The building blocks to success

Jay Patel from Surat recently showcased his work at the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale in Italy. While he has many architectural accomplishments to his name already, the road to success has not always been smooth.


After completing his bachelor’s degree in architecture from Nirma University, Ahmedabad, Jay Patel, did his masters in architecture from the New York Institute of Technology, New York, in 2019.

Since then, he has been dedicatedly making strides in the architecture field.

He was invited as a presenter at the XVI International Conference on Urban Development and Planning in New York. His paper on the ‘International Impact on Urban Development’ was selected and published online. In addition, his design work has also been featured on major architecture platforms like Archinect and Architizer.

Besides this, he has mentored over 100 students in the U.S.A. and Canada, while also contributing as a guest lecturer and design judge at institutions like the New York Institute of Technology, Kennesaw State University, Urban Assembly School, and Amity University.

Patel has contributed to designing more than 60,000 square feet of architectural building design and more than 400 acres of urban/master planning design in the United States, with a significant focus on more than 46,000 square feet dedicated to healthcare architecture design. This focus underscores his commitment to crafting safe, healthy, and healing environments that positively impact communities and contribute to their well-being.


Coming from a lower middle-class family, materialising your dreams must have come with many challenges. What were some hurdles you faced?

Driven by a determination to fulfil my dreams, I relocated to Ahmedabad for my Bachelor’s in Architecture. Since I had always been good at art, I used this talent to finance my graduate studies. From grade 11 throughout my undergraduate studies, I started teaching drawing and painting to a few students. Despite these efforts, my father had to take a loan for my first semester, and my mother sold her jewellery for my academic pursuits.

In the U.S.A., life as an international student during COVID-19 was challenging. Job restrictions and the struggle to find sponsorship made employment almost impossible. I finally secured a job in upstate New York but I lived in Jersey City, hence enduring a seven-hour daily commute for nine months was gruelling. Despite contemplating giving up, I got a break and a chance to work with Mike Pomarico in healthcare. This was a dream come true, making the sacrifices worthwhile. Now, looking back, I cherish those moments – because those four-hour train rides allowed me to hear TED talks, read architectural books, and of course watch some web series and movies!

COVID-19 also impacted my father’s business and his health. To cover business losses, we had to sell our home. It was an extremely dark and lonely time but my parent’s constant encouragement and rock-like support urged me on. For additional support and sustenance, I took an internship and my dedication, academic achievements, and strong network helped me secure seven job offers before graduation, leading me to choose my dream – healthcare architecture.


Being in a foreign country during COVID-19, how did you overcome the roadblocks you encountered?

The first hurdle I faced in the U.S. was finance as I only had a year’s worth of fees which I had got through a loan. Due to COVID-19, I didn’t even get any part-time job for the first year and every day was stressful. I did not, however, give up. With a perfect GPA of 4.0, I earned over $10,000 through three scholarships and through on-campus jobs I secured funds for my second year.

In addition, throughout my master’s, I pursued and continued research opportunities and was fortunate to secure the Eduardo Guillino Fellowship of $5,000.

The pandemic job market was tough and having a H1B visa made it even more challenging as no employer was ready to sponsor me. I received more than 200 rejections. Despite the hardships, I persisted. Over time, with my academic record, awards, cold emails to companies and recommendations, I got seven job offers.

Saving diligently, I paid off my loan and recently purchased a three-bedroom apartment for my parents.


Studying abroad is much easier today than before and the number of countries to choose from is also vast. What prompted you to opt for the U.S.A.?

From my early childhood, I was spurred by a passion for architecture. In grade 8, I won a national drawing competition which was pivotal in shaping my journey to where I am today. The award presenter, an accomplished architect, foresaw the potential of my drawings becoming architectural reality. His exact words were: “Do you know, this beautiful city drawing of yours can become a reality. The lines you have drawn can be a part of a building.” This encounter left an indelible mark, sparking my determination to pursue architecture.

Guided by my father’s insights, I diligently prepared for the NATA entrance exam after completing my grade 10. During my grade 12 science studies, my NATA course instructor, also an architect, generously shared architectural books, including Kevin Lynch’s ‘Image of the City’ and Christopher Alexander’s ‘Pattern Language’. Immersed in the design world, I marvelled at the depth of thought, logic, and mathematics inherent in architecture.

My dream transcended borders, fuelled by the desire to study in the U.S.A., inspired by readings from Lynch detailing cities like Boston, Jersey City, and Los Angeles.


Besides the hard work and resilience, what other qualities helped you build yourself and overcome the hurdles?

My journey has been shaped by two fundamental qualities: discipline and determination. Family support too has been my anchor.

The years from 2019 to 2021 tested me in ways I never anticipated. I still remember my sudden tears on Metro rides thinking about my father’s health, my student loan, my home, and finding a job! Despite the hardships, I held onto the belief that enduring present struggles would yield a better life in five years.

In those tough times, the decision not to surrender became my guiding principle. Every setback was a step towards a brighter future.


There are many youngsters today who dream of studying abroad and some want to work overseas, especially in countries like the U.S. and Europe. What would be your advice to them?

Embrace change as the only constant and hold onto your dreams, which are not just yours but also your parents. Hard work and giving your 100% are the keys to achieving what your heart desires. In challenging times, remember that something better is on the horizon – trust the process. A wise professor once said, “There is always black or white, no grey”. Strive for success and stay in the ‘white’ area.

During dark moments, when there seems to be no light, remind yourself that you are planted, and soon, you’ll see the light – This quote always motivates me in a way that nothing else can. Never give up! Connect with people, reach out to school friends, and build a network in your field. This not only helps you survive but allows you to truly live in the moment.


You have plans to return to India. What are you hoping to do and what will be your goal?

In the future, my focus is on delving deeper into the study of people’s perceptions and city image framework. Inspired by Lynch’s work in the 1960s, I aim to contribute to this field by developing a contemporary framework. The goal is to reach a wider audience through publications in research journals and books, connecting with like-minded researchers and design practitioners.

While juggling a professional career, pursuing the architect’s license exam in the United States, and actively participating in the academic world, I find the challenge invigorating. My ultimate plan is to obtain licensure and establish my firm. This firm will specialise in research-based design, similar to renowned architecture firms like BIG, Perkins & Will, and HKS. My ultimate goal is to make this approach accessible to everyone, including common people, public entities, and government bodies.

I envision presenting my developed research framework to the government and incorporating it into city building codes and regulations. Similar to how sustainability is advanced through LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Desi) and people’s health is monitored through WELL, I aspire to create a framework that guides the design of built forms for the people, by the people, and to the benefit of the people. From small garden benches to high-rise towers and city planning, the goal is an inclusive and community-driven design that fosters human happiness, well-being, and sustainability!

On a broader scale, my plan extends to mentoring and assisting as many students as possible, especially when pursuing dreams abroad from a middle-class background.