By Shawnya Meyers
When did you become interested in architecture and why?
I became interested in architecture when I was in middle school, mostly by the prompting of my mother. I always loved to draw and paint and make things. As funny as it is, when she asked me what I wanted to be, I said I wanted to be an artist. She said, “Well, you’re going to have to get a real job one day.” Obviously jokingly, but she introduced me to architecture as a possibility to have a creative outlet and have a more stable career path. Since I’ve begun my journey with architecture and architecture school, it’s the perfect fit for me. It allows me to actually express myself creatively while also being structured with my classes. There are rules in architecture that you have to follow.
Why did you choose the U of A?
I chose the U of A because Fayetteville is beautiful. My first visit to campus was in the fall, and the Ozarks in fall is one of the most beautiful places on earth. The reds and oranges and yellows in the trees – I couldn’t say no. Then I came into the Fay Jones School, I believe it was on a Saturday, and there were still people in every studio that we visited. I could see that there was an obvious dedication and passion for what was going on, and that was inspiring to me. Also, everybody was very messy. There were a lot of models everywhere, drawings everywhere, pens floating around on different people’s desks. I’m a very messy, creative thinker. That’s just how I think, so it seemed like a perfect fit for me.
What has been one of the most interesting projects you have worked on?
I would say the most interesting project was the project I did along with a fellow student, Mitchell Willmarth, in Rome in Spring 2018. We did a study of classical proportions and we applied those to modern times and created six objects that would inhabit a famous piazza in Rome. We tried to update it from being the traditional piazza, which isn’t accommodating to tourists in the 21st Century in the city of Rome. It wasn’t responding to the changes that have happened since Mussolini was in power. So our stance on the project was actually to update it and bring it into the 21st Century. I think that was one of the most interesting projects.
My favorite project was when I built two chairs last semester. I’m really into fabrication, so those are my two favorites.
What are some of your interests?
Within architecture, I’m extremely interested in fabrication, so that’s what I want to do moving forward. I want to have a focus on fabrication. Outside of architecture school, I do still love to paint and draw like I used to growing up. It’s a positive creative outlet outside of the rigor and stress of studio. I also like to sing.
I was a resident assistant my sophomore and junior year. I’ve been the president and the vice president of my chapter of my fraternity here on campus, Kappa Alpha Psi. I’m currently the undergraduate president for the middle western region of my fraternity, and I’m helping with an anti-hazing campaign on the national level.
This is relating back to architecture, but I’m really interested in bringing the black community into architecture and design, because we’re not as well represented as I think we should be or as much as I wish we were. My goal is to start teaching and actually bring in architecture to the black community, and positively impacting the black community with architecture and design. That’s something that I want to do.
What makes you stand out as an architecture student?
One of the things that helps me as an architecture student is my ability to see things from two sides. Being a black student at a predominantly white university and having attended predominantly white schools all my life, I have the ability, I think, to see things from multiple perspectives. I think that’s really important when you’re working in architecture because you have to see a problem and be able to recognize that there could be three or four solutions, and that each solution has its positives and its negatives. I think that’s one of the things that has positively affected me being able to design.
Who are your biggest supporters?
I would say my two biggest supporters, as cliché as it is, are my mom and dad. I’ve called them multiple times from the school crying in the bathroom, so they are great supporters. I have to add Jenson Johnson too. In the school, Dr. Goodstein has always been a beacon of hope for me, helping guide me through this. All of the Dean’s Suite has been helpful in making sure that I have what I need and keeping me on track, keeping my mind in the right place, and helping me to keep my outlook positive. I’m very thankful to them, as well as my parents, because obviously it’s not easy.
What’s one thing people should know about architecture majors?
One thing people should know is we’re actually very fun – they just don’t see us enough. We’re cool people, but we just spend a lot of time to ourselves.
What do you want to do with your degree following graduation?
I plan to go work for a year teaching at my alma mater – my high school in Omaha, Nebraska, Creighton Prep – as well work part time at an architecture firm there, DLR Group. After that year, I’ll apply for grad schools and go earn my master’s degree and begin teaching at the university level with an emphasis on fabrication.