March 01, 2012

International Inspiration

For the nine Master of Architecture students that assistant professor Jennifer Lee Michaliszyn took to Hong Kong this fall, the trip marked their first time in Asia. For Michaliszyn, however, it was a homecoming of sorts.

Michaliszyn spent the first half of her life in Hong Kong, and while the return had a special significance, coming back as a trained architect to teach her students gave it a whole new meaning. Growing up in one of the world’s most densely populated cities, Michaliszyn was inspired by the buildings and drawn to urban design. She left at 18 to study architecture at Princeton University and later earning a Master of Architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Her seven years of architecture and urban design work at the Boston architecture firm Chan Krieger Sieniewicz Inc. left a visible mark on the city: One of her major projects, The Greater Boston Food Bank headquarters, is seen by thousands of Bostonians every day as they make the drive down I-93 South. Michaliszyn’s work as project leader helped turn the 1,000-square-foot “metal box” into a dynamic and appealing building that can store 50 million pounds of food while helping to promote the non-profit.

Another one of her projects, the “Big Box Revival”—which turns abandoned big box stores like Wal-Mart and Best Buy into multi-purpose spaces—has earned design awards from the Boston Society of Architects and was presented at a conference for the American Collegiate Schools of Architecture.

Although this was her first year as a full-time faculty member at Wentworth, she has been teaching part-time as an adjunct since fall 2008. She has always had great respect for education, which stems from watching her father, who is a professor of Chinese history. But that respect grew exponentially once she got into the classroom. “Being a teacher makes you a stronger critic and therefore a better critic of your own work,” says Michaliszyn. “It has taught me that there are many different ways to approach any given project. I really enjoy when a student approaches a project in a way that I never would have. It opens my own eyes to different solutions.” 

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