By Caroline Andrade
Current Academy of Art University School of Architecture (ARH) student Kenta Oye and alumna Samantha Buckley recently received recognition from the American Institute of Architects, San Francisco (AIASF) for their respective roles in making a difference within the architecture community.
Oye was presented with the 2019 Community Alliance Student Award for his work within the Academy and a community project he took part in during the Participatory Design class (ARH 512) last summer. “I was grateful, humbled, and very honored to receive an award,” Oye said during a phone interview. “It’s an individual milestone—and all of those individual milestones—I would definitely say that I didn’t do it alone; there’s a lot of mentors and guidance that I’ve had these last five and a half years or so.” The success, he added, was not just his own, but also ARH’s and the department directors who elected him for the program.
The B. Arch student, who will be graduating in Spring 2020, shared that this acknowledgment was a “huge confidence booster” and gave him a sense of “independence” that he could contribute to a team and a potential firm “that will hopefully value my type of input.”
“Kenta is one of the students who did a traditional thesis, but also participated in our Participatory Design class in the summer where students go up to the Lake County and participate in the building of houses for fire victims,” said ARH Undergraduate Director Jennifer Asselstine, who shared that the course was not a requirement for Oye, “but that’s just the kind of person he is.
“He will never push himself above anyone else and that incredible humility actually makes it even easier to highlight him as a student and as a potential candidate for an office, because you know that he will work for the team,” she further explained.
Buckley has been at Gensler since graduating from the Academy in 2015 and was a recipient of the 2019 Community Alliance Emerging Professional Award for her unique initiatives outside of her professional work. “It was very exciting to have recognition at this point in my career that was external,” said Buckley. “At work, I’ve had lots of encouragement and support, but being recognized by someone outside the office was different—a new milestone for me. Going to the ceremony and seeing the other people who were being recognized, I was like, ‘Wow, I’m standing amongst the industry’s top talent in the Bay Area.’ It was very cool, very special.”
Pioneering the women’s group at Gensler known as Successful Womxn at Gensler (SWAG) as well as other company extra-curricular activities, Buckley shared that part of the Emerging Professional Award was combined with the Community Impact Awards for the AIA. As part of SWAG, she explained that the group had been involved with a myriad of events for four years, from “bringing in guest speakers, to having lunchtime conversations about a news article.” The group also hosted workshops internally that all Gensler employees were invited to join. “I’m involved with our children’s holiday party which is a fun thing we do every year, just an internal event that we host for all of our staff’s children. Gensler matches all of the gifts and then we donate it to the Rafael House (a San Francisco-based nonprofit).”
Buckley is also a part of the ambitious Burlingame Point project, which she has been working on since the concept phase. “I’m really excited that it’s wrapping up construction now, so I’ve been [on Burlingame] all the way through construction,” she said. The project involves four office buildings, an amenity building, a parking structure and around 14 acres of basement area on an 18-acre site on the Bay.
“Our students choose thesis projects and activities that go beyond themselves and are not simply focused on their portfolio and their achievements, but really what’s going to support the common good,” said Asselstine. “I know that [the work] Samantha has done—being involved with sustainability and research at Gensler, and developing the program for women in architecture at Gensler—shows she’s always thinking about her community. From that, everyone benefits.”