“It is very different from any other major. My twin sister is going to school to be a PA, so I have noticed that there are a lot of differences between being an architecture student and being a medical student. I think that is important to know for students before even going into architecture school. That it is different from any other college experience. From what I’ve experienced, it’s that design is a really main focus, and that your school tries to incorporate all the different courses that you take into your design class.”
Taylor Mavros Interview
ASR: [03:15] Taylor, thanks for joining me, let’s get started with your personal story. You are an architecture student at which school?
Taylor: [03:22] I go to New York Institute of Technology, in Old Westbury.
ASR: [03:26] And which year are you in?
Taylor: [03:29] I’m in my fourth year right now.
ASR: [03:30] Excellent. Let’s hear a bit about your personal story, your background? How did you decide to become an architect?
Taylor: [03:37] When I decided to go into architecture, it was freshman year of high school. I had taken a couple of classes in high school. I was doing a hand-drafting class and I really loved it. My teacher at the time told me to maybe pursue that, so I kept through it throughout high school taking different architecture drawing classes. Until I decided to go into that for college. I first started at Pratt Institute and I loved it there. I loved the design course that I took there and I loved all the other classes. It really made me just keep pursuing it.
ASR: [04:16] How come you transferred to NYIT, from Pratt?
Taylor: [04:21] I transferred to NYIT because of a money issue. Pratt is a lot more expensive, and I couldn’t really afford it that much so I transferred to NYIT.
ASR: [04:32] Do you feel that the cost of architectural education is an important issue that needs to be corrected somehow?
Taylor: [04:38] At Pratt?
ASR: [04:40] Everywhere. Pratt is pretty much the average, as far as costs.
Taylor: [04:47] I’m sorry, can you repeat the question again?
ASR: [04:53] Yeah, so the question is, is architectural education too expensive?
Taylor: [04:56] Right now at NYIT, I don’t believe so. When I was at Pratt, I did think that, especially since it is a 5-year program, I thought asking a little more than USD$60,000 a year was a bit much. At NYIT I’m paying less than half of that. I do think it might be a bit of a discouragement to students, seeing that it might cost that much, and on top of that, it is 5 years just for your bachelors. It might discourage students to maybe not go into the major as much. We also have to pay for materials, and programs, and a bunch of other add-ons to the major, so all that on top of the cost of tuition is a bit of a turn off for students.
ASR: [05:44] Before we move on, how long did you stay at Pratt?
Taylor: [05:50] I was there for the fall semester, just one semester.
ASR: [05:52] Just one semester?
Taylor: [05:55] Yeah
ASR: [05:55] And how quick was your transfer to NYIT? Just like that?
Taylor: [06:00] Yeah, it was just like that. It was over the winter break, so from December to January.
ASR: [06:02] Ok, great. I always like to talk about the issue of costs in architecture because it’s a major issue of discouragement for people. Considering also the fact that entry-level salaries, as well as later salaries, are pretty low. In your experience, from what you’ve discussed with other people. Conversations about jobs and I’m sure you’ve had internships so far, I’m just curious what is right now an entry-level salary for an architect with a bachelor’s degree?
Taylor: [06:44] To my knowledge, it’s anywhere from USD$50,000 to USD$60,000. Maybe a little less, maybe USD$40,000 to USD$60,000.
ASR: [06:02] So if Pratt charges USD$65,000 just for tuition, then a loan of 3% would cost you about, an arm and a leg. [Chuckles].
Taylor: [07:08] [Chuckles] Yeah.
ASR: [07:09] That would be USD$325,000, if my math is correct, just for tuition. It’s insane, right?
Taylor: [07:18] Yeah, it’s insane.
ASR: [07:19] So let’s talk a little bit about what is your dream as an architect? What do you want to become, or what do you want to do in your life?
Taylor: [07:29] Once I graduate next year, I want to go into urban planning or landscape, urban scale. I’m really interested in landscape architecture, parks in general and green space. I want to do that more on an urban scale, rather than just private residential projects, so I want to go maybe look into urban planning or just to landscape, urban scale.
ASR: [07:52] So you are planning to go to graduate school?
Taylor: [07:55] I am looking into that, but I’m still deciding.
ASR: [08:00] Ok, if you go to graduate school, you are planning to go to something like Bloustein, or Columbia? Like a graduate program in planning, or just further your knowledge in architecture and do urban design instead?
Taylor: [08:19] I would go into planning.
ASR: [08:21] Planning?
Taylor: [08:22] Yeah.
ASR: [08:23] So you don’t want to be a designer, is that what you are saying?
