Earlier today architecture students climbed into their “shoes” and prepared to defy the limits of expectations by walking on water. Poised at the edge of the pond behind the Green Library at MMC, the students were ready for a race that has become one of the most beloved and highly anticipated traditions at FIU: Walk on Water.
For the first time, the Department of Architecture event, now in its 27th year, was open to students across the state with teams from West Palm Beach State College and the University of Florida participating. The goal is to eventually make the events national and international, says Architecture Professor Jaime Canaves who oversees the event.
“It makes it a lot more exciting,” he says. “The university is part of the community. Everything we do is part of the community.”
The exercise teaches architecture students how to design something that is functional, which is extremely valuable for students at FIU and everywhere.
Dharmesh Patel ’97, the co-chair of the architecture school at Palm Beach State College, is an FIU alumnus and one of Canaves’ former students. He is also a second-place winner of Walk on Water. Patel wanted to bring his own students to experience it.
“In any architecture school, you’re asked to solve a problem,” he says. “And this is a good way to solve a problem and to test out the design.”
He adds that architecture students don’t always get to work with full-scale models, and Walk on Water provides that needed experience to work with and design live-sized objects.
Nataly DeLeon, an architecture student at Palm Beach State College, echoes these sentiments, saying she enjoyed getting to think about the functionality of the shoes as well as the design.
She also says the event was a new experience – and one she’s ready to come back to again.
“I’m already thinking of next year,” she says. “Coming here, you get to see what works. I’ve never done this before. I’m glad we had an opportunity like this. It makes you more motivated about the major itself.”
Priscilla Cuadra, an FIU architecture student and 2013 winner, says having students from other schools come to Walk on Water lays the groundwork for discussion and collaboration.
“It’s giving us this opportunity to have a dialogue among different architecture schools,” she says. Cuadra explains each school may focus on different concepts or styles, but at Walk on Water, students can find common ground where they can come together for the race.
Walk on Water is about getting an A in Canaves’ Materials and Construction Methods class. If you make it across the pond without falling, you make the grade. It’s also about earning a prize. Because so many students were competing this year, there were two races, and the first-place winners of each race earned $1,000.
Walk on Water is also about pride, spirit and true grit. And, truth be told: it’s also about the competition.
With an announcer from FIU Sports narrating the race and friends and family cheering on the sidelines for their favorite racer, the ambiance is one of excitement.
Students could enter the competition individually or as a team, and many of the FIU students had team names like Cuban Coffee, Fast and Tiny and Las Chancletas.
Just shy of the one minute and three-second record, this year’s winners were FIU’s Immanuel Miranda-Burns and William Valle Pinto who raced across the pond in one minute and six seconds. Team Fast and Tiny, also from FIU, came in second at one minute and 23 seconds.
“I was so happy, and trying to keep focused,” says Miranda-Burns, of crossing the finish line for his team.
As to their process designing this year’s victorious shoes, Miranda-Burns and Valle Pinto say they wanted to keep their shoes simple. It was all about making the shoes float, be balanced – and be fast.
“We studied different winners’ designs,” Valle Pinto says. They also researched the designs of boats and added an aluminum fin to their shoes – which they think helped their design work very efficiently.
Valle Pinto says the two also learned the value of their teamwork, and they were happy to keep the great Walk on Water tradition alive.
“It really shows the tenacity of architecture students,” Miranda-Burns says. He adds this is about hard work – researching, working, designing and then walking across that pond to make the grade.
That’s architecture at FIU. And soon, architecture students from numerous schools will get to share in the tradition.