Each member of the SZ team plays a vital role in building creative environments. For Summer 2018, we brought on Shakiba Ahmadi as an architectural intern at SZ. Shakiba brings her expertise and background in computational architecture to help with simulating environments through digital means.
We had an opportunity to sit down and chat with Shakiba about her background and passion for architecture; read below for our Q&A!
Julia Hess: What led you to apply and join SZ's team for the summer internship?
Shakiba Ahmadi: Suzanne Zahr’s firm includes both the design phase as well as construction phase of architecture. This great opportunity to get involved in the whole process of constructing a building made me interested in applying for this architectural intern position. Integrating the design team and the build team into a single organized team provides their firm with a high level of efficiency and creativity in their projects.
JH: What sparked your interest in architecture?
SA: Being passionate about art and science made me pursue a career path where the two meet. Alvar Aalto said, “Building art is a synthesis of life in materialized form. We should try to bring in under the same hat not a splintered way of thinking, but all in harmony together.”
I have always had a considerable interest in architecture ever since studying it briefly during my art courses in high school. Since then, I have looked at architecture in detail through my work, as an art form and as technology. I recognize architecture as a frame of mind; it is about ideas and conceptions of our surroundings, while the profession is about how to translate those ideas into the real world.
Architecture has become my way of life, by noticing the buildings and the elements that spark my enthusiasm, researching details and functions, and realizing people’s dreams by creating them into reality.
JH: How has your professional and educational experience in Iran influenced your own perspective on architecture?
SA: My architectural education in Iran helps me to have a systematic view of architecture. In traditional Persian architecture, mathematics plays an important role. The evolution of mathematics and geometries have a direct impact on the formation and development of Iranian architecture.
Growing up in that area, and having this perspective in architecture, led me to become interested in the technical aspects of architecture during my Bachelor's degree studies in Iran. I paid undivided attention to digital technologies in architecture as a senior undergraduate student.
Then, I started conducting research in the field of computational design and algorithmic design because I was interested in the facilities and opportunities these methods could offer to the designer in the development of structural aspects. Because of my background in logic, mathematics, and arithmetic in high school, I opted for this field in my postgraduate studies.
From my point of view, while mathematics seemingly has a conceptual root, it is the basis of all natural phenomena and all of the laws governing nature. I am of the belief that when a person understands the formation and evolutionary process of a natural mechanism, she is able to produce an artifact with the same level of maturity and advancement. This is made possible through computation and digital technologies in both the design process and fabrication process. My academic and professional goal as an architect is to reach this goal, and that is why I have chosen to study in the design computing field.
JH: Since you already have your first Masters degree, what inspired you to get a 2nd Masters?
SA: My academic journey through my Bachelor’s and Masters studies in Iran, in combination with my interests, experience, and self-exploration, has established my vision toward my future. I see a great potential in myself to pursue my academic and professional life in the field of design research, and that is the reason I've decided to pursue my education in a post-professional and focused Masters degree, which will hopefully be continued through Ph.D. education, too.
I want to devote my time and energy to the challenges that face today's architecture and urbanism with a new perspective: with a futuristic vision. I want to re-evaluate the usual approaches toward these challenges and propose noble solutions to them with high-end tools, interdisciplinary research, and technology.
JH: How do you like the program at UW? Is there anything, in particular, that you like the most about it?
SA: UW Architecture has provided me with a unique environment to carry out interdisciplinary research in the field of Design Computation, Construction Management, and Built Environments. A strong board, along with the possibility to do interdisciplinary research in the architecture department at UW, has made this institution a great choice. Considering the bulk of resources and distinguished professors I can work with, this program can help me develop in a field which best fits my interests and potential.
JH: What does an architect in Design Computing do?
SA: Design Computing is an emerging field concerned with the development of a new generation of design software, application of simulation, analysis, and fabrication in the design process, and the utilization of digital technologies to create smart environments. Computational designers pursue education and research in areas that include design methods, augmented and virtual reality, simulation and analysis, collaboration and community, digital fabrication, human-computer interaction for design, smart environments, and other related topics.
Computational designers are familiar with computational concepts, such as programming and parametric modeling. Using data and computation in the design process is necessary especially in large-scale projects where there are lots of different parameters that can affect the design and when there are so many repetitive works. Computational architects must spend time developing their own algorithms and scripts in different software to produce the designs they need.
JH: What is your thesis about?
SA: During my research experience, specifically to shape the framework for my current Masters thesis, I am interested in computational lighting design. I have started to work on a new workflow which can link environmental performance analysis and daylight availability for a specific urban block.
I am studying urban-level daylighting simulation methods to explore the combined impact of surrounding blocks, building form, and façade material on daylight availability in a building. The aim is to understand the limitations of current urban zoning rules and to suggest alternative developing patterns and façade designs which can better support daylighting in city buildings.
JH: What is your favorite architectural moment?
SA: Walking around the Naghsh-e Jahan square in the city of Isfahan, Iran is one of my favorite architectural moments. It is surrounded by historical buildings that are a great sample of traditional Persian architecture, and they inspire me as an architect.