Newcity Article: My First Right Connection

The summer before my sophomore year in high school was spent learning about architecture after being suggested to look into it as a profession by my older brother. After numerous trips to the library to attempt to understand what architecture was, I eventually just sat on the Internet and researched everything I could find about Chicago's architecture community. I found out about the Chicago Architecture Foundation, specifically their textbook titled "The Architecture Handbook: A Student Guide to Understanding Buildings," co-authored by Jennifer Masengarb and Krisann Rehbein. That's probably the most important Google search I have ever made in my entire life.

The Architecture Handbook (Source)

I told myself I needed to get my hands on that book, not knowing that when my sophomore year classes started at Lane Tech High School, I would be one of the first users of the very book I had just discovered. I remember walking into my first ever architecture class at Lane Tech, excited and surprised to see the same book stacked right next to my computer monitor. I picked it up, flipped through the pages, and then went to the front page, thinking: "Chicago Architecture Foundation...I should probably get to know this organization."

Finding CAF on the web and then connecting to it in school and then being exposed to all of the wonderful workshops, lectures, events, activities, competitions, and resources this wonderful organization had for architecture students like myself was just amazing. I went from being a confused high school student who thought she wanted to be an artist or something of that sort, to someone who had just found her home in the vast world of architecture.

When I first saw Krisann Rehbein and Jen Masengarb at one of the "Saturday in the Studio" workshops at CAF, I thought it was the coolest thing to have the authors of "The Architecture Handbook" leading the workshops. I had no idea that they would soon become my first (and most valuable) connections in the field of architecture.

Design/Build Saturday Workshop with CAF in 2009

From a Google search about Chicago architecture, to the "Architecture Handbook", to the "Saturday in the Studio" workshops, to the Student Advisory Committee, to the Newhouse Architecture Competition, to sitting in on a David Adjaye CAF lecture, to being a volunteer teacher at a "Saturday in the Studio" workshop, to being a keynote speaker at the Newhouse Architecture Competition, to now...I will forever be indebted to the wonderful folks at the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

Krisann and Jen weren't people who just led events for students. They were dedicated people who had a huge impact on my life. Even after I graduated from Lane Tech, they visited me at IIT to see what I was working on, gave me advice to help me get back up when I felt like I couldn't take it anymore, and are still there for me through everything. Take this story as an example:

As a young Pakistani-American Muslim woman, I had the most supportive mother who was excited, but still nervous for her daughter who was pursuing the field of architecture. This profession was new to her. She drove me to every workshop, every lecture, was there for every winning speech I made for the essay entry for the Newhouse Architecture Competition, but she told me she always had a little voice that asked, "Is this field right for my daughter?" It was something foreign to her, even though my older brother was a graphic designer. Pakistani women in the field of design was unheard of for my mom, but she never told me not to follow my dreams just because she was unsure about somethings. After talking to Krisann and Jen, my mom would tell me how nice they were, how they would answer her questions, how they supported me, and how they truly cared. My mom would thank them every time she met them for exposing me to the educational events and programs at CAF. Both Krisann and Jen would tell my mom how excited and proud they were of me and that I was going places. After speaking to them for a few years at every Newhouse Competition ceremony, I noticed that my mom became more and more confident about me pursuing architecture. Now, everything that goes right in my career, my mom always attributes it to me getting involved with CAF and she's completely right. She says, "If it wasn't for you meeting Krisann and Jen, you wouldn't have gotten here."

Now, you're thinking: "Where are you going with this, Fariha?"

Today, Krisann wrote an article about my journey in architecture for Newcity. While I feel that I really don't deserve all of her kind words, I do know that when my mom read it, she called me and burst into tears and told me she saw the result of her support, patience, and hard work and that she was extremely proud of me. When you're the daughter of two hard working parents who traveled many, many miles from their home in Pakistan, left their families, their dream jobs, their friends, and so much more just to make sure their children attained a great education...hearing those few words is truly a blessing.

Oh, and of course, she said again: "I always tell you, if it wasn't for you meeting Krisann and Jen, you wouldn't have gotten here." As always, I agreed completely.

The Chicago Architecture Foundation is an amazing organization that allowed me to meet dedicated people who have helped me in so many ways. The article is truly an honor and I'm writing this post to say that every accomplishment it mentions is attributed to my connection to the Chicago Architecture Foundation, as well as Marwen and Lane Tech High School. A huge thank you to everyone at these institutions and a big thank you to Krisann for not only writing such a thoughtful piece, but also for being such a wonderful mentor/supporter/friend from the start.

Alhamdulilah (thanks be to God) for everything.

Read the Newcity article here.