We’re proud to announce the recipient of our most recent Chairish scholarship, Syeeda Simmons. She’s currently enrolled at Columbia University, pursuing a degree in architecture. Syeeda’s long-term goals include exploring innovative design solutions and addressing issues like environmental racism and the lack of diversity in the architecture field, where currently just 2% of architects identify as Black. Her lifelong loves of both math and art have given her the passion she feels for the profession, and we can’t wait to see what she does in the future.
Can you tell us a bit about how architecture factored into your life growing up and what made you want to enter a field connected to design?
One of my most enjoyable pastimes growing up was going on neighborhood walks. On these walks, I was always drawn to the homes I’d see, each and every one being unique in design and style. I loved how the architecture reflected the character, identity, and culture of the occupants it housed. From that, I developed a newfound love and appreciation for my neighborhood and a love for architecture; I was inspired by how architecture can instill a sense of pride for a community.
Simultaneously, in school, math has always been my favorite subject. Every class unlocked new challenges that could be solved and I was pushed to think critically about reaching a solution. On the other hand, art has been a huge passion of mine since being a toddler. My creativity was unleashed and I was able to express the way I saw the world through my artistic lens. My neighborhood roots, as well as my love for math and art, led me to enter a design-related field. Design enables me to rethink and reshape the way people interact with spaces and challenges me to think critically and creatively.
What excites you about a career in architecture?
What excites me about a career in architecture is the ability to impact real lives, and real people, in a real way. Architecture is a sculptural work of art, and as a future architect I can add meaning and value to built environments. Additionally, the capacity to break down racial barriers by entering the field as a Black woman excites me because it will ultimately help me to diversify the field and become a resource and mentor for other Black women looking to pursue architecture.
What does this scholarship mean to you?
This scholarship means that I’m seen. It presents me with the opportunity to highlight my passion and zeal for architecture and design, but also recognizes the real financial burden I face and ultimately brings me one step closer to fulfilling my career goals.
You mention in your essay that you are working towards your Masters in Architecture. Can you tell us a little bit more about your plans after graduation?
After graduating from Columbia GSAPP’s M.Arch program, I ideally plan to work within an architectural and design practice that seeks to use design equity and architecture to engage with Black and Brown communities and build environments that change lives and allow individuals to define themselves within their space. I would love to actively engage with and address issues, such as environmental racism and economic inequity, that plague Black and Brown communities and work to repurpose and reshape the way I design in order to create more sustainable, functional, and beautiful built environments.
When not in class or studying, what hobbies or activities can we find you taking part in?
When not in class or studying I enjoy going out into the freshness of nature on hikes to catch a nice view and get active. I find time to release tension, stress, and emotions through yoga in order to recenter my focus, energy, and overall well-being. You’ll also find me engaging in football, basketball, or soccer games, cheering on friends and family or professionals!
If you could select 4 items on the site to furnish your current living quarters, what would those be?
The current dining room table and chair set I have is in dire need of a chic and stylish upgrade and I was immediately drawn to these vintage chairs. The emerald hue would be a great pop of color, yet is still a beautiful neutral tone. I love the blend of the angled arm design with the soft curve of the back and seat.
I was drawn to this dining table’s design of interlocking legs — it’s unique and delivers a sense of balance and elegance I just really enjoy.
The lampshade design of this vintage floor lamp is what caught my eye, as well as the stand design. It’s both artistic and stylish.
I was drawn to this sculpture as a centerpiece for the coffee table I have. I like the unfinished design of the sculpture and how every perspective presents something new to look at.