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Margot Elton Selected Work M.Arch Path A Applicant

my father’s footsteps fall 2006

Creative writing has always been a passion of mine. Through writing, I have been able to explore my personal relationships, record memories, and create worlds into which I can escape. This piece was written for a creative nonfiction course, for which we were asked to write a relationship piece.

When I was seven, I waited up, lying in the dark, until I heard the car in the driveway and the back door slam. Minutes later, footsteps creaked on the stairs and I called out, “Daddyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy.” The footsteps stopped, change direction, and my bedroom door slowly opened. “What are you still doing awake?” he asked me, a smile in his voice. “I missed you.” He came and sat on the side of my bed and talked to me, for just a few minutes, before kissing me on the forehead and telling me that now it was really bedtime. Finally, I was able to fall asleep. I was four years old when my father left the architecture firm he was working for and went out on his own. He bought a building to house Elton & Associates and my sister and I stood watching as he and my mother painted, lay down carpets, and configured desks. We played with old sets of drawings, pretending to be architects ourselves, hunching over plans and sections like we knew what we were looking at. Last year, my sister told me that she thinks we were deprived children. “He was never around,” she explained. “Mom fed us dinner, gave us baths, and put us to bed. He came in after we were asleep and left before we woke up.” The words, “deprived children” seemed harsh to me. That day, I defended our daddy when my sister attacked, recounting memories from photographs on the walls of our house. The summer before my senior year of college, I discovered a passion. During an intensive studio architecture course, I found myself truly happy. My studio instructor would rip apart two full days of work in twenty minutes and I would have to leave the studio to go cry outside, but even in those moments I was inspired and excited. Afterwards, my father asked me what I thought. “I want to go to architecture school,” I told him. “You’ve got the bug,” he said, smiling. “I can tell.” My father never sits still and never relaxes. When we go to our country house for the weekends, he tinkers until the sun sets. He rebuilt our barn two years ago, even harnessing himself to the roof to re-tar and shingle it. The current project is a garage with a woodshop for himself and a bedroom for when “the girls bring home boyfriends.” Last summer, I spent every Saturday outside with my father, listening to country western music, laying concrete block. Our hands were raw and cracked and sweat poured down our faces as we maneuvered eighty pound bags of mortar mix into the mixer, and my father never stopped humming.

I asked my boyfriend to tell me something about himself that no one else knew. We had just started dating, and I wanted to feel special. He didn’t give me a response, and a week later, I figured he wasn’t comfortable enough yet. That night, he called me. “My biggest goal in life and my dream is to be an outstanding father,” he started in when I picked up. “My father left when I was young so I never had that quintessential father figure. The scary part of this dream of mine is, as I get deeper and deeper into medical school, I’m realizing that being a physician is entirely incompatible with being an invested father. I’m worried I’m not going to be able to be the parent I want to be. Chew on that.” In the country, the sun streams through my curtains as it rises and as I hear the rustles of my parents beginning the day, I turn my back to the windows and bury my face in a pillow. Until the buttery smell of frying eggs sneaks into my bedroom, I stay curled up in a warm ball underneath my down comforter. My mother grinds her coffee, and I hear them place the heavy skillet on the stove burner. “Oh, damn.” In my father’s voice, I hear the family morning slip away. “I’ve got to call the office.” His footsteps pad out of the kitchen, and disappear. I drift off, and the next thing I know is the sound of eggs spattering in their pan. I pull myself out of my warm cocoon only because I love family breakfast. We eat and laugh and sometimes it goes on for hours. My mother is standing at the stove, about to flip the eggs over easy. The flipping is always daddy’s job. I peek upstairs: my father sits in his swivel chair, poring over a set of working drawings, phone at his ear, speaking intently to an employee stuck in the office. The eggs have been flipped, and my mother and I sit down at the kitchen table. We eat, and talk, and even laugh a little, but mostly we stare at my father’s empty chair. My father and I took tennis lessons together during my senior year of high school. Every Thursday night, he’d pull up in front of our house at 7:50, honk three times, and wait. During the ten minute drive, we talked. About school, about my friends, about his work, about nothing in particular. I always brought music, CDs of the Backstreet Boys or 98 Degrees. My daddy learned the lyrics almost as fast as I did, and sang along in a falsetto, swinging his head back and forth in a parody of the “Backyard Boys,” as he called them. Thursdays were special days, because after tennis, daddy came home instead of going back to work. We joined him at the kitchen table while he ate his microwaved meal. Mostly, the conversation consisted of my father spilling out all the problems he was having at work: a zoning hearing he wasn’t going to win, an employee who wanted extra time off, or a contractor who suddenly had decided the job would cost a four hundred thousand more than he had bid for. My mother brainstormed with him, usually just to have something to say. I mostly stayed silent and listened, soaking up the presence of daddy. I was home for a week in October, and my father left work one night to go to dinner with me. We walked from our house to the Chinese restaurant he knows I love, and for hours, just talked. About my summer class, and my fall semester at Haverford, about my thesis, and my plans for next year. We talked about his new six-story steel-frame building, and the window design he wants to put in the garage when he starts framing it this summer. On the walk home, we talked about my choice to go to architecture school. I told him that I knew I wanted to be an architect, and I told him that I was scared. “Why?” I took a deep breath. “Daddy, I don’t want to be you.”

