Born and raised in India, Nikhil Bang has always been intrigued by creation. He would spend his days sketching on canvases bigger than he was and model making with Lego, clay, or anything else he could get his hands on. He continued exercising his passion until it was time to decide on a profession. Bang’s father played a crucial role in helping him realise his potential.
“Flipping through my sketchbook, he noticed abstract scribblings in it,” he says. “His instincts helped me truly understand what it meant to be an architect. Immediately, I was sold.”
Of course, Bang knew that to become an architect, he would need to learn from the best. He craved an academic experience that would help him understand every aspect of the design world, broadening his prospects in the process. Since the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) had a long, illustrious history of championing the importance of an experimental, mind-opening education, it was his only option. Plus, starting anew in sunny Southern California sounded like an opportunity of a lifetime.
It certainly turned out to be. Today, Bang is living his best life in the “City of Angels.” “Life in LA is vibrant. There’s always something to do, a beach to go to, a coffee shop to unwind at, friendly people to converse with, and countless architectural masterpieces to take in,” he says. “I think Southern California is a place everyone should experience at least once.”
Life in the classroom is just as exciting. When asked to describe SCI-Arc in a sentence, Bang, an M.Arch 2 student, does it in just two words. He refers to the institution as a “think tank” — specifically, an immeasurable one.
“There is no limit to your thought process here,” Bang elaborates. “You can do whatever you feel and make sense of it alongside an expert. They will always challenge you to do better than you did a day ago.”
“Furthermore, it is an ‘open’ school in every sense of the word. Nobody is confined to designated spaces. Instead, we get to witness what everyone else is doing across disciplines –– at bachelor or master’s level –– gaining inspiration along the way.”
Interdisciplinary exposure helped him develop competencies he never knew he could. In 2020, Bang won the first prize for an international competition “Fentress Global Challenge” to design the airport for the future.
Today, he’s confident to venture into new design environments like set design, product design, games design, and even digital fashion. “Thanks to SCI-Arc, I’m confident I can do it all,” he says.
Jorge De Ovando was keen on doing it all too, which is why he wasn’t stopping, despite already having an undergraduate background in architecture, seven years of professional experience, and a LEED Gold Certificate.
With new design technologies and contemporary theories emerging rapidly, he was determined to stay ahead of the curve. He wasn’t about to let a pandemic delay his plans either. When COVID-19 was at its peak, Ovando relocated his family to Southern California. Looking back, he wouldn’t have planned it any other way.
“It was interesting to begin this adventure in a foreign country with my wife and two babies in the middle of chaos and change,” he says. “I believe studying during the pandemic has brought many lessons to learn and opportunities to explore.”
Since joining SCI-Arc’s M.Arch 2 programme, Ovando’s imagination has developed leaps and bounds. To him, limits no longer exist. In his words, he’s evolved into an architect that is “daring and open to change.”
A newfound liberal mindset helped him thrive in his latest studio project –– conceptualising a music performance complex in LA’s Exposition Park. The given brief envisioned a space that was far more than just aesthetically pleasing. “It had a deep theoretical approach concerning humans, nature and how we see, treat and experience nature in the urban context,” he explains.
“Thankfully, my programme has provided a perfect combination of Theory and Visual Studies seminars that added and supported the challenging task. Thanks to these courses, I completed my project successfully.”
With still a year to go before graduating, Ovando is certain SCI-Arch has equipped him with the tools he needs to design his way to success across a range of sectors. A firm of his own has always been the goal, but now, Ovando has decided to keep his options as open as his artistic mind.
“SCI-Arc’s experimental, free-spirited approach to design has taught me to create and imagine beyond limits,” he says. “Everything I thought I knew about architecture has been destabilised and defied for the better.”
This future-forward spirit is evident in all SCI-Arc programmes. Whether it’s at the undergraduate, graduate, or postgraduate level, students here reexamine assumptions, create, explore, and test the limits of architecture. To join them, click here. For scholarship opportunities, click here.
The school is currently in the third phase of its four-phase plan for the SCI-Arc community to return safely and systematically to campus amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Students are encouraged to attend design studios but can remain remote if they are unable or choose not to attend in person. At the next phase, SCI-Arc will resume normal operations.