In the spring of 2018, communications specialist Shawna Forney approached grad student Aylin Nazli and said something that made a significant shift in Nazli’s Rice experience.
“What would you think about starting a podcast for the School of Architecture?” said Forney.
Nazli, then in her second semester of the M.Arch program, was intrigued. She approached the topic in a way many grad students would - she researched what it would take.
“We spent a lot of time researching podcasts - architecture podcasts, podcasts in general, necessary equipment, developing a target audience, and we decided it would be an exciting platform to have at Rice,” she said. “Often in architecture school, we focus on representing our work visually and in written form, but not so much on speaking about it, which is equally as important.”
Nazli’s efforts were instrumental in getting the School of Architecture’s podcast, called Tête-à-Tête, off the ground. It’s the only student-run architecture podcast in the entire country, and taps famed architects from around the world (see: Frida Escobedo, Tom Emerson) and our own incredibly talented Rice faculty, students and staff as its guests.
The podcast started as a way to reach out to prospective students, Nazli noted, and help them decide on their academic career. It’s since expanded to bring a wide range of topics - the relationship between architecture and nature, transportation or the medical field, or non-traditional careers in architecture - to a global audience.
“We have architecture journals, but this was a whole new way to hear the voices of architects, both in Houston and beyond,” Nazli said. “We think it’s great to interview people who are on an amazing path forward, whether that’s the traditional path of architecture or a non-traditional career like working as a project manager at the zoo or designing exit signs.”
“That’s what’s really fascinating about architecture - there isn’t just one path forward.”
Raised in Atlanta, Nazli went to Georgia Institute of Technology for undergrad. Growing up in a creative household and attending a university strong in STEM, she decided to major in architecture. She found it to be a unique major, living in the space between math and technology and pure creativity.
“What we do in architecture is so unique,” she said. “It’s its own thing. It combines problem-solving — you have to solve things technically, creatively, collaboratively — and you are constantly working with people. It’s hard to explain. If you’re really interested, come walk through the school the week before final reviews — it’s amazing how much work is produced. There are drawings and models all over the walls, all over the floor.”
“I saw an image recently that summed it up. It showed a typical classroom on one side, with desks all lined up, books neatly piled, and next to it was an architecture classroom, which is just chaos. There’s stuff everywhere. There’s so much to it. I don’t know what else I would rather do.”
She credits the small, collaborative nature of Rice as the reason she chose it for graduate school, calling it a place that made you feel welcome, “that you belong here and you’ve always belonged here,” she said.
Originally a team of two, the podcast team has grown to seven: Lindsey Chambers, Siobhan Finlay, Jessica LaBarbera, Carrie Li, Takudzwa Tapfuma, Rose Wilkowski, and Nazli, with Forney serving as their staff adviser. The growth has allowed them to streamline and perfect production.
“The hardest part was the learning curve,” Nazli said. “After that, it’s really fun - you get to talk to these interesting people, and then you’ve got this raw content to edit down and add music to. We listen to it and I get goosebumps because I think, wow, I made this, it sounds really cool and who knows how many people are listening.”
Nazli is graduating in 2020 and is proud of establishing a popular podcast that will continue on after she leaves Rice — a leaving that she said is hard to contemplate.
“It’s hard to think that you could come somewhere totally new, and now it’s your home. Thinking about leaving this beautiful campus and city where I’ve made so many connections, have my favorite restaurants — it’s hard. I’m incredibly happy and grateful for my experience and time at Rice.”