Interview Series: Nicole Wiznizter

By AIAS | Oct 12, 2014

RISD AIAS has started to conduct and publish a series of interviews of our peer RISD architecture students and recent alumni. The following is the first such interview.

Nicole Wiznitzer is graduated in 2014 with degree of Bachelors of Architecture at Rhode Island School of Design. Originally from Northbrook, IL, Nicole developed a strong passion for Architecture while traveling abroad and embracing her home city of Chicago.



Degree Project – Nicole Wiznitzer – Drawing 1 – Forms Eclipsing each other


AIAS: Describe your experiences with the studio culture at RISD:

NW: I have definitely learned the most from my peers in studio ­ probably more than from most professors on a daily basis. I think that having the undergraduate and graduate students share the same studio space not only creates a symbiotic relationship between the differences in experience but alsohelps me develop awareness on how to advantageously take influence from my peers. I approach my studio time with an attitude and commitment that does not equate to pulling all-nighters [I think I’ve only pulled two ever]. Working all night does not validate your work more than anyone else’s and it’s healthier and more productive to develop a consistent working process. I think it would be incredibly beneficial if the all-nighter mind­set were not so prevalent in our studio culture.


Describe your design process:

I wouldn’t say that I am graduating with a clear idea of a perfect process for me. However, I have been able to develop a way of working throughout the years that has been successful for me. Naturally, I am a process-orientated person. I prefer to plan out what I want to accomplish over a couple of days at a time, but not the specifics of it, and put in the upmost effort to achieve those goals. I probably go through post­it notes like nobody’s business…
A message that made a big difference to me in terms of working was from my first studio when Jonathan Knowles told me that my hands are going to think faster than my brain will in terms of output. Since then I have trusted my intuition and sensibilities and worried about being able to articulate it later in the process. Later on Sylvia said something else very specific that flipped a switch for me. She said that I need to be as critical of my own work as I am of other people’s work. I’ve always been very vocal during critiques but I was not approaching my own projects from the same view­point. Over time my working has evolved through combination of trusting my own instincts and being critical of what I am doing, leading me to find confidence in my projects.


Degree Project – Nicole Wiznitzer – Drawing 2 – Hyperbola 1


Degree Project – Nicole Wiznitzer – Drawing 3 – Hyperbola 2


Describe the thesis process and your thesis project: Every thesis professor has a very different approach and I think people gravitate towards certain professors based off of the experience they want. I was interested in a self­directed and exploratory process so I chose David Gersten as my advisor. I went into thesis with a lot of questions and needed the freedom to approach these questions from my own perspective. David is incredibly hands off ­ in the best way – and will never tell students what to do (even if you think that’s what you need). He reviews the work in a round­a­bout way where by the end of the conversation you discover certain things about what you have done without being directly informed. I find that this process works really well for me. There is always anxiety in thesis when you don’t know exactly what you are doing. In our group, we focused on trusting not knowing… but that was difficult for me because I am a very meticulous person. But I think that approaching the thesis with an exploratory nature really helped me evolve questions into a project. I would do a drawing or a model when I wanted to learn something or answer something for myself, never to show a thought to someone else.

My project is about the intersection of phenomenology and geometry. I was interested in exploring the sensory, experiential, and spatial qualities of a specific geometry that diagrammed a big question I had about human relationships and human experience. In one way, it is about form and geometry as an origin and a generative mechanism for design and decision­making. It is also about Architecture as a finite moment in an infinite trajectory, of time, experience, or materiality. But I consistently worked from and through a geometric diagram that I drew in the beginning and returned to it at each moment in the process.


Degree Project – Nicole Wiznitzer – Model 1 – The Geometry of Conic Sections


Degree Project – Nicole Wiznitzer – Model 2 – The Geometry of Conic Sections 2


Describe how RISD’s architecture department has developed your understanding of architecture:

RISD does a great job in expanding what architecture can be. A lot of people come in with conceptions of architectural design and it seems like a goal of the department to present a whole variety of things that can fall under the practice of architecture. Looking back on it, I’m thankful that they leave it so open. For me, the most important thing that we do here is learn how to think critically and how to ask the right questions. Through my education, I’ve developed a mind­set that shapes my approach to anything I participate in.


What do you think about RISD architecture:

I went through the whole “I hate this, I’m transferring” phase. I even applied to transfer and was ready to go but I’m happy I didn’t. A couple of things I would have liked to hear when I began is that it takes a long time for the things that we learn here to sink in. Everybody works at their own pace and we have to be patient to fully understand what the professors are actually conveying. I would say it took me until junior year to really say, “okay, I am okay with this and I think I am starting to get it…” If you really love it or if somewhere deep down you love it, It is worth definitely persevering to the end.


Recommendation on electives/advance studios and advice to underclassmen:

Advanced studio was the first time I really felt excited about what I was working on because I had to confront what I was actually interested in. I recommend picking the hardest choices possible. Pick the thing that seems impossible to you but also makes you curious. Explore your options and be as experimental as possible. Also, going to Rome on the European Honors Program was one of the best decisions I made. I don’t think Architectural history plays a big enough role in the department and it’s really important as a student to have a sense who in history can be your friend and help you out.


Why did you pick RISD architecture:

I was not one of those people who always planned on going to RISD ­ in fact, I didn’t even know this school existed until senior year of high school. I had little prior experience in the arts before coming to RISD. I applied with a photography portfolio, which I guess fooled them, and I visited a lot of schools prior to confirming my acceptance here. I got here and was like, “what is this thing called charcoal that you want me to use?” But I think there was something about the culture here that is an obvious choice if you want to have a freedom in making. I took Architectonics freshman year and knew there was something about how the department operated that I could really latch on to. Part of it was the rigor of the program because I wanted an environment that did their best to consistently challenge my work. I have always approached any opportunity with the attitude that I’ll try it and if it doesn’t work out I’ll figure something out. So I ended up in the architecture program, and through a series of tries, here I am. See more work from Nicole Wiznitzer at

student interview

Student Interview Series: Nicole Marple

By AIAS | Oct 17, 2014

RISD AIAS recently conducted the second interview of this ongoing series by speaking with recent alumna Nicole Marple (M.Arch, 2014). Nicole completed her undergraduate degree in architecture at University at Buffalo, The State University of New York. AIAS: How does your undergraduate experience differ from the RISD experience? NM: RISD is unique as a grad continue reading…

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