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Student Q&A: Sarah Pumphrey and Sonya Falkovskaia (MArch I ’23)

Sarah and Sonya sitting with modelsHometowns
Richmond, VA
London, UK

Undergraduate Schools and Majors
James Madison University: Bachelor of Fine Arts in Architectural Design
University of Bath: Bachelor of Science in Architecture

Program
Master in Architecture I, 2023

How many students are in each program?

For MArch I, the average class size is 60 students with studio sizes of around 10. Forty to fifty percent of the class has non-architecture backgrounds, meaning they have not studied architecture for their undergraduate degree. This makes for a great class dynamic as there is a wider range of experiences brought to the learning environment.

What are studios like?
Photo of a model made by Sarah Pumphrey
Model by Sarah.

Each core studio lasts one semester. In core studios, the whole class is given the same brief, which allows for cross-studio collaboration. In Core 1 and 2, you meet with your studio professor three times a week. In Core 3 and 4, you meet twice a week. You will have a different studio professor for each semester. Short, exercise-like projects in the first semester are designed to challenge background and non-background students, and they eventually lead to longer, more in-depth projects as you progress. Browse Fall 2020 core studios.

Option studios are taken in semesters five and six; students apply from a variety of different programs and years and are selected via a lottery. The studios options change from year to year and attract a host of different professors and critics from around the world. Browse Fall 2020 option studios.

What is the thesis process for Architecture students?
sonya sitting crosslegged on her desk
Sonya in the Gund Hall trays.

A thesis is generally taken in your final semester at the GSD. When doing a thesis, most students choose to isolate it within its own semester so they can give it their full time and attention. This means that a lot of students extend their course by one semester, making it eight semesters instead of seven. In the semester before taking the thesis, you take a pre-thesis seminar designed to prepare you for whatever you will eventually research. In thesis, you will choose advisors from the GSD faculty whom you will meet during the semester to support your development. Thesis presentations take place at the end of the semester and are a great way to see everyone’s work, no matter your year or course. Browse the 2020 Thesis Exhibition.

Going to school here has allowed me to develop in leaps and bounds as a designer, but has also given me an incredibly supportive community of peers to learn from, lean on, and develop lasting friendships.

Sarah

How are grades determined, specifically for core studios?
Photo of a model made by Sonya Falkovskaia
Model by Sonya.

Grades at the GSD are not numerical; they include distinction, high pass, pass, low pass, and fail. Students work with their studio professor through the semester and grades are determined on the overall performance in the semester, rather than on any particular project.

Can I gain experience in exhibition design and curating at the GSD?

The GSD offers lots of chances for you to get involved with physical and digital exhibitions, as well as with publications related to the school. There is always something being exhibited—in groups, individually, or with external architects—and students are continually involved.

What is so great about our class is that every single person has something that they excel at, and everyone is open to sharing their knowledge so we can all become better designers.

Sonya

Are there students who participate in internships while taking classes during the semester?
Sarah posing with her pin up
Sarah at a review.

From our experience, students partake in a wide range of jobs but these are not generally internships. At the GSD, and Harvard in general, there are lots of opportunities to become technical assistants, library assistants, teaching assistants, and so on. In later years, there are opportunities to become research assistants for professors, and it is very common for students to have internships during the summer in all years.

How have you grown since coming to the GSD?

Sonya: As an international student, deciding to go to the GSD was nerve-racking but exciting. The environment the GSD provides is unique. It creates such a close-knit community that supports you through what can often be an overwhelming experience. What I have appreciated most is the people and what I have been able to learn from both peers and professors. Even though I’m only in my third semester, I already see that I have become a lot more confident in my abilities and eager to take on more challenges. What is so great about our class is that every single person has something that they excel at, and everyone is open to sharing their knowledge so we can all become better designers.

Sarah: During my first year at the GSD, I have grown tremendously not only as a designer but also as an individual. I have learned to give each part of the design process thoughtful attention and have worked with peers and mentors with wildly different skills and interests. There are opportunities to soak up new knowledge at the GSD, whether it be a public lecture, exhibition, or through your peers. As a class representative, I have been able to develop as a student who shares her voice and the voice of her peers and have become a more active member of my academic community. The GSD seemed intimidating at first, but it is truly a place of acceptance, diversity, and group mentality. Going to school here has allowed me to develop in leaps and bounds as a designer, but has also given me an incredibly supportive community of peers to learn from, lean on, and develop lasting friendships.

All photos at Gund Hall were captured prior to the building's closure in March 2020.