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‘Never have the know-it-all attitude, keep learning and improving yourself’

AIT-SAP alumna Nilofar Saifi firmly believes every student is unique and has his or her own learning style



Nilofar Saifi is an alumna of Apeejay Institute of Technology-School of Architecture and Planning (AIT-SAP). And now, she has joined the institute as an Assistant Professor. The Delhi-based architect-cum-professor also completed her postgraduate education in Ekistics from the Faculty of Architecture and Ekistics, Jamia Millia University. With five years of experience in teaching architecture, Nilofar has worked with G.D Goenka University, Gurugram and Lingaya’s Vidyapeeth as an Assistant Professor at their Schools of Architecture. In an interview, Apeejay alumna shares a special bond with her alma mater, her journey as an academician and more. Edited excerpts:

What inspired you to study architecture and choose Apeejay?

It was the year 2010, and coming from a family of mostly engineers, I was preparing to get myself into B Tech. But somewhere the thought of pursuing what everyone in my family has done was bothering me. I always wanted to do something off-beat and challenging. So, I remember reading a lot of career journals in that year and looking for something that excited me. And fortunately, I stumbled upon the field of architecture and started studying about it. Since I had a fair amount of interest in designing, I decided to pursue architecture with full conviction. Apeejay being one of the oldest and reputed architecture colleges in Delhi-NCR, I had no second-thoughts before choosing it. And I’ll always be glad that I took this decision.     

Kindly share some of your learnings from AIT-SAP?

Learning at AIT-SAP was always fun. I still remember my first day with Prof. Meenu, who taught us structure and the construction with other co-faculty. The pedagogy adopted by faculty was learning by doing, which ultimately brought great outcomes on the discussion and submission table. The faculty at AIT-SAP ensured that we did 2-3 case studies in a day. The memory of our sweaty faces and messy hair in the summer heat is still fresh and brings a smile to my face every time. Thanks to the faculty, I greatly learned the importance of teamwork. All the teachings were given with a practical approach and minimum one-way lectures.

I still miss Prof. Sumi Agarwal, my thesis guide, who relentlessly kept teaching me to smile while giving my submission and jury. Doing urban design studio was fun with Prof. Alka Arora. Also, mentioning Prof. Vivek Sabherwal who really made AIT-SAP breathe. And, who can forget Sushma Berlia ma’am for making AIT-SAP a buzz in the town. Indeed, overall it was a memorable and an enlightening experience.

It feels great to share that when I joined AIT-SAP. I came in as an introvert and shy person. However, I left as a confident and a bold individual who was ready to take-on opportunities and challenges that come along.  

Why did you take up teaching architecture as a profession?

Honestly speaking, I didn’t really decide to venture into teaching architecture as a profession. It was pure coincidence and one of the most fortunate co-incidences of my life. After completing my masters from Jamia Millia Islamia, I remember receiving a call from Lingaya’s Vidyapeeth via a reference for the post of Assistant Professor. Though I was a bit skeptical initially, I really wanted to give this opportunity a chance. I attended the interview and by God’s grace landed up this noble and prestigious opportunity of teaching.

As time went by, I started to love the teaching profession so much that there was no going back to doing any other thing. Before I even realised I had developed a passion for teaching and all my students have been really close to my heart. Their development is my priority and the only thing I think of doing always. 

What have been the challenges of teaching this subject online during pandemic? What pedagogical approach do you follow to teach your students?

Like every other field, the pandemic also greatly affected teaching architecture. The major challenge was to discuss the design studio but with the help of google classroom and jam board platform it was somewhat convenient to fill the gap. Though it was time-consuming but with consistent team effort and management support we were able to achieve the desired results. Although, being a thesis coordinator and part of juries till late in the evening was tough during the pandemic but was a learning experience.

Like my faculty at AIT-SAP, my pedagogical approach is also “Learning by Doing”. I firmly believe that instead of spoon-feeding, students should be taught how to think, how to research and take up assignments or design studios on their own. Moreover, I’ve always advised my students to come with solutions instead of problems. I believe that this will enable them to think more creatively and be more solution-oriented. My job then remains limited to rectifying the basic flaws and suggesting improvement in their designs.

One advice you wish to give to budding architects? 

Well, one advice that I would like to give the budding architects is to be yourself when working. I strongly believe that everyone has their USP and one should try their best to bring it to the table. Nobody is you and that is your USP. Explore yourself along the way and keep nurturing your uniqueness that is what will help you succeed in the long run. Last but of course not the least, never have the know-it-all attitude, keep learning and improving yourself. Each time I teach, I learn something new from my students and this has helped me grow immensely.

Harshita is Assistant Editor at Apeejay newsroom. With experience in both the Media and Public Relations (PR) world, she has worked with Careers360, India Today and Value360 Communications. A learner by nature, she is a foodie, traveller and believes in having a healthy work-life balance.