5 Questions with the Urban Planning Design Team

By Communications Specialist, Grades 9-12, Maegan Azpiazu

Each year, Prep students in the Urban Planning and Design Advanced Honors class team up to form Gulliver's Urban Planning Design Team. With the guidance of their teacher, architecture faculty member Mrs. Christina Manrique, they engage in authentic community projects. They collaborate with practicing architects, city planners and/or local universities, and have the opportunity to design and propose new structures and perform community analysis for the enhancement of public places.

This year's Urban Planning Design Team – Andrea De Haro '18, Andres Garcia '18, Diego Simon '18 and Emma Gerlach '18 – took on the development of Miami's Fort Dallas Park and restoration of the Flagler Worker's House (Palm Cottage) inside the park. They presented their final proposals for the project, which was commissioned by the Dade Heritage Trust, to City of Miami representatives, contractors and developers, architects, attorneys, professors, and Gulliver faculty and administrators on May 21.

Emma will attend the University of Miami School of Architecture in the fall, while Andres plans to major in biology at the University of Southern California. Andrea is set to continue her studies at Syracuse University School of Architecture, and Diego will attend the Architectural Design degree program at Parsons School of Design at the New School. To watch a recap of their presentation, click here.

We caught up with two members of the Urban Planning Design Team, who reflected on their choice to pursue architecture at Gulliver, the proposal process and having Mrs. Manrique, who retired this year after 28 years, as a teacher.

What made you want to study architecture at Gulliver?

Emma: When I joined architecture in my freshman year of high school, I had no idea what it was or what it could offer me; I signed up on a whim. It turns out that that impulse decision was one of the best choices I have made through my four years here. If you had told me five years ago that I would be going to school for architecture, I never would have believed it, but here I am!

Andres: My brother started architecture at Gulliver as a sophomore, so I found out about the program then; he is four years older than me. Since I saw how much he enjoyed the class and all the interesting work they were doing, I was compelled to take the course when I began at Gulliver my freshman year.

What did you like the most about going through this proposal process? Why?

Emma: The thing I enjoyed most about the proposal process was the realness of it all. Being in class, you have assignments and parameters for a certain grade. Through the urban planning process however, we had to abide by government standards and rules every step of the way.

Andres: I enjoyed working collaboratively with city and park officials, as it gave me real-life experience and taught me how these proposals actually go about being commissioned.

What did you find the most challenging? During those challenging parts, what motivated you to keep going?

Emma: The most challenging aspect for me was communicating with real people to get work done. We could not do whatever we wanted or what we liked best, but rather what the community and city wanted instead. This was challenging, but motivated me to continue because communication is a very real part of real-world architecture. You don't design for yourself – you design for the client. It won't always be easy to provide what they want or need, and you might not necessarily like it, but that's part of the job.

What is one thing this project taught you that you'll carry with you through college?

Emma: This project has taught me how to deal with difficult people and situations, and it has shown me that there will always be solutions for the biggest problems. It has also shown me that good results only come from hard work, so commitment is necessary to yield a result ... you are proud of.

Andres: When you work collaboratively, you have to pull your own weight. Never rely on others to do your work for you.

What makes Mrs. Manrique a great teacher?

Emma: Mrs. Manrique is one of the greatest teachers I have ever had the fortune of learning from. She is very organized and purposeful, and she does not do anything without absolute reason. She has taught me all the ins and outs of an incredibly complex area of work, and made me feel that it is less work and more a mode of expression. [And] while pushing me to my highest potential, she has shown me love throughout the years and provided me and many others a home within the walls of Gulliver.

Andres: Her dedication to her craft, where she helps in every way she can. She would never give us the answers directly, but rather, she provided us with the tools and knowledge necessary to complete tasks.


Head of School Frank Steel presented Mrs. Manrique with the Spirit of Innovation Award at the 2018 Commencement ceremony on May 23. Given from time to time, this award, founded in 2017, recognizes students or faculty who make a substantial contribution to the Gulliver or wider community by solving problems that are local, global, or virtual in nature.