“ I was actually thinking about this with my friend the other day, how right now I’m trying to find a lot of great people in my school, and trying to see what I’m into. Maybe in 15 years, I can start my own practice, but for now, I’m very much into the design. The artistic approach to things.”
Anna Shumskaya Interview
ASR: [00:23] Anna, thank you for joining me. Tell me a little bit about you, what’s your story? You are a student in architecture school now, at which school?
Anna: [00:32] I’m at NYIT, the Manhattan campus.
ASR: [00:36] You are which year, second-year right?
Anna: [00:41] Second year, yes.
ASRs: [00:42] What led you to decide to become an architect?
Anna: [00:46] When I was little, I was always curious in art and my favourite subject was actually math. When I was talking to my parents about potentially choosing a major for college, we just sat at the table, wrote down what I was interested in. It led me to this artistic major that has the combination of art and math, which is architecture.
ASR: [01:11] That’s interesting. It’s true that there is the perception that architecture combines art and math, but there’s not really that much math in architecture is there?
Anna: [01:22] In my school we focus on a lot on technology, on the physics of things. Right now, my favourite subject is Statics, where we go through the different forces of things, and to make sure that the building does not fall down, and it really just excites me how those things work.
ASR: [01:40] So you are the engineer-type of architect, you’re not that much the artistic type of architect?
Anna: [01:51] I do love the artistic side of things as well, but I think it’s very important for any architect to know the engineering of buildings as well.
ASR: [02:01] So you’re excited about both sides, both the creative part, as well as the more rational part of the profession?
Anna: [02:12] For sure, I think to be a very successful designer, you need to know both things. Just so the engineers don’t take away the biggest part of the design and you know that “This works like this can be made out of concrete.”
ASR: [02:27] What’s your dream is an architect? What do you want to achieve in your life?
Anna: [02:33] I was actually thinking about this with my friend the other day, how right now I’m trying to find a lot of great people in my school, and trying to see what I’m into. Maybe in 15 years, I can start my own practice, but for now, I’m very much into the design. The artistic approach to things. I’m also very much into the environmental sustainability within architecture, so designing with wood is very great. Canada is focusing on sustainable forests where they make a bunch of buildings with trees and those trees are continuously sustainable. I think this would be great.
ASR: [03:28] What do you mean by that? They are restored? When they cut some, they replant them. Is that what you mean?
Anna: [00:24] Yeah, so they separate the forest into a bunch of different sectors, and they know exactly when to cut down which part, so there’s continuous growth and there’s never an empty field, completely of no trees. It continuously grows, and you can always take the trees down.
ASR: [04:00] As far as architecture is concerned. We’re talking about small buildings or larger buildings?
Anna: [04:11] The largest building made out of lumber is 18 floors. So people are going in that direction of making very tall lumber buildings now.
ASR: [04:21] You’re very excited about new technologies and sustainable design and materials?
Anna: [04:27] Yeah for sure. I think everyone should be excited about that.
ASR: [04:32] One could argue that that’s a segment of civil engineering and not architecture that much because architecture is more; at least in terms of our education, it’s more about space and people and how you accommodate interactions. So why did you decide to study architecture then and not engineering?
Anna: [05:03] It’s a great question. Engineering goes more into the math, and more sitting down, and less interactive design and practice. I want to be able to go into the site and feel the space, and I’m really passionate about interior design as well. Maybe feeling the spaces and how people interact within the space, but kind of making sure that the space is well maintained within the environments and resources.
ASR: [05:41] So basically, the engineering aspect of architecture is one aspect, but you’re interested in all aspects of it, and you want to explore more and allow more influence to define your career? Do you think that NYIT is giving you the right tools and opportunities to live up to your dreams?
Anna: [06:04] Oh, yes. NYIT is great with professional resources. We have a really great variety of professors that have their own practices, and whatever you want to focus on, you just ask your professor. You can always come up to them and ask, “I want to do this design with concrete slabs,” and they will always help you. This staff is just very helpful when it comes to that. [Crosstalk]. It’s also a technical school, so it’s less artistic than Pratt, Parsons and Cooper Union. It focuses more on the civil engineering of things, and that really works for me.
ASR: [06:57] Can you elaborate a little bit on the mentorship of your faculty of NYIT?
Anna: [07:03] As you know, if you went to an architecture school, a lot of professors are very different. Some professors focus on devisal part of things, other professors will focus on specific programs like Rhino where we make 3D models, and AutoCAD where we make drawings. Within each year, you’re going to focus on a different program and depending on the professors, you’re going to get more of a design execution or a 3D execution or an app execution. Within the years, you’re to have this great background, depending on which professor focuses on what?
ASR: [08:03] As far as your day-to-day experience, what’s your average routine as a student?
