘Do I stay in DC? do I move to Chicago? go back to Ft. Wayne?’ So many architects were unemployed. I sent my resume everywhere, including Blackburn Architects. When I came in for the interview, I remember that (now-fellow Project Manager) Cesar Lujan and John Blackburn were interested in me, my portfolio, asking questions, and I was so impressed. Turns out that early experience was very indicative of the supportive culture of the firm. To this day, my favorite things about working here include the personal interest, the flexible and supportive studio environment.
Describe your passions outside of work?
Good question. I like to do lots of things. I enjoy biking, and I bike to work unless it’s raining or below 40 degrees. It’s about 4 miles; all downhill cruise in the morning, and then all uphill home. Jenni Blackburn calls me “the little Dutch girl” because I have a little egg crate basket on the back of my bike and sometimes carry baguettes in there.
And photography. Mostly nature. My mom printed large scale pictures I took in the Adirondacks at Kinko’s, framed them and hung them up. Now my brother, who lives in Indianapolis, has them in his house. That stuff is fun. I go for views – it plays into architecture when a client says, ‘I want a view out my bedroom window.’ I like shooting landscapes that show the client what they’ll see in the future, especially wide-angle panoramas. I took some for a current client, and it was cool to see the progression as I’ve returned to the site over the seasons. We were there in the early summer for the first time, and everything was very green. And then we were there in the fall, so there were some leaves, but it was mostly bare; getting close to winter. The most recent visit was just a couple of weeks ago, and it’s spring. I’ve loved seeing how the site has changed over the year.
I know you sometimes travel with John Blackburn to visit project sites. Let’s end with a favorite JAB story?
Taking him “home” (to Ft. Wayne this past winter) for a project was a first. It was interesting, driving him around and pointing out ‘oh, that’s where I learned to play tennis, and that’s the kennel where my Mom got our Miniature Schnauzer, Sunny; where to go for dinner? Well Casa is right here and delicious.’ I think it was a lot bigger city than he was expecting. It’s not every day you can show John someplace he hasn’t seen before. He told me that when he was a boy, in Tennessee, he only got a couple of radio stations, and late at night, he would listen to Ft. Wayne AM radio. 1190 WOWO. They had the biggest antenna that broadcast the farthest, and he could listen to it. How’s that for random?