Taylor: [08:27] I would want to be a designer, but I am really interested in an urban scale and how spaces can affect people. And how spaces can improve lifestyle, and community overall.
ASR: [08:39] Ok. Do you feel that your school is providing you with all the tools and opportunities to achieve that?
Taylor: [08:48] Yes. This semester we are working on an urban design project, so now I do believe that it is helping me reach more of the goal that I’m going for, but prior to that, No, we really just work on small projects, it might be a school in the Bronx or an EMS station in Brooklyn. Things like that, but up until this semester, we’ve never done anything on an urban scale.
ASR: [09:16] Ok, but aside from that at some point, you will need to become a professional. Do you feel that at least they are doing their best on that end, to provide you with the right knowledge or guidance?
Taylor: [09:35] I do think that they could do more. Right now they might just be doing the basic information that we need. We do take a professional practice course and other courses to try better prepare us for the real-life out there after school. But I have realized working in internships, there is a gap between what it is in the real world and what they are teaching us in school.
ASR: [10:00] Right. How do you like the Old Westbury Campus?
Taylor: [10:04] I like it. At first, it was a little difficult moving from Brooklynn, back home on to Long Island. Which was a little different, but I do really like it. The architecture building on our campus is secluded from the main campus, so I do like that fact that we have our own space on campus that we can call our home.
ASR: [10:23] Right. Do you prefer it to the Manhattan campus or the Manhattan experience?
Taylor: [10:31] I have never gone to the NYIT Manhattan campus, but I have heard that the Old Westbury campus for architecture is greater or might be better than the Manhattan Campus one.
ASR: [10:53] Oh ok. Some people say that the overall experience of the architecture student matters in their education. Meaning there is a difference in the education one receives in a school that’s located in a city, versus a school located in the middle of nowhere. So, what do you think about that?
Taylor: [11:14] I agree with that. Our school does try to do their best. Every semester, our projects are mainly based in the city area. So it will either be in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, this semester we are in the Bronx. They take us to the site once, but they do encourage us to go more than one, just to get a feel for it. Personally, for me, I don’t really think there is that much of a difference, having been in Brooklyn and now being back on Long Island.
ASR: [11:47] Is there something that you liked out Pratt, that you don’t have at NYIT? That you wish you could have at NYIT? What were the differences? Let’s start with that, between the Pratt program and the NYIT program?
Taylor: [12:05] NYIT is more structural in the sense of architecture, where Pratt is more visualizations or illustrations if that makes sense. At Pratt, they were always worried about our graphics and things like that, like how to represent our actual projects. Whereas when I when to NYTI, they were more focused on like, “Can you build a space and can that space actually feel comfortable for people?” Every time I was in design class, we would always go over our plans, and make sure that the spaces that we were making actually made sense. If circulation was correct? If bathrooms were placed in the right place? Whereas at Pratt, when I was there, it was just representation based.
ASR: [12:47] Okay, sounds great. What’s your overall experience as an architecture student like on a day-to-day basis, and what are your likes and dislikes in general of that experience?
Taylor: [12:57] As an overall experience, I would say it’s pretty good. It is very different from any other major. My twin sister is going to school to be a PA, so I have noticed that there are a lot of differences between being an architecture student and being a medical student. I think that is important to know for students before even going into architecture school. That it is different from any other college experience. From what I’ve experienced, it’s that design is a really main focus, and that your school tries to incorporate all the different courses that you take into your design class. Some of the dislikes about architecture school is in the field you work in a team. Whereas in school, it’s mainly just focused on yourself and we don’t really work on team building that much, and I think that is really important. In your design class, your professor keeps loading you with more and more work, which is understandable. But in the real world, you do have colleagues to lean on and complete projects together. Whereas in school, you’re just on your own having to work on everything all by yourself.
ASR: [14:06] Do you think that this disconnect between the real world and architecture school will create problems later on? What are the problems that it creates?
Taylor: [14:21] I think the issue of architecture school being competitive might create a problem. If everything is so competitive, how can you work in a team later on? If you’ve just been trained to try to beat everyone in your class, and now you’re forced into an environment where you have to work with the people around you, not really compete with them. So I think that might create a disconnect. I’ve never personally experienced that when I went to an internship, but maybe that could be an issue later.
ASR: [14:48] What were your internship experiences like?
