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Mehdi Azizkhani is a student at College of Architecture at Texas A&M University. 

What inspired you to study architecture? What was your path to where you are today?

At the beginning, it was my interest in art that inspired me to study architecture. During my pre-university studies, I was pursuing my diploma in math as a major and the art of oil painting for pleasure. I was in search of a way to tie these two together and to value the notion of art beyond the phrase of “art for the art’s sake.” Architecture could best respond to this interest by addressing the integration of art, function, math, geometry, structure, culture, technology and many other factors that have agency in design. While it was art that first inspired me to study architecture, it was my attitude to perceive design through an interdisciplinary lens which kept me on the track of architectural design: this is why I pursued different design degrees in architecture, urban design, historic preservation, and sustainable technologies.

What is your favorite thing about the architecture program at your school?

Its integrated culture of design, making, and research. Here we pursue the practicality of design ideas such that they can change, promote, or lead architectural design, art, and engineering through research. Here, at Texas A&M, theory is more valued when it reaches the point of practice.

Where do you hope to be in ten years?

A professor and a design practitioner whose professional activities inform his academic activities and vice versa.

Pen, pencil, or computer? All of them. For me, they supplement each other, not just as a mode of representation, but more as a way of design thinking. The more you learn about these skills the more confident you are in your discipline. Freehand drawings or constructed drawings can skill and foster your mind, not just your hands, in developing a design concept and in analyzing your surroundings. A freehand drawing also allows you to see the form and space of an existing or a proposed building as you walk and experience it. You should be able to imagine what happens to your printed computer drawings without having to resort to a computer. If you have trained your mind and hand, then you are able to better communicate with everything, such as form and space, and with everyone, such as your client.

With the same logic, being skilled in the application of digital tools is as important as learning hand drawing techniques since you are equipped with another method of design thinking. For example, you cannot easily experiment the design of complex or kinetic forms without the use of a computer. Today due to various design and construction considerations — such as building codes, building specialties, sustainability metrics, and cost-benefit analyses — we are dealing with a large amount of data not possible to be timely analyzed without the use of computers. Therefore, parametric design, building information modeling, building performance analyses, and flexibilities in visualization make the use of digital tools an integrated part of any design process. Flexibility in modifying and updating your design and construction documents in a short span of time is not possible without the use of computers. Computers allow you to visualize, experience, or simulate your design as if they are built in their real settings. This will save on time and cost for the required modifications before or during the actual construction process while it can also add to the visual charm of your design.

Show us a page from your sketchbook. Describe what you’ve drawn.

Isfahan Bazar: capturing light and shadow in the ceiling of an intricate space in Isfahan Bazaar (charcoal pencil). Mehdi Azizkhani

Are there other forms of art you participate in? How do they affect your process or work as an architect?

Yes. Oil painting and singing. I think there are similarities between architecture and singing: for example, you have a range of up and down, sadness and happiness, and a beginning and an end in a song. You create moments in your song and each moment is different with its unique qualities similar to the experience you can make in architecture playing with time, smell, form, space, etc.; you convey all of these to the audience only using your voice as a material, and it should be combined harmoniously with the sounds of other music instruments. Again when it comes to oil painting you deal with the art of colors as a major component of your work. It goes without saying that having the knowledge of colors can help designers to make completely different impressions and psychological impacts from two identical spaces for their users. I try to bring these experiences to architecture and integrate them with my designs or design interventions.

If you could travel to see any building in the world, what would it be?

There’s not a single place that I can mention. In all the places that I travel, I try to see its famous buildings, including both praised and criticized examples of design and built works. But I can say I like to see buildings that not only are enriched with individual design qualities but also they try to communicate very well with their urban surroundings and activities by engaging all our senses and feelings.

The Texas Architectural Foundation (TAF) was established in 1952 to make possible deserving students’ dreams of an architectural education, and to enhance the quality of the academic experience at Texas universities. Since its inception, TAF has distributed hundreds of scholarships valued at well over $2 million to assist students pursuing careers in architecture and helped fund architectural programs in Texas schools of architecture. Scholarships are awarded through the Foundation to students at all levels as designated by the donors. LEARN MORE.

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