Balance is extremely important to Aleksandra Zatorska. When she was a professional dancer, both physical and emotional balance played a huge role in her success. She participated in many interdisciplinary activities, which helped her develop skills in adapting to change. Now, as she pursues her master’s in architecture at New York Institute of Technology, balance has taken on a whole new meaning.
“I was looking for a form of expression that would stimulate me emotionally and intellectually,” she says. “I asked myself: ‘Is this the world I want to live in? What can I do to help us adapt to a changing environment?’ I think that a balance and a solution can be found in architecture.”
Growing up in Poland, Zatorska never let her dance training get in the way of her curiosity or learning. “I didn’t have time to follow the regular educational path, so I developed my own learning methods,” she says. “If I wanted to sing a French song, I taught myself French. If I wanted to design lighting for my room, I studied physics. When I was sick, I read about bodily functions and natural medicine.”
Her interest in architecture piqued early on. “As a kid, I spent every free moment in a garden my mom cultivated, and my dad took me to visit Polish castles, landmarks, and museums.”
Her imagination flourished when she traveled the world as a dancer. “I had the chance to experience first-hand how the world and environment are always changing,” she says. “It wasn’t long before I realized I had reached the pinnacle of my dance career, and I was ready to focus on serving a higher purpose. I wanted to find a new field that would combine my artistic, logical, and environmentally conscious side.”
Zatorska found the answer at New York Tech. “I wanted to combine my abilities, specify my goals, and develop the practical tools to achieve them,” she says. “When I visited the New York City campus for the first time, I was struck by the warm, friendly atmosphere. I knew this place would bring me clarity and put me on the right path. After a year, I can definitely say that my intuition was right.”
Zatorska has already found great success during her time here. She is the recipient of the IDC Merit Scholarship, IDC Foundation Merit Scholarship, and the IDC Foundation Scholarship – Research Assistantship, which allowed her to study the work of Toyo Ito and Tadao Ando, two architects whose aesthetics have greatly influenced her design process. Her research also prepared her for a studio program in Japan supervised by Professor David Diamond, M.Arch., and Associate Professor Giovanni Santamaria.
“In addition to allowing me to delve deeper into the work of Ito and Ando, that trip exposed me to historical heritage and modern construction, different woodworking techniques, and the detailing used in the work of [architectural firm] SANAA, and [architects] Kengo Kuma and Kenzō Tange,” she says. “But I was mostly interested in how the architects adapt the buildings to environmental events and conditions such as earthquakes or floods.”
Her time as a research assistant has also helped her to determine her specific goals: finding the balance between aesthetics and sustainability in design. “I want to be a part of a team that develops different strategies for sustainable design—things like responsive facades, improved cooling methods, efficiency structures, and methods to renovate existing buildings to adapt them to a changing environment,” she says. “New York Tech keeps up with the times and gathers talented, open-minded people who are focused on the future.”
Changing careers brings with it a whole host of challenges, and Zatorska was not immune to the stress. “I remember I was very scared before applying to New York Tech,” she says. “I knew it was time to make a change, but I was nervous about starting from the beginning. The truth is, age brings with it a different level of understanding of a new field of study. Changing your career means that you’re just filling in the gaps in your knowledge, not building from scratch.”