A Scientific Path to Architecture:
MAF Scholarship Winner
Sophie Pacelko


Students decide to pursue a career in architecture based upon a variety of inspirations. For University of Michigan Taubman School of Architecture and Urban Planning graduate architecture program student Sophie Pacelko, that inspiration came from nature.

“Before coming to architecture school, I was a scientist, working on a farm,” said Sophie. “I was inspired by the formations plants took throughout their growing process. I found translating the data from plant life cycles into diagrammatic drawings to be a way for me to personally understand what was happening.”

Sophie continues, “I am a farmer, and architecture became the tool of communicating and understanding the formations of the natural world. Having experienced the biogeochemical cycles of agriculture, I am inspired by how plants create and unfold their geometries – which informs my decisions as a designer. I didn’t know architecture was the path I would take next, but I am thrilled about this career decision.”

Sophie, currently in the second year of her three-year graduate program, is the 2022 recipient of MAF’s Paul Stachowiak & Integrated Design Solutions Scholarship. The MAF scholarship jury noted that Sophie’s outstanding academics, active mentorship, and impressive references made her an excellent choice for the scholarship.

“Winning a MAF scholarship lessened my financial stress, leaving me more room to work on my education,” said Sophie. “I am also extremely fortunate to have made a great support system of friends here at Taubman College, as well as professors who have expertise in my interests of environmentally conscious ways to build,” she says.

While Sophie does not have a particular project type she wants to design, she would prefer to design structures that have minimal impact on the integrity of the soil and are thoughtful about the water systems and other ecosystem services in the area.

“I am determined to use building and construction adaptations that exist with the built environment and which foster growth for the natural environment,” she said. “I also enjoy the collaborative, interdisciplinary design process where it is necessary to involve communities to ensure successful project outcomes. As well, my interest in teaching has increased throughout the semesters here, as I continue to share and learn from other students.”

Among Sophie’s favorite works of architecture is the interactive design of Museum Garage by Craig Robins, located in Miami’s design district. “It is so playful, and brings a new idea to a very monotonous, often stressful environment,” she says.

How does Sophie think architecture enriches life? “I believe architecture can enrich life through care and maintenance of existing buildings, and rethinking those designs in order to make them a better fit for changing social and cultural dynamics,” she states. “Architecture can also enrich life by creating spaces that are accessible to all people, and designing equitable spaces with an emphasis on eliminating environmental injustices.”

Sophie also notes that architecture interests her in its beauty, performance, and communication of creating form that defines the human experience.

“The often effortless manipulation of landscapes and buildings, seemingly simple, but so complex, are a reminder of the relationships shared between the natural and built environment,” she says.

“Moving forward in this field, I hope to balance research and practice with an emphasis on exploring building and construction adaptations that symbiotically exist with the environment.”


Photos, from top: Sophie; a selection of work from Sophie’s student portfolio; Sophie enjoying the great outdoors; Sophie’s favorite work of architecture, Museum Garage by Craig Robins, located in Miami’s design district