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Recent Academy Graduate Reconstructs San Francisco One Building at a Time

Having recently graduated with a Master of Architecture from Academy of Art University, LaToya Burton didn’t waste any time in putting her hard earned education to the test. Swiftly parlaying an internship into a full-time position, LaToya now exercises her sharply honed talents as Architectural Associate for San Francisco’s Bureau of Architecture. 

Her new role gives LaToya the unique opportunity to work on architectural designs for city-owned buildings. Her impressive roster of clients includes such San Francisco city staples as the SF Public Library, The Recreation and Park Department, and The Department of Emergency Management.

LaToya chose to pursue a career in architecture after first completing her undergraduate degree in Environmental Design and Interiors. “I saw this [architecture] degree as a perfect complement and the next step in my career development,” she explained. Upon learning that Academy of Art University’s masters programs are designed to fit into the demanding schedule of today’s busy professionals, LaToya promptly enrolled in the program and set off along her new path.

During her time at the Academy, LaToya put her knowledge to work and quickly became an active new member of the San Francisco architecture community. In addition to serving as both Secretary and Historian of the San Francisco National Association of Minority Architects (SFNOMA), LaToya participated in several university charettes and collaborated with two co-workers on a design for the Emerging Green Builders competition where as a team they earned 3rd Place for their proposal for a “green” addition to the Bayview Opera House.

All of these experiences were in preparation for what she considers her biggest challenge and accomplishment to date, her thesis project. “It was much more challenging than I first expected. I really had so much invested time wise and emotionally in this project that every design decision that I made held a lot of weight.”

Her thesis project, The Black History Network, is a living archive that focuses on African Americans in San Francisco. Designed to be a user-generated museum, the exhibits are mostly digital and interactive. Her design gives the user the rare ability to constantly generate the content on display.

The recent graduate attributes much of her success as a versatile designer and creative problem solver to the high caliber instruction she received at the Academy.  “Studying under professors with a variety of teaching styles and backgrounds reinforced the concept that there is always more than one way to view a solution to a design problem,” she shared. “They provided me with the creative and technical skills needed to be a successful designer.”

When asked if she had any advice for current Academy of Art University students, LaToya had a lot to share. “Stay focused and determined!  Be a sponge and stay open to learning from a variety of sources.  Let your creativity soar and don’t limit yourself!” 

She certainly hasn’t, and San Francisco thanks her for that!


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