Member Profile | Kartini Divya, International Associate AIA

Kartini Divya, International Associate AIA

Kartini Divya, International Associate AIA, is one of three recipients of the 2022 AIA Pennsylvania Paula Maynes ARE Grant.


Kartini Divya, International Associate AIA, earned a Bachelor’s of Architecture degree from R.V. College of Architecture, Bangalore. She worked as an Architect in India for two years before deciding to advance her knowledge through a Master’s of Architecture from N.C. State University in the United States, which included a study-abroad semester in the Czech Republic. Her journey across the globe not only gave her a deeper understanding of the profession, but also an immense level of personal growth and cross-cultural perspectives. She is currently employed as a Technical Designer at Gensler in Philadelphia (PA), where she enjoys working on life-science and commercial interior projects. Prior to that, she worked at Integrated Design (NC), gaining first-hand experience in ground-up laboratory and medical office projects. Having a passion for public interest architecture and sustainable design, she hopes, one day, to create a positive impact on underprivileged communities and the environment. In her free time, she enjoys volunteering at local AIA chapters and drumming in a percussion band.

Q & A

What sparked your interest in becoming an architect? Earliest memory of architecture?
When I was very young, I attended painting classes and learnt the basics of drawing. In high school, I chose majors in both Mathematics and Science. My earliest memory of Architecture is when I was eleven – seeing my parents’ house getting built. It was bizarre to watch someone’s hand-drawn sketch transform into a functional building, brick by brick. As I walked through spaces within the house I felt inspired to combine my interest in Art, with Science, through Architecture. My neighbor at the time, was a licensed architect and I spoke to her to get a feel for what it was like. Soon after I began my bachelor’s degree in Architecture, I was lucky to see Pritzker laureate B.V Doshi at a School lecture. He gave a few students, including me, a signed copy of his biography and after I read it there was no looking back.

Why is licensure important to you?
Licensure is important because I wish to make an impact on clients and users of the built environment, in the safest possible way: Studying for the A.R.E encompasses concepts that protect the health, safety and welfare of the public. Reading the Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice refines my understanding of the subject through a wider lens. Vast yet relevant knowledge that I continue to gain through the licensure process is a boost to my career. Architectural education, professional training and obtaining a license are essential to becoming a uniquely qualified Architect. Through these cornerstones, I hope to respond with competence to related challenges facing our world today.

What is the one building that you just had to see for yourself or would one day like to see in person?
When I was an undergraduate student I always dreamt of seeing famous buildings in person, to better understand their scale and tactility. I scribbled a list of buildings to visit someday and once I was abroad, the dreams were true. I just had to see the roof come alive at Calatrava’s Quadracci Pavilion in Milwaukee and was moved close to tears at Libeskind’s Jewish Museum in Berlin. One day, I would love to see The Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt.

In your “spare time” do you pursue any interesting hobbies or extracurricular pursuits?
I have always been interested in teaching architectural design and learnt the basics of being an Instructor when I was in Grad School. Thanks to excellent faculty mentors at NC State, I taught design workshops for high school students in 2017. More recently, I enjoyed attempting to teach 5th-graders at Adaire Elementary School in Philadelphia through a program at the Center for Architecture and Design. I often attend design reviews for students as a visiting juror at Drexel University.

An interesting hobby I began a year ago is drumming for the band Batala Philly, which is part of a larger international music movement in percussion. Having a little prior drumming experience myself, I was able to discover them through a new-member workshop when I moved to Philly. I also love playing sports and last year I pursued the opportunity to participate in a basketball rec-league. I find it surreal to live in a city with such highly-ranked sports teams, universities and rich architectural history.

What role has mentorship (mentor/mentee) played in your professional development so far? Any advice for those looking to get the most out of their mentorship opportunities?
I am extremely grateful to several Architecture professors, family members and colleagues in the last decade for providing timely guidance. Their presence at various stages have been key to my professional development over the years. I am currently a board member of Philadelphia Emerging Architects Committee and previously was a member of AIA Triangle. Through these entities I am acquainted with licensed professionals who offer valuable advice. In Architecture, I believe there is no age at which receiving mentorship stops. My advice to mentees; seek mentors based on your growing interests and don’t hesitate to reach out with questions. They may have had similar experiences to yours and one honest conversation could bring out the best in you.