Mónica Ortiz Cortes

Mónica Ortiz Cortes

Tuesday, 20 August 2019 02:23

Thank You DC

These past few weeks in DC have been fun and full of achievements. The internship has come to an end, so today I will be sharing an overview of my experience with HABS(Historic American Buildings Survey) and LHIP(Latino Heritage Internship Program) in DC. This summer the team that I was part of documented a Row House in the Woodley Park area of DC. This house called a day lighter was known and popular for its natural light and ventilation that was integrated into its design. After ten weeks, we finished all the drawings and ended up with the results seen below.

We finished with a total of six sheets which included the drawings of the elevation, two floor plans, a section, and door and frame details. I enjoyed the whole process ever since we started. I would say that my favorite part was hand sketching at the site, and later seeing the result in CAD makes it even more exciting. I'm so grateful for the opportunity I got, to learn how to use a laser scanner and a point cloud to draw the elevation, although it was challenging at times its incredible how tools help us document certain things easier.

This internship gave me so many experiences, apart from getting to know my coworkers and learning new techniques and acquiring professional experience hopefully for my future career in this field, I got to meet and network with people in the architecture and heritage fields. I even had the opportunity to show my work to an American Institute of Architects Historic American Buildings Survey Steering Committee. This exposed me to issues that the Heritage Documentation program is going through and how the program works, it also further reassured me on how important the education on documentation is and how more people should learn and know about HABS documentation. One of my new goals is to one day hopefully become a member of that group and help further the knowledge of HABS on others.

This internship couldn’t have been possible without all my mentors throughout all these years. Starting off from the ones in Architecture school who introduced me to HABS documentation and encouraged me to participate in competitions and to even apply to HABS internships. Also couldn't have been possible without my professors at Upenn who encouraged us to apply for this internship as well. But most importantly the LHIP and HABS for selecting me and giving me such an amazing summer filled with opportunities to further my skills. Thank you, I truly loved my job and all the people I met along the way, and I will never forget it.


Before I officially sign off from my blogs I want to thank you, the reader, for visiting my page. I hope that my experiences as told by me have been of some use or enjoyment to you all.


Adios o Hasta Luego,




Ps. Contact Information

Email: moni.ortz.archs@gmail.com


Figure 1. Elevation Process made in AutoCad. 



Figure 2. Section process made in AutoCad. 



Figure 3. Plan process made in AutoCad. 


Friday, 26 July 2019 01:10

Reunited with Documentation

Welcome back to my blog!


These last two weeks have been pretty great and filled with a lot of learning opportunities. One of the things accomplished was our last field visit, to do what remained of hand sketching and measurements for the row house. We also had a tour of the Library of Congress, which was super fun and exciting (at least for me). I will explain why further on. For this blog I'm going to be talking a little bit more about the Library of Congress for all the folks that maybe aren't as familiar.




The Library of Congress is the main research arm of the U. S. Congress, and is also the largest library in the world.1 It contains a variety of books, recordings, photographs, newspapers, maps and etc. between all of their collections. Everything started in 1800; as part of the act that relocated the national government from Philadelphia to Washington, $5,000 were provided to buy books for the use of Congress.2 By 1902 Thomas Jefferson approved the position for the Librarian of Congress, being this position appointed by the President.  As the federal government and Washington expanded  and grew rapidly economically, Ainsworth Spofford successfully advocated for a national library that could be used by both congress and the people.2 We can visit the Jefferson Building (which was built by 1897) today thanks to his efforts .


Figure 1. Construction of the Library of Congress, Jefferson Building.



The library is located in Washington, DC and its collections are homed in 3 buildings in Capitol Hill, but the Jefferson Building is the most beautiful I've seen so far. You don’t need to visit the library to access their collections, you can go online where they have tons of resources available 24/7.3 The collections have more than 168 million items which include books, manuscripts, films, maps even sheet music and sound recordings.




Part of the collections that are at the Library of Congress are the surveys and drawings conducted by the Heritage Documentation Program by HABS, HAER or HALS. As part of the HDP intern experience we visited the Library of Congress for a tour to see where our finished products will be stored for generations to come. I had been looking forward to this day all summer since the drawings submitted for the Leicester B. Holland and Charles E. Peterson Prize are also part of the collection, so I was eager to see one of the entries I had participated in, in person, at such an important place. I was surprised when the archivist had chosen one of the projects I worked on with the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico (Lazaretto of Goats Island - PR), which won the Holland Prize on 2016,4 as an example of contemporary HABS documentation. It was a very exciting and rewarding moment. We saw a variety of examples of projects from photographs, beautiful drawings of pedestal ideas for the Statue of Liberty, sketches from architects, even wallpapers. I never imagined they had wallpaper. It was just a snapshot of things we could find there. Then we walked to the Jefferson building which was incredible and beautiful. The amount of architectural detail everywhere is mesmerizing. I could be there all day just trying to look at the finer details. It’s a must go, so add it to your list!




