ZGF is committed to supporting the next generation of designers, which is why we established the ZGF Scholarship program in 2004 in memory of ZGF founding Partner and mentor, Norm Zimmer. The scholarship awards a $10,000 prize to be applied toward tuition and the opportunity for a summer internship.
Araceli grew up in The Tri Cities in Washington state. She spent five years in Seattle and received her B.A. in Architecture and B.S. in Construction Management from the University of Washington before traveling to Denmark for design internship opportunities. She is now working toward her Master of Architecture at Yale, where she enjoys meeting new people and watching Law & Order SVU when she’s not doing homework.
We caught up with Araceli to talk about her two greatest loves: tamales and civic architecture.
When did you realize you wanted to study design? My dad was a construction worker when I was younger. He used to show me his blueprints and he taught me how to read plans. I remember one time I saw a bathroom diagram and I thought it was beautiful. I was curious enough to pursue architecture as an undergrad.
Is there an aspect of the practice that you’re particularly interested in? I am interested in civic and cultural buildings. I like the way they tie to and reflect our social lives and society. They force us to understand people, their purpose in a space, and why and how they move.
Is there something you recently worked on that inspired you? Last semester, my class received an assignment to design an immigration center. This was provocative for Yale and it was such a deviation from the high-rise design assignments typical of architecture school. It forced everyone to do research on the immigration system in America. We all had to go on a journey to understand why these types of facilities are made and who they are made for, researching people and their stories, why they might be passing through and their needs in that moment.
What accomplishment are you the most proud of? I am proud of getting the ZGF scholarship! I am grateful for this.
What do you do in your free time? How do you ask an architecture student this question?! I’m mostly kidding, but I don’t have hobbies in the traditional sense. I am a social person. I do my best to get coffee or lunch with my friends on a regular basis. At the University of Washington and Yale, I’ve enjoyed getting to interact with people that are so different than me. Everyone has a different background and I love picking their brains.
What is the last book/podcast/movie you watched? The last podcast I listened to is called The Invisible Brain, which explores human behavior through brain science. I like learning about how people are motivated and understanding patterns. It relates to architecture because you have to figure out why people sit here instead of there. You need to understand human behavior to design even small things really well.
If you had to eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be? This one is so easy for me: tamales. They have been my favorite since I was little. I love the tamales my mom makes, especially the vegetable kind because they are the most difficult.