When architecture student Brian Johnson was searching for the right college, NYIT offered everything he was looking for: a prestigious architecture program and an ideal location. Johnson has gotten off to a great start. He is the recipient of the Theodore K. Steele Memorial Scholarship, the president of the American Institute of Architecture Students Old Westbury chapter, and an intern with Nelson Treehouse and Supply, better known for Animal Planet’s Treehouse Masters.
Johnson sat down with The Box to talk about his career goals and how NYIT is preparing him for a successful future.
Why did you choose NYIT?
I chose NYIT because it was the most affordable way for me to get my degree. Attending at Old Westbury allowed me to save money by living at home while in college. Another benefit of commuting to school is that I am able to work two days a week at an architecture firm to both gain real world experience as well as to offset tuition costs.
Another one of the features that stood out to me when I was college searching was NYIT’s location. Nestled in the woods of the Gold Coast, the campus serves as a peaceful and architecturally rich foundation for my studies. From sketching the luxurious NYIT de Seversky Mansion to drafting in a renovated barn [Education Hall], the campus offers a diverse mix of architectural styles.
What excites you most about studying architecture?
Having this degree will open many doors in a wide range of fields that expand past traditional architecture employment. While architects typically are white collar workers, I tend to sway towards the blue collar part of the trade. Having been a carpenter for the past seven years, I gained a hands-on approach to construction long before I sat at a drafting desk. I am excited to explore the design-build side of the field, meaning that the person who draws the plans is also the person who swings the hammer at the site. By seeing the process through from start to finish, I feel a great sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.
Tell us about organizations and activities you are currently involved in at NYIT.
I am the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) president for the Old Westbury Chapter for the 2017-2018 academic year. This organization works alongside the faculty to help students through the rigorous architecture program. From running computer program workshops to taking field trips to architecturally famous sites, the organization is essential to the success of the School of Architecture and Design students. This year, we hope to deepen our school’s connection to our alumni as well as incorporate more hands-on building experiences for members.
You recently landed an exciting internship. Can you tell us about it?
Currently, I have an internship with Nelson Treehouse and Supply, from the Animal Planet television show Treehouse Masters. The process of landing the internship taught me much about the value of patience and persistence. I had been applying for this internship for upwards of two and a half years. I decided that I needed to chase down my dream, no matter how crazy it might be. This past February, I saw that the owner of the company and host of the show, Pete Nelson, was going to be at a Home Show in Columbus, Ohio. Four days after seeing the advertisement, I was driving west on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, heading towards my future. I met with Pete Nelson during a meet and greet session. I gave him my resume, portfolio, and business card. To my surprise he reached into his wallet and handed me his personal business card. Shortly after this, we went live on camera. During this recorded interview, Pete offered me a job.
I was in Fall City, Wash., for the summer, and enjoyed learning the construction methods of treehouses.
What advice would you give to a student who is thinking of applying?
Architecture has a reputation of being an extremely difficult, demanding, and unfulfilling major. While this may be true for some, I have a different take on this notion. This past semester, I put in upwards of 40 hours of work per week outside of class, worked between 16-20 hours per week at a design-build firm, slept for at least 6 hours per night, and ended up with a 4.0 GPA. If you are dedicated to the field, you will succeed. The work paid off for me.
I do realize that this is not the case for every architecture student. In the field we often talk about architecture being “in you.” If you are not ready to dedicate yourself entirely towards this major, you will struggle to find motivation. Yet if you are willing to put in the time, you can have some incredible opportunities.
Describe your career aspirations.
Growing up in Levittown, I was surrounded by the original “tiny homes.” Living in a house less than 1,000 square feet, I found comfort in the small spaces the house defined. While I do anticipate continuing to work with Nelson Treehouse and Supply, I would also be happy to buy a farm in the Northeast to begin my own family-run design-build architecture firm. Ideally, we would specialize in the design and construction of tiny homes.
What is one thing about you people might be surprised to find out?
Many people, including my friends at NYIT, are unaware that I am a black belt in Kempo Jiu Jitsu. I studied martial arts for over a decade, and I learned skills that have helped me in life. Similarly, becoming an Eagle Scout cemented these values in me. Self-confidence, patience, and dedication have played a huge part in my journey to my internship with Nelson Treehouse and Supply.