Meet Eskinder Fekade Lakew, a Budding Architect From Ethiopia

He plans on further developing his design skills after graduation from Columbia GSAPP.

Eve Glasberg
May 07, 2024

Notebook is a Columbia News series that highlights just some of the many fascinating students who study at our University. 

Eskinder Fekade Lakew, a student at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, who hails from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, loves the density, history, and energy of New York, among other things. He has appreciated the opportunity to study here, where the entire city is like a living design lab.

When are you graduating from Columbia GSAPP? What is your degree, and which program are you in?

I am graduating this month, with a master's degree in Advanced Architectural Design. 

What was your path from Ethiopia to New York, and to pursuing graduate work at Columbia?

While I was still in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, I was managing a mid-rise residential construction project, pursuing a master's in global building information modeling management, and working as a junior architect for an architectural practice. I had started my formative years in design school about a decade ago here in New York, and then returned to Addis Ababa to finalize my undergraduate education. This enabled me to learn from both localities, and appreciate the value of diversity, density, and culture in a metropolis.  

 A desire to understand the impact and the agency of design to build a better future led me to appreciate the value of New York. One can learn a lot about art, cultures, politics, infrastructure, real estate, parks and recreation, history, coastal resilience, and unions in this city. My eagerness to further study the interplay of these factors, and how they shape the built environment, drew me back here. 

What are your plans post-graduation?

I am currently working part-time as an intern for the computational design team at Kohn Pedersen Fox, a New York-based architecture firm. This has been a great opportunity for me to grasp current best practices in architecture by leveraging technology and computation. I aim to further continue honing my skills through practice and professional development. 

What is special about studying at Columbia GSAPP, and in New York? Are you inspired by the city's skyline and urban design?

Columbia GSAPP is a place where highly skilled professionals, academicians, and avid learners congregate to exchange ideas through interdisciplinary dialogue and research. Lectures and discussions with guest speakers always inspire me a great deal. The city is rich with monuments of stone, glass, and steel, which reflect its history of politics, philanthropy, trade, and planning. New York depicts mankind's efforts to craft urban artifacts for many generations. I enjoy being here, and trying to understand the dynamics of it all. 

Any suggestions for how to best enjoy New York? What are some of your favorite urban activities?

Take walking tours and food crawls through different neighborhoods, which is possible even on a limited student budget. Visit galleries, museums, libraries, parks, and other points of interest. There are many free events and discounts that benefit students.