Martine is from New York City, and is currently a Senior at Washington University studying Architecture, while minoring in Urban Design and Global Health and the Environment.
Martine, tell us about your background.
I was born in New York City and I’ve lived here, in the same apartment with my parents (and two dogs), my entire life. I attended the same small, progressive school in Greenwich Village from when I was five years old until my high school graduation. I always kept very busy growing up, taking piano lessons and competitive gymnastics until I was 11, which I quit after falling in love with dance one summer during my first year at French Woods, the performing arts camp where I spent every summer until I was 16. I loved living in the city, and looking back, I think a large reason for this was the independence and freedom that it allowed, which was complemented by a sense of familiarity. One of the best examples of this is how every morning on my way to the subway, for the past 8 years or so, (including this summer, after being away for 2 years) Isidro, the man who sells flowers at the bodega around the corner from me and who I once interviewed for a photography project, will smile and say “Hola, ¿cómo estás?” to which I respond with the full extent of my spanish vocabulary “¿bien y tú?”. At the same time, there was a sense of limitlessness that I haven’t experienced anywhere else, like the ability to choose a slightly different route everyday when I walked to dance after school, or hop on the subway at anytime, day or night and be pretty much anywhere I wanted in less than 20 minutes, was a valuable and empowering feeling for me growing up.
“I think creativity has always been a way of expressing power.”
Do you have any hobbies?
I don’t know if I would call them “hobbies,” but I think that photography and dance were the activities that I was consistently passionate about growing up and spent so much of my time working on, but haven’t been able to prioritize as much in college. I also love doing any form of aerial art/trapeze, all of which I learned at camp, and think in another life I would have been very happy joining the circus. Also not sure if this is a hobby but I love teaching and working with kids, and help teach an architecture studio and a dance class for kids in St. Louis.
Where did your creativity start?
It’s really hard to pinpoint a specific moment or a place, but I was really lucky that my school was place that fostered creativity from a young age. I always had an interest in and passion for photography, but when I had knee surgery junior year of high school I found myself immobilized- unable to walk around or take pictures. This unfortunate experience was actually a blessing in disguise. It inspired me to start working with photos I had already taken, and combine and manipulate them to create something totally new. Once I regained my mobility, I was able to get back into the dark room and start using film processes to manipulate my images. I don’t think I ever would have made these discoveries if not for the experience of having a physical limitation. Towards the end of high school I began to realize that all of my creative interests were a manifestation of my passion for creating environments, whether that be physical, like in architecture, or experiential like in dance.
What is your favorite part of studying architecture?
I was thinking about this in respect to power; I am attracted to it because it combines practical knowledge and creative theoretical thinking, all to the end of creating a feasible and eventually an actual physical space. Trying to solve real world issues through design can be a powerful tool. I love how architecture can address issues in a very unique and broad way, and the prospect of having a positive impact on the lives of others constantly inspires me to learn as much as I can. I am particularly interested in urban design, and how it addresses the intersection between architecture, the environment, public policy, and the general well-being of the population.
What does it mean to you to be powerful?
I think creativity has always been a way of expressing power. Both my parents have always been extremely passionate about their respective artistic interests-fashion and music. With the combination of their influence and going to a progressive high school, I was lucky enough to always be immersed in the arts while being encouraged to maintain an active social conscious. This encouragement of artistic expression has always been central to my identity, especially as it addresses social and environmental issues. To me, to be powerful is simply to impact others through art- whether that be through something as seemingly small as performing a dance that viscerally resonates with my audience, or something as significant as constructing an environment that improves people’s everyday lives. My creative interests are a really tangible expression of power, particularly when they have a visible impact on people.
Did your parents influence your creativity?
I would definitely say so. My mom, who works in the fashion business, has always been a huge influence on me in regards to my sense of style, and my appreciation of fashion has largely been shaped by her. My interest in art, especially performing arts and music, is something I can attribute to my parents, both in that they introduced me to culture from a young age, taking me to museums, concerts, dance performances, and broadway shows, while also doing everything in their power to encourage my interests in ways that their parents weren’t able to when they were growing up. My dad’s love of music is unmatched by anyone I know and I’ve always admired how he forged a career path that seemed to match his passion and skills so perfectly. However, I think my creativity is something I inherited a lot from my mom, who in addition to designing and making her own clothes in high school, was an acting major before transferring to FIT. I think this is also reflected in the life choices they made, both for themselves and me, like raising me in the city, and choosing a school with such a strong focus in arts, humanities, and social justice, or sending me to French Woods, which is the kind of opportunity both my parents would have given anything for growing up.
Do you have a favorite product that is empowering?
It’s difficult for me to express what exactly it is about a particular item that embodies feeling of empowerment, but the first thing that comes to mind is a pair of black Prada combat boots that my mom gave me. When I say she gave them to me, I mean that I saw her wearing them when I was in highschool, and she let me borrow them, and then I didn’t give them back for 4 years, until I went to college and she said “I’m taking my boots back”. So I wore them when I came home for breaks, until finally she gave in and let me take them with me to school junior year. My love for these shoes goes beyond the fact that they’re beautiful or look great with everything, or that they make me two inches taller. I didn’t have any siblings so the hand me downs I received were from my mom, and growing up, wearing her clothes always gave me a feeling of maturity and confidence. I think this stems from the fact that I have so much admiration for her and her style. I also have a lot of respect for the quality of designer clothes, and the history that comes along with it. My mom and I have both been wearing these shoes for over eight years, and they have somehow survived and are still going strong. In a broader sense, I’ve always been attracted to second hand and vintage clothing because of the stories that come along with them.