Summer Scholar Highlight Series with Sara Saghafi

What has been a highlight of your Summer Scholar experience so far?

One of the highlights of my Summer Scholar experience has been the opportunity to collaborate with scholars from diverse backgrounds and varying life experiences and visions. Also, working on three exciting and distinct projects in different scales - the Virginia Beach master plan, the Egg design-built project, and the LOWE mixed-use tower - has allowed me to gain a comprehensive understanding of their intricacies and challenges.

The vibrant and youth-friendly atmosphere at the Richmond office, along with the chance to attend remarkable talks by professionals like Wesley Page and Nicolas Vlattas, enriched my experience. The open and public setting of the office, coupled with the conveniently located downtown apartment, provided a memorable and immersive architectural journey in the vibrant city of Richmond.



Can you share any valuable lessons you have learned?

I have learned valuable lessons about effective teamwork, skill distribution, decision-making, and role definition within a team. Compromising individual opinions for the benefit of the project and understanding the bigger picture have been crucial aspects of this experience. Also, the importance of effective communication and the continuous improvement of understanding among team members played a crucial role. Engaging with clients and colleagues has taught me the value of conveying ideas effectively, understanding diverse perspectives, and aligning goals to create successful design solutions. Embracing challenges and being open to continuous learning have also been key takeaways from my internship.



How has your understanding of the design process evolved throughout your internship?

I have gained a deeper appreciation for the impact of resident insight and the importance of thorough research and analysis at the project's initial stages, especially in relation to the site and the city. Engaging in conversations and discussions with locals of a city has been instrumental in comprehending the challenges, needs, and perceptions of the city, as exemplified in the Virginia Beach master plan project. Emphasizing user-centric design has been a significant revelation, ensuring that the spaces we create are not only aesthetically pleasing but also functional and tailored to the users' needs. I have also experienced the iterative nature of the design process, where constant feedback and refinement lead to improved outcomes.




What excites you the most about our industry?

It’s the potential to create positive impacts on people's lives and the built environment through innovative and creative solutions. The opportunity to shape cities and communities thoughtfully, incorporating sustainable practices and technology, brings a profound sense of purpose and fulfillment. Also, how storytelling plays an important role in defining different scenarios for a project. The industry's dynamic and ever-evolving nature motivates me to stay innovative and continuously explore new design ideas and technologies.


What is a building you'd like to visit that you haven't yet?

I really like to visit Peter Zumthor’s Bruder Klaus Field Chapel and The Therme Vals.



Tell us about a memorable experience where design or architecture played a pivotal role.

During a community-based project at my college. We were tasked with redesigning a public park to cater to diverse user groups and create a more inclusive space and add a cultural and sports center. Witnessing the transformation of the park into a vibrant and welcoming environment, where people of all ages and backgrounds came together, reinforced the power of design to positively impact communities and foster social interaction.


If you were not studying architecture, what alternative career path would you pursue?

I would likely pursue a career in Urban Planning or computer science. Both fields align with my interests and would allow me to explore and conduct research on urban data, contributing to the creation of sustainable and well-designed urban environments.


Do you have any special hobbies, talents, or interests?

I have a passion for literature, music, painting, and playing volleyball.


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