Building a Strong Foundation: Q&A with Valerie Quarles

Valerie Quarles

Since kindergarten, Valerie Quarles has been surrounded by the remodeling and redesign of her family’s 1910 historic home. Once she was old enough she went from watching the remodel to helping design it. Now about to enter her freshman year at the College of Design, Quarles reflects on how her unique background helped her decide to pursue a career in architecture and become one of only 15 students nationwide to win Gerdau North America’s Gerdau Scholarship.

How did you become interested in architecture and historic preservation?

“My family moved to Minnesota from Connecticut in 2005. The house that my parents bought was built in 1910 and it needed a lot of work. My dad did a lot of research and used his pre-existing skills to renovate it, room by room. While he was renovating, he insisted that I understand everything that he was doing. The renovation process began when I was in kindergarten and is still ongoing, I’ve been living in a partial construction zone for more than a decade.”

Why did you decide to pursue your degree in architecture at the College of Design?

“Once I got older I started actively helping my dad with his renovations. By middle school, I began to consider architecture as a potential career path. Then, in high school, I started to seriously think about what kind of colleges to consider and I decided to look for colleges with strong architecture programs that were situated in metropolitan areas.

I had figured out that houses like my family’s were in suburbs very close to or bordering major cities and I realized that I had a vested interest in making sure that historic buildings like our house weren’t demolished. I want to save historic buildings in a way that not only preserves their original charm, but also makes them desirable to the modern occupant or visitor. A degree in architecture allows me to do this and also gives me the opportunity to design new projects that enrich neighborhoods.”

Do you have a favorite architectural style?

“Given my background, I should probably be attached to an early 20th century style, but right now I appreciate just about any structure that solves what it was designed to solve.”

What are you most excited to do during your first year at UMN?

“I’m excited to meet new people! As a longtime Minnesota resident I’m eager to show people the Twin Cities I’ve grown to love. I’m also looking forward to finally diving into the profession I’ve been eager to practice for so many years.”

Learn more about the College of Design’s School of Architecture.

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