This internship has influenced me in so many ways thus far, and the visit to the Library of Congress has inspired me even more and confirmed that I'm in the field I want to pursue a career in. Historic Preservation is important. Our heritage is important and needs to be preserved for future generations. I will continue to enjoy what's left of this experience thanks to LHIP and HABS.


See you in my last Blog,


- Monica




3.Library of Congress research website https://www.loc.gov/

4.Lazaretto - Goats Island. Leicester B. Holland Prize winner 2016. https://www.loc.gov/item/pr1526/

5.Heritage Documentation Program Collections with the Library of Congress Search. https://www.nps.gov/hdp/coll.htm


Figure 1: 

Handy, Levin C, photographer. 

Construction of the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/item/2007664045/>.

Saturday, 13 July 2019 15:21

Museums, Memorials and more Museums

Hello readers,

The past two weeks have continued to be fun and full of learning. To this date, we are still producing the digital drawings of our row house closing in on the end product. It has been very interesting working with the point cloud and also the field measurements to be as accurate as possible when translating all our field notes. But for this Blog post I'm going step away from my work and talk about some of the places I've been to and experiences I've had here in DC.

Washington, DC has so much to offer. There are so many things to do like going on scenic bike rides, visiting tons of museums, as well as, walking and taking in the beautiful architecture. Since I arrived at DC I've visited the Holocaust Museum, the Air and Space Museum, The Museum of National History, The African American Museum, The National Portrait Gallery and, The National Zoo.


I cant forget to mention I've also toured the US Capitol and the White House exhibition at the White House Visitor Center and The Bureau of Engraving and Printing to see how money is made. Honestly, the list of places goes on and it'll keep growing for my remaining weeks in DC.

Some of my favorites so far have been the US Capitol, for me just walking the halls where important people have been, is like stepping through history, just like when I go to an archive and get to touch historical documents from the 1800's. The amount of sculptures inside is incredible and the paintings take you through pivotal moments in history. And the Portrait Gallery, my visit was short but it was interesting to see how the presidents portraits are starting to change from the classic portrait to a more modern painting or representation of the person.

For someone who has only read and watched movies or documentaries about WWII and the Holocaust, the museum is a mind-blowing experience where you can further learn and try to comprehend what millions of human beings went through and only "try" to imagine how it could've felt. The same goes for the African American Museum and how it shows us this community and all they had to overcome.

Something else I experienced this past week was the 4th of July! I've never spent this holiday in the United States before, remembering that I'm from Puerto Rico and this holiday is not as hugely celebrated there as it is here. It was a fun experience to watch the parade and all the representation from our military as well as from high school bands and other groups. At the end of the day, I was lucky to be invited to the Department of Interior Independence Day event to watch the fireworks. My friend and I joined a huge group of people that were also invited and the Secretary of Interior to watch the fireworks shows from the terrace of the Main Interior Building. Honestly, best viewing spot of all time, the fireworks were spectacular.

Thank You LHIP for this great opportunity to explore a new city and learn more about so many different things. 

Until next time, 





Thursday, 20 June 2019 12:45


Hello, Welcome back to my blog!


The past four weeks have been very fun and exciting over here in Washington DC. I've been learning so much about how to do proper documentation and using programs to process different kinds of data. The truth is nobody can ruin the hype or the fun that I'm having while I'm doing my work. This week I'll talk to you about what the documentation process involves and how its conducted, as well as all the software that I'm learning to use and how my experience has been so far.


Like I mentioned in my previous publication, our site is located in Washington, DC in the Woodley Park neighborhood. The original owner, C. H. Smalls took out a building permit for ten row houses in 1922. Later, they were designed by architect George T. Santmyers, who was the most prolific designer of row houses in Washington.(footnote 1.) By September the construction was mostly done. So our house is almost 100 years old. Wow!


The House is a pretty small structure measuring approximately 20ft by 54ft including the front porch but excluding the garage and back patio. Its two stories and it includes an attic and basement. It has very interesting features since it was designed to take advantage of natural light as much as possible. Some skylights were included on the designs that you will see in a section at the end of the summer. So I can say that it's a fairly small house that is very comfortable but a little bit challenging to document.


 How does the documentation process take place? You might ask.


First, we visit our site and review the spaces and which drawings are necessary. For this project we will be drawing 2 floor plans a section (think that you are slicing a piece of cake, same thing but a building) and elevation. Each team member has a task, we each get to hand sketch a part of the floor plan. We do these sketches in grid paper with pencil and the goal is to do it as proportionally as possible. After the sketching is done we work together to hand measure with a tape-measure each part of the house. We use a methodology for this specifically for HABS drawings. We use this method so everything is uniform and if someone in 50 years looks them up they can understand what they are reading. You can find the guidelines if you click here: https://www.nps.gov/hdp/standards/habsguidelines.htm


On another visit, we arrived with a laser scanner and camera. The laser scanner literally scans its surroundings creating a digital three dimensional point cloud (Yes imagine a cloud composed of many, many points) that is the shape of what was scanned. I'm not gonna lie, this was super useful to learn how to use since it helped us produce the base geometry of the elevation drawing since we couldn’t reach the highest parts to measure them. This scanning process involves so many things, but you would take several scans of the same place but in different locations to grab as much data as possible, then in another program they are all stitched together to form one point cloud. At the same location of the scanner we also took images to create panorama photos that are later also going to be stitched to the point-cloud.


