Alumni Spotlight:
Ami Shah (M.Arch. '03)

September 25, 2023

Name: ­­­­­­­­­­­­­Ami Shah
Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia
Major: Master of Architecture
Graduation Year: 2003
Employer: HOK
Title: Principal, Firmwide Health Education Practice Leader

"Attending architecture school at the University of Houston was a transformative experience. It provided a solid foundation, allowing me to expand my horizons and explore different design ideas and theoretical approaches in a way I had not before."

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Why did you choose the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design? What drew you to design?
As a high schooler, I was drawn to architecture because it offered the perfect blend of art, creativity, form-making, and the ability to positively impact people's lives. As an international student, the diversity of the student body was also a crucial factor for me, alongside a strong focus on design. These values embodied in the Hines College made it the clear choice for me.

What is one of your favorite memories from your time on campus? Was there a particular professor who influenced your education?
I have very fond memories of my time at University. As a graduate student from India, adapting to a new culture and pursuing my studies while working as a teaching assistant for two courses was challenging. However, my friends and professors were incredibly supportive and made the transition much smoother. Bruce Webb encouraged my creative side, while Ronnie Self taught me how to exercise restraint. My first contact with the United States was Tom Colbert, who helped me understand the system. As a teaching assistant for Professor Zemanek, I learned the importance of critical thinking by borrowing books from him. Professor Rifaat's approach to blending art, food, and music into architecture was irresistible. Professor Bachman's passion for his subject was unforgettable. All of this melded together to make me who I am today.

above: University of Chicago William Eckhardt Research Center; USF Health-Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute

Tell us about a typical day in your job. Do you have a particular design or business philosophy?
A typical day in my job is a dynamic mix of rich client interactions, problem-solving, brainstorming, strategizing, and friendly banter with colleagues. What I love about my work is that no two days are alike. I could be traveling to a client site for meetings, strategizing proposals and RFQ/RFPs, or working through presentations. I thrive on the challenges each day brings and the high level of collaboration and interaction characteristic of my workday.

What is one career accomplishment of which you are particularly proud? How do you feel the College prepared you for this?
Throughout my career, I have had the privilege to work on a diverse range of projects, including a research and development center at NASA, the Doha airport, semiconductor fabrication clean rooms near Seoul, and a core science and engineering facility prominently featuring a blue whale skeleton in Newfoundland, Canada.

While my work has been incredibly rewarding, I am most proud of my contribution to initiating the Diversity x Design scholarship worth $10,000 for BIPOC/minority architecture students at the HOK Atlanta office. Seeing this initiative's positive impact on the lives of aspiring architects has been a true highlight of my career.

above: Memorial University at Newfoundland Core Science Facility, St. John's, Canada; Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, SUNY Buffalo

What is one valuable lesson you learned at the Hines College?
Attending architecture school at the University of Houston was a transformative experience. It provided a solid foundation, allowing me to expand my horizons and explore different design ideas and theoretical approaches in a way I had not before. One of the most significant lessons I learned was to give free rein to my imagination and creativity.

What advice would you give to current architecture and design students?
I advise current architecture and design students to stay curious and be a sponge! Every interaction with peers, teachers, clients, consultants, and contractors presents an opportunity to learn and make a difference. Embrace your journey and soak in every experience, whether big or small. Learn from your successes and failures, and never stop seeking new knowledge and inspiration. Remember that you have the power to outshine any artificial boundary that others may impose. Be bold, take risks, and trust your instincts.

Above all, stay true to your vision and passion, and never lose sight of your work's positive impact on people's lives. Go out and shine! The world is waiting for your brilliance.



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