For as long as she can remember, Khushee Chauhan ’23 has loved to dance. Now, as a third-year student in Syracuse University’s School of Architecture , she understands how that passion drew her to her chosen field. “Dance and architecture are very similar in that dance is about spatial exploration and architecture is about spatial manipulation,” she says. “This pushed me to explore architecture, and the passion I have for spaces makes this fascinating field something I want to pursue as a lifelong career."
As an only child raised in Ahmedabad, India, Chauhan dreamed of studying in the U.S. and applied to many different colleges here. “I chose Syracuse University not only because it was top-ranked, but because an acquaintance who had gone through the program gave me a very positive review of the School of Architecture.” The five-year program is nearly 150 years old, and students earning a bachelor’s degree in architecture at Syracuse receive the preparation required to meet the high-level knowledge and skill requirements established by the National Architectural Accrediting Board.
The comprehensive nature of the program is what makes it stand out, Chauhan believes. “Syracuse has a well-rounded and thorough academic program for architecture that includes different semesters dedicated to a particular aspect of architecture—like landscape or tectonics—as well as two semesters abroad,” she says. “The faculty are accomplished themselves and truly care about their students’ progress. Professor Daekwon Park, for example, has been instrumental in helping me figure out how to plan out my assignments and manage the amount of time and energy I need to spend on each phase of my projects.”
Creating a Community
Chauhan has found a great deal of camaraderie in every facet of the architecture program. “The sense of community is established before students even arrive in Syracuse,” she says. “Once they matriculate, students are assigned peer advisors. This makes incoming students feel welcome, as does a dedicated international mentor squad that helps students like me with culture shock. The squad organizes events like Lunar New Year, International Day and Holi celebrations, and it gives us a little community of international students.”
The wide variety of campus activities available to students has helped Chauhan integrate her social life with her studies. “I’m an active member of the international mentor squad, an architecture ambassador and a peer advisor, and the director of ‘Coffee and Crit’ for the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS),” she says. Coffee and Crit is an informal weekly meeting hosted by members of AIAS. They meet with architecture students who want to receive a critique of their current work, providing advice on ways to modify and improve it.
The sense of community is established before students even arrive in Syracuse.—Khushee Chauhan
Studio is Chauhan’s favorite feature of the architecture curriculum. “The whole process of being able to use precedents to identify certain elements of design is a joy,” she says. “You are reapplying those elements in a design of one’s own, while also considering the geography and culture of the assigned or chosen site. Realizing ideas through drawings and physical models is so satisfying, and that gratification makes all the effort I put into it worthwhile.”
Opportunities to study abroad are a major component of the School of Architecture experience. All students are encouraged to study at one of the University’s centers in London or Florence, and programs are also available in New York City and Asia. Chauhan is planning to spend the Fall 2021 semester at Syracuse University’s Florence Center. The studio semester features observation, discussion and analysis of the Italian city’s architecture, as well as excursions to significant architectural landmarks.
“I am currently in the middle of an ‘abroad’ semester called visiting critics studio,” Chauhan says. “We have external faculty come to Syracuse from across the world to give students an abroad experience without actually leaving Syracuse. The studio I am in is an exploration of the room, the block and the commons, and it has been extremely rewarding.”
Dreams for the Future
Chauhan is fascinated by phenomenology, an approach that concentrates on the study of consciousness and the objects of direct experience. “The use of light to affect the mood of the person interacting with the space is an example,” she says. “I would love to be able to explore the ways space can be manipulated to affect people’s moods in a commercial or residential setting, or even as part of a spatial exhibition. I hope to create spaces that help people cope with whatever they are dealing with, allowing them to be more productive and comfortable while also being sustainable. My dream is to have my own architecture firm someday, following the principles of working with the vernacular and local context sustainably.”
Syracuse University has helped Chauhan find the tools she needs to bring her ideas from imagination to fruition, and she says that has been the most rewarding part of her journey. But she has also found a home away from home. The synergy she felt with the world around her when she danced returns to her in the places she’s come to love on campus. “I feel a personal connection with the Orange family through the spaces on campus and the memories I’ve made there with my friends. Walking to the Hall of Languages, sitting in the Quad on a sunny day, spending a late night in Slocum Hall, or taking in the views as I return to my dorm room—I remember how I felt in those moments. They will always make me feel connected to Syracuse University.”