Taylor: [14:53] They were two very different internships. The first one I worked in a firm in the city, and it was an interior design firm. I worked with a team and I loved it. It wasn’t what I wanted to go into, I wanted to go into landscape, but I loved working on a team. I just loved being in that work environment, it was a medium-sized firm so I just liked that whole experience. Then the second internship is what I’m doing now. I work privately with a landscape architect, she has her own business. It’s just her and I like that experience because I work with just her and she does try to teach me as much as she can and it’s super hands-on. We’re constantly going to site visits. I do lose that environment and the working with a team experience, but I do enjoy just the one-on-one partnership that I have with her, and she’s really trying to teach me as much as she knows. Whereas when I was working in an actual firm, they gave me work to do and nobody really sat there and explained anything to me. I just did what they told me to do.
ASR: [15:55] Do you feel that some of that knowledge that you get in internships should be transferred to the design studio at school? Meaning, from the point of view of the professor should that be taught in the studio?
Taylor: [16:11] Definitely, I think so.
ASR: [16:16] Can you give us some examples of what these things are, that you gained in internships and would like to see transferred?
Taylor: [16:25]. One thing that I noticed after working in an interior design firm, I did realize the importance of all that and how much the architect can take over that. Then when I tried to bring that into school and I would try to pick specs or I would try to pick interior finishes, professors would tell us to not even go that far because “Now you’re designing a space that you are forcing people to imagine.” Whereas if you try to not put too much in it, people can imagine a space as they want it to be. I think there is a gap between that if that makes sense.
ASR: [17:00] That makes sense. In regards to the ability of the students to communicate issues that they may have with a program to the administration. Are there any channels that can be used to do that? Is there a student government or something like that that occasionally communicates with the Dean?
Taylor: [17:28] Yeah, so we do have the AIAS, which is student-based. I’m a part of it, I’m a yearly rep for the group.
ASR: [17:37] What does that mean?
Taylor: [17:38] I represent the fourth year students, so I hear what they have to say about the school. There were a lot of changes made to NYIT this past winter break, so there’s been a lot of complaints about that. I just take in the complaints from the fourth-year students, and then as a club, we talk about that. Then our president and our vice president usually host a meeting with our Dean, just to go over what’s being said from the students. They try to bridge that gap between the administration and students.
ASR: [18:11] Okay. Yeah is anything being done in response to your comments? Not yours, but student comments.
Taylor: [18:19] Right now it is a bit hard to tell, just because of this whole quarantine thing.
ASR: [18:24] I mean in the past few years that you have been in school?
Taylor: [18:30] Yes, there was. Our building used to be a 24-hour building and there was a complaint about how we didn’t have any food there, there were no vending machines, nothing. The club took that over and we spoke with the Dean about it. Then they put in this whole Cafe that’s run 24 hours, which was really helpful for the students. I’m not there 24/7, but I know people that are and it is helpful. There is tons of food, drinks, coffee. Many different options for the students.
ASR: [19:04] OK, so anything that comes to mind that’s more curricula or related to that? Any innovative changes that students forced?
Taylor: [19:18] Yeah, so we had this course called visualizations. There are three courses, VIS-1, -2, and -3. The first one was all hand drawing and you would just draw many different things by hand. That was what it was like when I was there 4 years ago. But now after many students have talked about how in the world not many people draw by hand, and everything’s done on a computer, and everything is moving really fast, they have changed the visualizations course. Now for your first year for visualizations, instead of drawing by hand, you’re immediately working on the computer in Rhino and in Grasshopper, trying to create different things. So there has been a really large jump with that.
ASR: [19:59] Ok, great. How would you evaluate your overall experience has an architecture student, any regrets?
Taylor: [20:08] I don’t think I have any regrets. I really love the major that I picked, and I’m happy that I picked it. I would talk anybody’s ear off telling them that they should try it and go into the major because I do love it so much. I think that’s mainly just it, and I’m happy that I’ve gone into it, and I love architecture, and that you can go into architecture but then after you’re done, branch off into many different things. You can go into interior design. You can go into many different things, landscaping, urban design, anything like that. I love how it’s just not one straight line and you’re forced to build buildings, but you can do whatever you want really.
ASR: [20:45] From true your colleagues, have you heard about any interesting alternative trajectories other than architecture?
Taylor: [20:55] I know one friend that after going through all this, she’s thinking about maybe trying to do graphic design. Then I know other people that are going through architecture now, they might want to do something more on the fashion side of architecture and trying to just incorporate it in different ways.
ASR: [21:13] That’s interesting. Do you feel that the architectural education one receives actually gives you the tools to enter a field like graphic design?
Taylor: [21:22] A lot of the graphic stuff that I’ve done, I’ve taught myself, but an architect is a designer and I think people are always looking for a designer so it does give you that little boost. You may not know as much as an actual graphic designer but I think it will benefit you.
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