figure drawing

Drawing nudes allowed me to study a form I know well, the human body, in a new medium. I was forced to think of the human form in a spatial sense, and forget the proportions my mind believed to be true.

sleeping nude; charcoal on paper spring 2009 • 2 hour study

nude; charcoal and conte crayon on paper spring 2009 • 90 minute study


Drawing dancers allowed me to think about grace and fluidity of form in relation to the human body.

dancer; conte crayon on paper winter 2009 • 15 minute study

dancer; conte crayon on paper winter 2009 • 15 minute study

dancers face of a poised dancer; charcoal on paper winter 2009 • 90 minute study

dancer; conte crayon on paper winter 2009 • 1 hour study


sketchbook portraits; pencil on paper 2008

portraits; charcoal and pencil on paper fall 2008 • 2 hour study


Drawing landscape helped me think about the way a drawing can capture movement. I found drawing landscape to be a way to engage mysef with the natural world, which appealed to my interest in sustainability and environmental responsbility.

copy of monet’s the rocks at pourville, low tide; pencil on paper fall 2008 • 3 hour study

mendon landscape; charcoal and colored pencil on paper fall 2008 • 1 hour stuy

the built environment

eric goodwin passage; pencil on paper fall 2010 • 30 minute study

Drawing the built environment helped me think about proportion and its relation to successful building, as well as gain an appreciation for building composition.

fanueil hall, boston; pencil on paper summer 2010 • 90 minute study


The process of metalsmithing forces one to carefully plan a design before constructing, as all pieces need to fit together precisely. I believe that there are many similarities between the craft involved in metalsmithing and the practice of architecture.

tie clip: cut and brushed silver

lightning bolt lapel pin: cut, brushed, and welded bronze and copper.

jewelry xox: cut, brushed, and welded silver and bronze.

artists complex career discovery summer 2006 • 2 week project

Project: Design an artists’ complex for the Fort Point area of Boston. The program includes artists’ live/work spaces, gallery/exhibition space, classroom/studio spaces, retail, cinema, café, bar, and community outdoor spaces.

In developing my design for this artists complex, I first studied a variety of building organizations and circulation patterns. Simultaneously, I studied the building in programmatic sketches as well as figure ground elevations and sections to get a sense of the shapes and feel of the complex as a whole. I ultimately designed the complex around a ramped circulation/exhibition space with a public courtyard in the center.

ramp study

program massing sketch

artist live/work units classroom/studio circulation/exhibition retail cinema café/bar outdoor terrace

The final design for this artist’s complex utilized the ramp as both formal gallery space and informal exhibition space, allowing for artists to open their studio onto the ramp, and to the public, if they so desired. The design also incorporated outdoor spaces by bringing the adjacent park into the central courtyard of the building and employing a series of outdoor terraces and balconies on the upper levels, as can be seen in the facade study below. final model final model

study spaces career discovery summer 2006 • 2 week project

Project: Design three outdoor study spaces of varying size to be built into the grounds of Le Corbusier’s Carpenter Center at Harvard University, using a given kit of parts. The study spaces must be built physically into the ground, below ground level.

I chose to construct my study spaces out of poured-in-place concrete to establish a sense of congruity with the concrete Carpenter Center. The plaster casts gave the models the same sense of weight and substance that the actual concrete forms would display.

small study space (1 occupant)

For an entrance to my medium study space, I used a ramp to pay homage to the ramp that snakes through the center of the Carpenter Center. Le Corbusier intended the ramp to be a focal point of the building and of pedestrian traffic. With this study space, I tried to do the same.

medium study space (5-8 occupants)

site model, hand drawn, colored in photoshop

The Carpenter Center is composed of complex curves and angles that I wanted to imitate in my design for the study spaces. To generate forms for the study spaces, I overlapped the outlines of the plans of the Carpenter Center with that of a building section. I studied the overlapping areas and found shapes that intrigued me.

large study space

(20-30 occupants)

campus bus stop design studio spring 2007 • 3 week project

Project: Create a bus stop for the campus bus system between three college campuses. Structure must have minimum 3 sides enclosed.

final model

The inter-campus bus lines are used frequently by students at Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Swarthmore Colleges to travel between and connect the tri-college system. My goal with this project was to make a structure that would be easily recognizable for students unfamiliar with a sister campus that would still maintain beauty through simplicity. front elevation, hand drawn

I am fascinated by the beauty of structure. In this project, I attempted to accentuate the steel trusses in the roof as the focal point of the bus stop to share this admiration. final model

cardboard chair

Project: Design and construct a chair using only single-ply cardboard that is structurally sound and can hold the weight of a person. The design may not employ any form of adhesives or external reinforcements.

design studio fall 2006 • 2 week project

To create the joints in this chair, I primarily used notching. The slats of the chair are notched into the base. The base is composed of several pieces alternating and offset from each other rather than one solid edge to add an element of stability and allow one to look inside and see the structure of the chair more easily.

Portfolio November 10  

Portfolio update for Nov 10