Anna: [08:21] Before the coronavirus, my main architecture class would start early in the morning. We would come to class. We would get our plots, our big pieces of paper that we would print for free. I’m very grateful for that in our school. We’d pin it up. We’d present it in front of our professor, in a class of 20 students. Then we’d take notes, and for the other half of the class after the presentations, we work on our design further. If we have time, we show the professors again. Class ends, and then we work on our projects more. Maybe make 3D models by 3D printing, laser cutting or hand cutting.
ASR: [09:14] Have you had a chance to look for internships yet, or have you worked somewhere?
Anna: [09:20] Yes. I’ve worked with Ivan Brice and The School of Construction Authority. We focussed on the restoration of buildings.
ASR: [09:23] How was that?
Anna: [09:31] It was really great. I got into this program with The School of Construction Authority and they pair you up with firms. I wanted to work with a smaller firm and focus on restoration, and I got paired up with Ivan Brice. It was very attractive, we always went on sites like the American Society. We also worked with a bunch of other residential buildings in the city and Queens. We were always taking down notes, seeing what we could fix, talking to different construction offices, and I got to know a lot about AutoCAD. Before that, I did not touch AutoCAD, and from that experience, I learned a lot.
ASR: [10:23] You mentioned The School of Construction Authority. What is that?
Anna: [10:29] So School Construction Authority, it’s a government firm and it focuses on the construction of schools. I haven’t worked with them personally.
ASR: [10:50] Oh School Construction Authority?
Anna: [10:52] Yeah, School Construction Authority.
ASR: [10:54] I’m sorry, I thought you said, ‘School of Construction Authority’. So you worked on schools mainly? The architect’s name is Ivan Brice you said?
Anna: [11:06] Yeah, but we focused on restoration.
ASR: [11:11] What are the things that you like about your education, but most importantly, what are the things that you don’t like and would like to see improved?
Anna: [11:20] The current project that we’re working on is on the Southeast corner of Central Park and my school is located next to Columbus Circle, so practically a block away from Central Park. It’s very nice that we can go straight to the site, and see what we’re working with, and see where the trees are, and where we can see the building. We can physically experience the space that we’re building, and that’s what I like about it. That my school is focusing on these sites that are in the city that we can go to.
What I don’t like. I wish it was a little bit more artistic, and more environmental. I’m in the middle of my architectural journey that concerns my education, but I wish from freshman year we started talking about sustainability and what we can do to better the environment.
ASR: [12:33] If it was like that, what would you think the benefit would be? If it was more artistic and more about environmental sustainable designs?
Anna: [12:46] I think people would consider that more of a factor. I don’t know if other schools do that, I hope they do. I hope all school start involving that in their design. I think everyone should know that any building, is going to leave a mark on the earth, and I just wish people were more responsible of that.
ASR: [13:14] How did you apply to NYIT? Did you apply just to NYIT or other schools as well?
Anna: [13:19] I applied to other schools, but NYIT is a great school if you’re concerned about scholarships. I have scholarships, so that’s very great. I was applying with the New York City area mostly.
ASR: [13:43] Schools like what, Pratt?
Anna: [13:48] I applied to Pratt. I got into Pratt. The other school that I got into, that I’m very proud of was SCI-Arc in California.
ASR: [13:56] That’s a tremendous group. So you chose NYIT over SCI-Arc why?
Anna: [14:03] Statistically speaking, there isn’t a large correlation with your education and career in the future.
ASR: [14:17] Really? Where’d you read that statistic?
Anna: [14:22] I think the New York Times.
ASR: [14:27] The New York Times wrote the statistics for architects?
Anna: [14:30] It was a bunch of graphs within different careers. It was architecture, civil engineering, business, and in business there was a large correlation with what school do you go to versus what job you are going to get later on, like how much you’re going to be getting paid?
ASR: [14:52] But in the field of architecture there isn’t?
Anna: [14:53] There is still a correlation. There’s a correlation everywhere, but it’s not as dramatic as in other fields.
ASR: [15:02] So you felt that it was not worth the extra money?
Anna: [15:05] Yeah, for sure. I think it’s really great to invest into yourself, and invest into your education, but if you can get the same connections by going to school for a little cheaper or maybe just by staying in York City; I’m grateful that I live in York City and that I can always go to different lectures and get my connections through that way.
ASR: [15:34] We totally agree on that. Out of curiosity, how much was SCI-Arc per year, versus NYIT?
Anna: [15:43] I think NYIT for people outside of New York would be USD$30 or $40 grand I would guess, but for me, if I didn’t get a scholarship it would be USD$20,000 because I’m a person living in New York. I think SCI-Arc was USD$50,000.
ASR: [16:10] With the scholarship It’s how much?
Anna: [16:11] With the scholarship it’s full ride. Zero.
ASR: [16:16] Its’s zero, wow. So you have a full scholarship, that’s very good. Congratulations.
Anna: [16:20] Thank you.
ASR: [16:21] it makes absolute sense. I was talking to someone else who went to Pratt and they transferred to NYIT.
