Master of Architecture 4+2 '18

Mackenzie Sims

Hometown: Olympia, Washington

Why did you choose to study architecture?

I studied architecture in my undergraduate career and had practiced architecture for several years. I returned to get my Master’s in Architecture to dive deeper into research and the impact of physical environments on student learning and creativity. A Master’s degree gave me time and space to explore how design can be influenced by research in a way I couldn’t do in the practice of architecture.

What makes earning a degree at NewSchool special?

I chose NewSchool of Architecture & Design because of the neuroscience for architecture program that was offered. I have always been interested in how space impacts humans in a mental, physical, psychological, and sociological level. I was excited to learn more about brain science and how it could potentially influence the design of spaces.

What was your favorite thing about attending NewSchool?

Being at a smaller school like NewSchool gave me a lot of freedom to explore my thesis in a way that I couldn’t at a larger school. I had a great committee to help guide me through my thesis studies, allowing me to follow my own curiosities and create something rather unusual and unconventional.

How did NewSchool help prepare you for your career?

I was new to San Diego when I started at NewSchool. The connections I made through the school and my involvement in the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture (ANFA) community, I have been immersed in the design and research communities of the city. As a result, I have been able to work continuously since arriving in San Diego, now 4 years ago, and have great connections with scientists to continue my research.

What have you been doing since you graduated?

Since graduating I have been working primarily on a large school modernization project in San Diego with Platt/Whitelaw Architects.

Independently, I have also continued to explore the research around how environments impact learning and published a book and website connecting this research to those involved with school design, policy, and practice. The book, titled “Learning Environments for Creativity” is a continuation and expansion of the work I completed at NewSchool during my thesis year.

Outside of work, I volunteer my time with the ACE Mentorship program, teaching high school students about the field of architecture. Students at NewSchool will also see me around the school (or on video) as I frequent review panels, occasionally guest lecture, and work with a few of Vuslat Demircay’s graduate thesis students each year serving as a committee member.

What projects are you currently working on?

With the recent publication of my book, I am working on educating people about the impact that space has on human, specifically child, behavior and ability to learn and be creative. I am continuing to investigate this research and find ways to bridge science and design, and translate this to those who need it most within the education system, including designers. To learn more about the project visit BuildingCreativeSchools.org.

At Platt/Whitelaw Architects I am the project coordinator of the Lindbergh/Schwietzer Elementary School whole site modernization project in Claremont that is breaking ground this month and will be completed in stages over the next 3 years.

What has been your biggest career accomplishment?

The publication of my book and launch of the Building Creative Schools project. While the project is in its infancy, I am excited to see the impact and have already gained recognition for the work from NewSchool, AIA San Diego, and ANFA.

What advice do you have for incoming students?

Follow your curiosities and don’t be afraid to experiment and fail. The best thing you can do for your educational career and creativity is to take a risk and fail as quickly and as often as possible.

Secondly, find mentors and advisors who challenge you to do your best work.

Why should a prospective student choose NewSchool?

NewSchool is small and agile, it is a place where you have flexibility in how you pursue your projects and have access to a diversity of thought styles and design methodologies.

Learning Environments for Creativity
Mackenzie’s Favorite Professional Project
A resource bridging research and design to improve the quality and impact of learning environments on learning and creativity. | https://www.buildingcreativeschools.org | @bldgcreativeschools
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