The Gibbs Spotlight Podcast: Kristi Saliba, Architecture Student

GCA communications intern Haley Sandell (H) sat down with 2nd-year Architecture student Kristi Saliba (K) to talk with her about her experience as a student at GCA, and how the COVID-19 events have affected her studies this semester. Kristi is from Lawton, Oklahoma, and is currently finishing off the semester from home. Read on for highlights, or click the link below to access the full podcast.

Above: Listen to the full interview on the Gibbs Spotlight podcast.

H: What can you tell us about yourself?

K: I am a sophomore at OU, and I’m a second-year architecture student, and I’m actually minoring in harp performance!

H: That’s awesome! When did you start playing the harp? 

K: I have been playing piano since I was really little, but I started harp in high school, and yeah, I’ve been playing since! 

H: So why did you choose to study architecture? 

K: Okay, lots of people have asked me this since I’ve been at the university, but honestly, I really don’t know. I remember becoming interested in architecture in high school, but I’m not sure why. I feel like I was creative as a kid and I’ve always loved math and science, so architecture is the perfect mix of all of those! 

H: That’s so cool! One thing I’ve noticed about architecture at OU is how creative and outside-the-box it is. Do you like that part of the OU, American School feel? 

K: Yeah, for sure! I love customizing everything to the person you’re designing for because architecture really is about the people. And our dean, Hans Butzer, always says that “architecture is a social act” and it really is. 

H: I love that. Speaking of that, architecture is a very hands-on discipline, so what’s been your favorite project to work on so far? 

K: This is a hard question because every project that we have gotten to work on has taught me so much, but I think that one of my favorites was a tower that we designed the spring semester of my first year. It was the first project we had a physical site, and we got to visit the site and we had a general client, so it was one of the first “realistic” projects we got to work on. Do you know the duck pond that is off Lindsey? Yeah, that was our site! We got to go calculate the slope, and we designed a tower for the duck pond! It was called the tranquility tower and was meant to be for visitors and students, and families to go and relax at the duck pond and have a good time! I think that because the projects our first year are so abstract, this was super exciting, and it was really exciting to experience what designing a more realistic building would be like, but looking back it is funny because we had no idea what was coming. It’s so crazy to see how much we’ve learned, so yeah, I’m excited to see what the future holds for us. 

Image credit: Kristi Saliba, Duck Pond tower project

H: So, as you may know with the recent news, at the time of this recording, the OU campus has been shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and all classes are now online. How has online learning been with architecture so far?

K: It’s been interesting. Amongst all these changes, I think the one thing that really keeps us focused and inspired are our professors. As a student, it’s really motivating for me to see how much they care about our growth and our learning through these hard times, so it’s really nice to hear from them and to see them more on-the-spot rather than prepared. Very personal.

H:  Since seeing the pandemic unfold these past few weeks, especially in Oklahoma. Have any aspects of it that you’ve seen opened your eyes to how architecture shapes our world and can help the situation at hand, especially concerning the social distancing and six-feet-apart rules? How do you see that as an architect? 

K: I think that everyone is realizing through these times that the most important thing is that everyone is safe and healthy. I think that in general, architecture, as a field, is geared towards that in-person communication and collaborating with other people, but I think the most important thing that we’ve learned and the most important thing to keep in mind is that even though we’re working together from a distance, working together and engaging in a “design thinking” can make a difference. It can help protect our planet, and it can help make the future better for everyone.  

Image credit: Kristi Saliba, My studio desk at the end of my first semester.

H: Definitely, that’s awesome. Enough about COVID-19; we’ve heard enough about that lately. It’s an on-the-spot question, but if you could have any job in the future, what would it be (as an architect)? What’s your dream goal? 

K: My family is Catholic, and I’ve always had this goal of designing a church. Once I get to design a church, that would be amazing! 

H: We just had the new church go up on campus! Was that an inspiration? 

K: I know! It’s incredible! It was actually really awesome because they started construction on it right as I was arriving here as a freshman, so it was really cool to see the whole process, and I got to look at the blueprints and all of the plans which was amazing! 

Thank you so much, Kristi, for taking the time to speak with us about your experiences at Gibbs!

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.