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Building Experiences Through Architecture

Ryker Belnap’s dream is to work as an architect.

His love for design and construction has led him to travel around the country and, recently, to a job offer at an architecture firm in Boise.

Belnap would like to use the skills he’s learned as a master’s architecture student at the University of Idaho in Boise to serve the community that has given so much to him.

“Being an architect means to me having the opportunity to design buildings and have something that I created be permanent, but it’s also a tool to provide opportunities for others to explore and experience the spaces I design,” Belnap said.

While he shaped this dream during his sophomore year in high school, a family volunteer project put him down the path to self-discovery.

Belnap’s family joined a group of local volunteers to fundraise and build a playground for kids with disabilities. Soon, Belnap found himself as one of the 12 build managers for the project and supervising the other volunteers.

His willingness to help and his familiarity with the use of tools and construction concepts made the 16-year-old from Pocatello a natural leader for the playground project. Growing up, Belnap had already helped his grandfather in various projects at his wood shop. Later, he joined the theater stagecraft department in high school.

“Being in charge of some of the aspects of the construction project helped me discover my calling,” he said. “I was one of those kids in high school who was bored and not focused, I didn’t have the best grades my first two years, either, and I really didn’t know what I wanted to do in the future.”

Now 24, Belnap is hoping architecture will allow him to build experiential spaces that will be memorable to visitors. After building the playground and his scene shop experience in high school, Belnap wanted to explore design and construction-related fields. Architecture as a career looked like an interesting route to get there.

Ryker Belnap
Ryker Belnap

Closer to his Dream

The University of Idaho is the only option in the Gem State for an architecture degree and staying in Idaho was Belnap’s first choice. He applied and was accepted in the U of I College of Art and Architecture (CAA) as a graduate of Pocatello’s Century High School.

“The lesson I learned right away was to find something interesting in every class and to think that there was something valuable to learn from each class,” he said. “Then it’s easier to care about the class and to get excited about what you are learning.”

While working toward his bachelor’s degree, Belnap continued to volunteer on projects in line with his future career. Through his fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi, he was involved in the Ability Experience’s Build America Program. For two summers, Belnap traveled across the country to provide construction and design services at various summer camps for people with disabilities. He oversaw safety and training protocols as crew chief for his team, raised over $10,000 for the program and received the organization’s Summer of Service Award for his above-and-beyond commitment to service and leadership.

Being an architect means to me having the opportunity to design buildings and have something that I created be permanent, but it’s also a tool to provide opportunities for others to explore and experience the spaces I design. Ryker Belnap

Back to Giving

After receiving his bachelor’s degree in architecture in 2017, Belnap opted to stay in school and work toward a Master of Architecture at the U of I Urban Design Center in Boise.

“Moscow was great for my bachelor’s, but U of I Boise was the right choice for my master’s,” he said. “You get a very valuable professional lesson on how things work, there are more firms to do your internships with and more opportunities in general.”

During his graduate program at U of I Boise, Belnap worked at the U of I Integrated Design Lab and one day a week at Lombard/Conrad Architects in Boise. In his final semester, he also became the first CAA student to receive the university’s Outstanding Master’s Student Research and Creative Activity Award.

“Grad school has been really great for me professionally” Belnap said. “Putting together the knowledge from different undergrad classes in a single project for a class, learning what the professional environment works like, and talking to real clients and working with them was a great experience.”

His thesis, “Deception in the Detail: Opportunities of a Tectonically Dishonest Architecture,” revolves around breaking architectural rules and designing buildings that deceive perceptions and encourage a process of discovery. Following his spring 2019 graduation, Belnap has accepted a job at the same firm where he worked as an intern, Lombard/Conrad Architects.

He’s also looking forward to having more time to support his community.

“I didn’t have time to give back to my community while going to grad school, except for supporting the Ability Experience via donations,” he said. “I accepted the job with this firm in part because of their regular community service work.”

Ryker Belnap
Ryker Belnap helps at a camp for people with disabilities during his Ability Experience’s Build America Program.

Article by Maria Ortega, University of Idaho Boise

Photos by Joseph Pallen, University Communications and Marketing

Published May 2019.

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