Anna: [16:31] 0h wow!
ASR: [16:34] I contact people through LinkedIn about his interviews and I get a lot of students from NYIT, I think because I used to teach at NYIT AND that’s my network. It pops ups automatically, so I’ve spoken 4 different people so far from NYIT. One of them had transferred from Pratt and she said how Pratt cost USD$65,000 per year, and that’s a five-year degree. So that’s USD$325,000, and if you need the loan for that, you have to add 3 to 5% or more to that. So that’s a crazy amount.
Anna: [17:26] Was she from New York City? Because I think it costs more if you’re out of the state.
ASR: [17:33] I don’t know. I don’t remember, but she probably has financial aid as well.
Anna: [17:40] I hope she does.
ASR: [17:44] Also City College of New York is another good option. Between these two schools, how come NYIT and not City College?
Anna: [17:53] I didn’t apply to City College.
ASR: [17:56] You didn’t like it at City College? Or another school like Cooper, for example, did you apply there?
Anna: [18:07] Sorry?
ASR: [18:09] Cooper Union?
Anna: [18:11] Yes, I applied to Cooper Union. Cooper Union was my first choice [chuckle]. I was in their portfolio prep program, my senior year of high school. I was working with them and everything was great, and I did the home test but they didn’t take me, and I was devastated [chuckles]. I wish I got in, NYIT is a great school but Cooper Union is much more known, and NYIT is really great because they’re working on their publicity now, which is great.
ASR: [18:50] But it doesn’t matter which school you go to you said, so who cares? As far as your career.
Anna: [18:58] Yeah. Oh for sure, but it was devastating to me because I imagined myself and that school because I was working with them. I knew the campus, and then I didn’t get in. It was the expectation that disappointed me.
ASR: [19:15] What was so special about Cooper, aside from the name and its reputation?
Anna: [19:20] Cooper has a lot of professors that are more known than at NYIT, I think.
ASR: [19:31] Why is that important?
Anna: [19:36] I don’t think it’s important…
ASR: [19:38] That idea itself, because aside from what they know about architecture, why is it important for a professor to be more known than unknown?
Anna: [19:47] If people are more known, there’s an assumption that they can connect you with more people, so they could have a larger job circle.
ASR: [20:06] Do you feel that you get that from the faculty at NYIT?
Anna: [20:08] I think I do. I’ve reached at NYIT to my professors on multiple occasions, and I ask them like, “Do you know any summer internships that are going on right now?” And they’re always super helpful.
ASR: [20:26] Is that a benefit of the architectural education, the fact that you network within that field?
Anna: [20:29] I think it is for sure. I think it’s very great. I think architects have this personality trait of just being a team member, so they’re always very helpful.
ASR: [20:40] Are there any suggestions that you have for high school kids interested in applying to architecture school? I’m particularly interested in your opinion on how to choose schools, what to expect in architecture school and what to watch out for?
Anna: [21:04] I think the upcoming students should question whether they like the technical aspect of architecture versus the artistic aspect. If they like more the artistic side, they should apply to Pratt or Parson. If they like more of the technical side, they should consider NYIT.
ASR: [21:27] What should they watch out for at any school? At architecture schools.
Anna: [21:37] I don’t know, I didn’t have any bad experiences in my architecture schools, so I don’t know what to say.
ASR: [21:46] Not bad experiences necessarily, but something that would improve their experience there. Optimize their academic career, allow them to get the most out of it, allow them not to focus on the wrong things.
Anna: [22:01] I bet everyone when you ask him this question, they’re going to say time management, because it is very important. It is the truth, but I think just having fun with the major. There’s so many different opportunities for you to just have fun with that. This is one of the only majors where you can take something from your mind, from your head, from your imagination, and put it out to the world. You should totally take advantage of that.
ASR: [22:28] Do you consider, college in general, but architecture school in particular, an opportunity to discover yourself in relation to your career? And how do you do that?
Anna: [22:42] What I’m doing, is that I’m trying to see how far I can go within my own designs, and working on my own portfolio. Even outside of school, you might not have a lot of time on your hands when you’re getting your education during the semester, but my friend and I are meeting up during the summer and we’re doing our own fun project.
ASR: [23:09] What are you doing?
Anna: [23:10] We found this really cool building in New Jersey. We’re going to redesign it and restore the outside and build it in Rhino, and just make our own little project about it.
ASR: [23:26] That’s beautiful, did you buy it?
Anna: [23:27] No, non.
ASR: [23:28] Oh, you are just going to do it? That’s wonderful.
Anna: [23:33] We just found a random house, and we wanted to do something for the summer, to be productive. So we just thought of doing it together.
ASR: [23:42] Have you contacted the owner to provide you with the necessary access to the interior?
Anna: [23:48] My friend is doing that. He’s taking care of that, but that’s on the list of plans [laughter].
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