Irina Schneid is an architect, educator, and principal of an interdisciplinary design lab: SCH+ARC Studio LLC. Her research, teaching, and practice are focused on activating drawing as a generative tool in the production of spatial relations. She is currently teaching undergraduate design and theory courses at Pratt Institute and Columbia University. Past appointments include Tyler School of Art- Temple University, NYIT, and the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) in Melbourne, Australia.
In this episode, Irina shares how she got her foot in the door in the ultra competitive world of academia, how she balances teaching and running her own practice, and how motherhood has redefined her idea of what constitutes a successful career.
LIGHTNING ROUND Q&A
WHAT IS ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU HAVE FOR SOMEONE JUST STARTING OUT IN THEIR CAREER?
Don't have any preconceptions about what it would be like, what comprises the profession, and what kinds of experiences you might have and be open to them. You might find yourself aligning with someone, or your career taking a tangent or direction that you never anticipated, so just be open to that. Don't set false expectations or don't stereotype exactly what kind of practitioner you're going to be, or what kind of practice you might engage with.
WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU FEEL UNFOCUSED OR OVERWHELMED?
I go to the playground! Honestly, I just spend more time with my kids. I learned very early on in my architectural education that there comes a point when you're no long being productive - where actually you're kind of being destructive to your own work process. And so I don't work beyond the point where I feel like I'm adding any value to the process. So I stop, I play with my kids, I go to the playground, I get some fresh air. You just have to give yourself time to re-center.
WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU FIND REALLY INSPIRING?
I don't know if it's surprising or not, but the current events are not inspiring. But I think the students in Parkland Florida are super inspiring. I always try to tell my students that design can advocate for change, and it should do so - it's a social practice. The way that these Parkland students are standing up for themselves, or articulating issues that are important to them, that they're looking to solve problems, I'm constantly thinking what role does design have in addressing some of these issues that they're bringing up. Again, I hope that my students and people that are in the profession can say, "What can we as designers look to do to make a foothold to make spaces safer for students - to address these issues on a policy level, but also on a spatial level."
WHAT'S A FUNNY OR UNUSUAL FACT ABOUT YOURSELF?
It's not a habit, but an attribute - I have two different colored eyes. I guess that's funny!
MENTOR SHOUT OUT! WHO IS SOMEONE WHO HAS BEEN A GREAT MENTOR TO YOU?
[My] first professor in architecture was Jim Williamson. I very fondly still look back at my first design studio as something that shaped what was going to become the rest of my career and the rest of my profession in academia. I think that without him, I may have changed what I was doing all together. I don't know that I would have stuck with it but he was so inspirational to me. We did stay in touch after university, and he definitely helped brainstorm ideas about how I might go into teaching, especially in such a cutthroat environment such as New York City. I always look back to the things that I learned as a student in his studio and think how can I be that same kind of influence for my own students. Jim Williamson, if you're listening, this is a shout out to you!