After we have all the measurement and scanning data the computer work begins. We start by using AutoCad to draw digitally the plans with the measurement we used; and HABS has guidelines for that too. Now the juicy part starts… processing the scanning data. For this part, our trusty instructor Jason taught us how to use PTGui, Cyclone and Cloudworks. It's my first experience using any of these programs, and although at first it was daunting and challenging it was very rewarding to see the results and gain this experience (something new for the resume! Thanks Jason!). With PTGui we eliminate information that we don’t want from the Panorama images, and this is where the panorama is stitched together. Also, from PTGui we cut up the panoramas into six square images that are later stitched to the point-cloud. The purpose of the images to the point cloud is to give it real color and texture to the scan, an example can be seen in the image above. Cyclone is the program that stitches the Laser scan and images together. After all of that is processed, it's uploaded and through a plug-in in Cad (Cloudworks) we open the cloud and can do slices through the cloud and draw over it.


The laser scanning can have other uses apart from a reference to do drawings, but virtual tours can be created. For examples about this you can click here:https://www.nps.gov/hdp/exhibits/amb/amb_index.htm


The past few weeks have been filled with work, but very rich in experience. It has all been fun so far and I have high hopes it will continue so. It makes it even better to have supervisors and instructors that make the job fun and entertaining (That is for Robert and Jason that are always making us laugh).


See you in two weeks,

- Mónica



More Link to explore:


HABS Guidelines https://www.nps.gov/hdp/standards/habsguidelines.htm

Heritage Documentation Program https://www.nps.gov/hdp/index.htm

Want to see more of what HDP and HABS does? Look it up in Facebook https://www.facebook.com/HeritageDocumentationPrograms/


  1. Information provided by project historian Kim Hoagland. 
Thursday, 06 June 2019 12:34

Row House Summer

Hello reader and welcome to my Blog! My name is Mónica and I was hired by the Latino Heritage Internship Program to work as a Historic American Building Survey Architect for the summer. During the next couple of weeks I will be keeping you posted about my opportunities and experiences with LHIP and HABS.

 But first let me tell you a little bit about myself.

 I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, which is also where I got my Architecture degree at the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico. During those five years I became interested in the preservation and conservation of historic buildings since the island is filled with structures that were built by the Spanish during the time of their rule. Researching, documenting and encountering historic documents inspired me to do my graduate degree in Historic Preservation, which I'm finishing next year at the University of Pennsylvania. I have always been interested in HABS and have participated in two of their competitions, which brought me to this opportunity to work with them and learn more about documentation and heritage preservation.

 What is HABS? you ask;

 The Historic American Building Survey is one of the oldest preservation programs of the country. It started in 1933 to "mitigate the negative effects upon our history and culture of rapidly vanishing architectural resources"It is one of three programs including the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) and The Historic American Landscape Survey (HALS) which are administered by the Heritage Documentation Program. All the documentation they produce can be found at the Library of Congress, behind the United States Capitol in DC. They also produce competitions and guidelines for research and documentation of historic places.

This summer I'm going to be working at the Department of Interior with a HABS Architect and a HBCUI intern, we are going to document (hand sketch, measure, laser scan and draw in CAD) row houses in the Washington, DC area. The first house is around 100 years old, it was built using brick and designed to allow for more natural light inside the space.


See you in two weeks,



Ps. Some link that may interest you

Heritage Documentation Program https://www.nps.gov/hdp/

Competitions https://www.nps.gov/hdp/competitions/index.htm

Library of Congress https://www.loc.gov/collections/historic-american-buildings-landscapes-and-engineering-records/about-this-collection/



Wednesday, 15 May 2019 14:49

Mónica Ortiz Cortes

Hi, I'm Mónica. I was born and raised on the colorful island of Puerto Rico. Growing up I was very interested in art, but it wasn't until I was fifteen that I discovered my love for architecture. I was inspired by how historic buildings were designed to last and endured time way past the designers lifetime. That's when I decided to pursue a degree in Architecture which I just finished in July 2018. During my degree, I first experienced working with historic buildings in a preservation studio where we had to document and look for the history of that special place that we were going to incorporate into our design. That experience made me decide that Historic Preservation was something I wanted to do in conjunction with my Architecture degree for my career. Now I'm a student at the University of Pennsylvania who plans to graduate with a Historic Preservation Master of Science in 2020.