As UBC NOMAS is the first Canadian and international chapter, we are look forward to establish and foster community-building with other student and professional chapters. In this issue, we got to know Andreas Tsenis, a recent-graduate and the former president of LTU (Lawrence Technological University) NOMAS, as the paths of our two chapters have crossed over the past two years.
How did you first get to know UBC NOMAS’ former members?
I first came to know about UBS NOMAS when I was in NYC for the 48th annual design competition. I met Kendra and Kaili there and had to introduce myself since we are all Canadians!! I was missing my fellow Canadians while studying in the USA. From there we hit it off and are now supporters of each other throughout our design career.
Have you always known you wanted to study architecture? Was it a slow progression, or was there an epiphany moment?
Originally, I wanted to become a commercial airline pilot in high school. During that time, my neighbor who owned a successful construction company moved homes and my new neighbor turned out to be a pilot for Air Canada. I took this as a sign from God I was meant to study aviation. He allowed me to do some flying simulations at the headquarters for Air Canada (he is only allowed to take two students a year on flying simulations). There I was exposed to all that pilots do and realized it was not just about takeoff and landing. I realized I was not cut out to be a pilot and so I looked back at my childhood and realized I was always interested in drawing, making cardboard buildings, and LOVED being downtown around tall buildings. It energized me and felt like it was the right move to make after high school.
Don’t get me wrong, many times throughout my educational journey, I questioned if this was still the right move. However, throughout this journey, I have always been a very aware person and have always paid particular attention to the things I like and do not like (what makes me happy or unhappy). My father would take me to basketball games, and I would pay more attention to the city nightlife and people than the actual game itself. These small insignificant things are what have led me to pursue design.
Speaking of design, who or what has influenced you as a design student?
I would have to say Tom Ford (the fashion designer) inspired me to be a designer. I watched his documentary on his early life and felt a strong connection to his character. I felt I could relate a lot to him. He pushed for people to be true to themselves and I believe this inspired me to trust my gut instincts when I work on design projects or make major life decisions.
What piqued your interest and how did you first become involved in NOMAS at LTU? What are some of your best memories as a member and the president?
As a student from Toronto, ON, I had a hard time finding opportunities to collaborate with other students on design projects and shared interests in diversity and inclusivity. As a student with a diagnosed learning disability from a young age, I was led to believe by many teachers I would not go far in my career and joining NOMAS was a testament to my future success in the field of design. Throughout my 2.5 years of being involved with NOMAS at LTU and serving as president for two terms, I would say my most memorable moment was competing in NYC for the 48th annual design competition where we attracted many NYC based design firms for potential employment after school.
The annual NOMA conference is arguably one of the most exciting events every year. What has your experience been at these events?
My experience at the annual NOMAS conference is the highlight of my school year. It offers many opportunities to collaborate with other schools across the USA and now Internationally. It steps away from the traditional studio class we take in school and opens the door to more conceptual thinking. I have always loved the opportunities to meet new
students and professionals who can mentor and shape your thinking as a designer. You need to be vocal and push yourself outside of your comfort zone, and this is exciting for me!
During my first year in NOMAS, I had the privilege of meeting Sir David Adjaye in Detroit before leaving for a design competition in Chicago. There I got to talk with him, and he reviewed my work. I realized after I met with him who he was and was shocked I met a famous architect.
Your team has been exceptionally recognized these few years at the annual NOMAS competition — congratulations and very well-deserved! How has your design education at LTU guided or informed the approach of your team’s proposal?
The LTU CoAD motto is strongly rooted in theory and practice. Having attended a technical university we are exposed to digital fabrication and computational design thinking which utilizes many programs like Rhino, Revit, and grasshopper. These different design mediums have shaped the way we think and allow us to execute a higher quality design work. Our studios are structured with a strong connection to integration and give many opportunities with experimentation through practical means of materials, systems, and environmental impacts.
How does it feel having just graduated? Are there any exciting upcoming plans for work or grad school?
It feels amazing to be done with school and now working full time. I will miss school, but I knew I was ready to gain experience and find out what I want to focus on. I accepted a junior designer position with Turner Fleischer Architects in Toronto. I have had the opportunity over the summer to act as co-lead designer on one project downtown for a screen facade design. I am looking forward to working for a couple of years until I decide to do my masters. In terms of grad school, I am interested in the University of Toronto, University of Waterloo, and Cornell University.
When in a creative rut, where do you turn to for inspiration? Do your personal interests play a role in the process?
When I am in a creative rut, I turn to something outside of architecture like nature, fashion, trends in media (not architecture) so I can have some clarity. I do not like to copy exactly what others have done so I tend to play with the problem until I come up with a solution that I feel strongly about. I think the key is to not be so serious about every decision and let the ideas just come.
I have always been a huge fan of art and have taken fine arts for 3 years in high school. My most proud piece is this reproduced Henri Matisse: Portrait of Madame Matisse. This style of art became my style in architecture through the use of bright saturated images. I became known in my school as “the guy with really insane renderings.” Below is an example of our final NOMAS project and the rendering I made for it.
What are your hopes for how NOMAS will continue to progress in the future?
As I embark on a new chapter in my life, I hope NOMAS continues to involve itself with more international firms and schools and expand their opportunities. I believe just like myself, students are looking for opportunities to get involved in such an important movement especially with recent events that have played out in the media over the summer.
Do you have any advice for young architecture students wanting to become more involved?
My advice to young architects and designers is to find a cause you are passionate about and invest your time into that. For me, architecture is my platform to bring more attention to minority students and students with disabilities. Many students go into architecture to contribute to a greater economy or environment, and for me, I wanted something more personal. I felt there was a huge need to be involved in changing the demographic in architecture to one that is open to people of all communities and backgrounds. You need to look inside yourself and ask questions like, “What am I about? What changes do I want to see in the world? And how am I going to go about doing this?”