Rosannah Sandoval on Her Lifelong Love Affair with Architecture

Images provided by SAN-ARQ, the collective portfolio of Rosannah Sandoval and Sergio Sandoval.

Rosannah Sandoval (Architecture 2007) knew she loved architecture from an early age. And not much time passed before she found herself completely engulfed in it as a career.

When most young adults are wrapping up high school, Sandoval had already graduated from CCA’s Architecture Program with high distinction.

Today, at age 24, she is the youngest member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

An Early Start in Architecture

“It really is like falling in love; at some point you just know,” she says, of realizing her passion for architecture. “Even as a child I loved making, drawing, the action of creating. The moment I realized what architects do -- namely, transform thought, through tools, into reality -- I knew it was my calling.

“I was 10 years old, and my parents took me seriously.”

Growing up in a military family, Sandoval found herself moving around frequently. Her father, an Air Force pilot, and her mother, a full-time home-school teacher, placed much value on her education. Sandoval and her sisters studied year-round. (The sisters have since gone into math and medicine.) By the time she was 12, she had already begun college courses.

At 14, she enrolled in architecture school at Auburn University in Alabama, and a mere two years later, she followed her family on their next move, to San Francisco.

The CCA Experience

Although leaving Auburn midway through her college career was not easy, Sandoval’s decision to attend CCA was a natural choice; the stature of the program and its faculty made the decision to uproot more comfortable.

She received both a CCA scholarship and a Faculty Honors Award.

“CCA had glowing recommendations from my Auburn faculty, and its five-year accredited professional degree program had an excellent reputation,” says Sandoval. “I was particularly drawn to the fact that the faculty members actively practice in a wide range of firms, in addition to teaching.

"The conceptual exploration within the school is grounded in current developments in a rapidly changing profession.”

Despite her young age, she found herself partaking in the department’s all-nighters. Her parents, she reports, were not completely thrilled with this at first.

“Unlike other majors, where you go to class but study at home, architecture school is built around studio culture. The creative collective space in which you produce work is a very important aspect of an architectural education. But, imagine at 16, my mom and dad just wanted to make sure I made it back to the dorm OK!

“I was lucky to have amazing colleagues at CCA who took care of each other and made sure everyone had a ride home at four in the morning.”

Careers Are Hard Work

Sandoval admits her hours haven’t changed much in the professional sphere. Her schedule is still intensive.

Making things a little easier, however, is her husband, who is also an architect and thus sympathetic to the daily grind of the profession.

“Studying for licensure after working long office hours seems insurmountable at first, but when you love what you do and have people who support your dreams, anything is possible.”

Last year, at age 23, she became the youngest registered architect in California!

Branching Out

Sandoval has other interests as well, in particular travel and photography (which complement her primary passion), and semi-pro salsa dancing (which balances time spent drawing at a desk).

“Growing up, in our travels as a family, I often photographically documented the journeys. Capturing surface, light, and movement is really the first step in understanding spatial conditions.”

While at CCA, Sandoval took the opportunity to see the world while staying committed to her studies.

“CCA’s study-abroad opportunities are remarkable. The school has deep connections with renowned institutions around the globe. Faculty members bring to the table international relationships that really benefit the students.

“I will always cherish the architectural design/build program PeruStudio led by Sandra Vivanco. This was my first travel abroad and my first encounter with urban scale and context in a design studio. That class, I would say, set the path for my career.”

A Master('s) in New York

After a stint at the San Francisco–based architecture and design firm Perkins+Will, Sandoval has opted to further her education at the Cooper Union in New York.

Now pursuing her master’s degree, the young architect says she chose the East Coast school for its location in New York and its intimately sized program.

“And, of course, I have long been inspired by the legacy of the institution. The caliber of its graduates is exceptional. In looking for a master’s program, I was not in search of a degree, but of a cultivated research experience. The Cooper Union is a place to ask questions and discover deeper questions.”

Art Deco Documentation

Always ambitious, Sandoval has also picked up a side job. She is thrilled to be consulting with the Art Deco Society of New York to create the first comprehensive registry of every New York building featuring an Art Deco facade or interior. She has built an interactive map and searchable database that are already up and running.

After graduate school, she hopes to find work in New York that overlaps many facets of architecture.

On Challenges

On what fuels her passion, she says, “I am inspired by overcoming challenges. When I see the people close to me reach a dream that they have worked so hard for, it is the most beautiful thing.”