Growing up in India, Hinali Shah (B.Arch. ’18) was always interested in art. When she moved to a small town in the United States at 13, she missed seeing the iconic buildings that define a city. “I yearned for that through my high school years,” she says. “So I took an architecture class and loved it.”
When deciding on a college where she could study architecture, she knew she wanted to be in a city that had great views and strong industry leaders from whom she could learn. “One of my main reasons for choosing New York Institute of Technology was for its New York City campus,” she says. “I also liked the varied range of faculty.”
Shah is grateful for all her professors and mentors who provided her with guidance along the way. “During my sophomore year, I met Amy Bravo [senior director of International and Experiential Education], who was my guide through all the years I spent at New York Tech,” she says. “Whether she was trying to get me an internship or encouraging me to go to the Dominican Republic for Alternative Spring Break, she was there for me and I learned so much from her about being a professional and a kind, caring person.” Shah also had a wonderful experience with her thesis advisor, Associate Professor Giovanni Santamaria, with whom she went to Spain and Portugal for a study abroad trip. “He has been a major influence on how I view architecture as a profession and what I want to do in the future,” she says.
Shah is working as a junior architect at David Smotrich & Partners, contributing to many different projects and learning the business side of the firm. Her main duties include designing presentations, drafting, surveying, and composing marketing materials. “Working in a small firm, I get to do a lot of different things that are not solely based on architecture, which I find interesting but also challenging,” she says. “I am thrown into situations where I have to figure out what I have to do or sometimes lead, and I really enjoy that.’
In addition to her work as an architect, Shah likes to share her passion for her profession. As a student at New York Tech, she started a blog called “Nonconformist Souls” and interned at Metropolis Magazine, an architecture- and design-focused publication. “I have always enjoyed writing and telling a story, so I naturally turned towards architecture and how a space can create a narrative,” she says. In 2018, she and a friend launched the podcast “12 Ounces.” When she first moved the United States, Shah found people made assumptions about her based on stereotypes. At the time, she didn’t have an outlet to talk about what she was going through. “‘12 Ounces’ came from a place of having a split cultural identity,” she explains. “Having lived in India for 13 years and then moving to the United States as a teenager, I felt that I belonged to both worlds,” she explains. “We tell the stories of people like me; people who are immigrants and what it means to live in a city like New York and a country like the United States,” she says.
Through her podcast, Shah hopes to create a place where people can let go of their inhibitions and share their personal experiences. “Hopefully, when someone reads or hears what I share, they will be able to relate, either through an architectural space or an experience they had.”