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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 — Houston, TX

Senior Spotlight: Nathan Bergrin designs a path to create social good through architecture

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Katherine Hui / Thresher

By Shreya Challa     4/4/23 10:18pm

For Nathan Bergrin, choosing to study architecture was a shot in the dark. After creating art through drawing, painting and music composition in high school, Bergrin knew that he wanted to use creative thinking for something more concrete. Before attending Rice, he had no prior experience in architecture and did not know what the curriculum entailed.

“I really wanted to get into a field where I could use a creative brain way of thinking … and mobilize it to something that has some kind of social or community good,” Bergrin, a Wiess College senior, said. “A lot of art still feels a bit egocentric in a way because it’s just about building your practice and not really giving back much … and that wasn’t me.”

According to Bergrin, though the architecture school has the ability to foster student creativity, it tends to be theoretical and out-of-touch with reality. As a low-income student, they said there is also an income barrier associated with architecture work and little support or representation for low-income students. 



“Our old dean … brought in very high-brow architecture in the same sense as high fashion,” Bergrin said.  “Our new dean is definitely better about that … I really don’t think there’s a lot of perspectives which bring the reality of architecture to the ground. The architecture that people are living in are not artistic statements [or] art museums, it’s just housing. It’s not a good building if it does well at a Rice Architecture grade, it’s a good building if the people in it like it.”

Beyond classes, Bergrin was the former Director of Programming for KTRU and has DJ’d since his freshman year.  He currently hosts the specialty show “Show and Tell.” Bergrin first began working as a radio DJ at a community station in Reno, Nevada during high school and said KTRU was part of the reason they applied to Rice.

“I’ve been familiar with  [KTRU] as being one of the legendary college radio stations that’s been there since the late ’60s … All kinds of important artists have gone through it,” Bergrin said. 

Bergrin said his favorite part about KTRU is that it has a real link to both Houston community and history with less of an insular within-the-hedges feeling. 

“I think there’s been hostility in the past with admin … but at the same time, there’s a lot of mutual love between [individual students and community DJs] for the DJing craft, and I think there is something really beautiful about that,” Bergrin said. “It’s been hard to keep up with all the changes, but I like to think there’s something deeper, more deeply resilient about [KTRU] because of that.” 

Aside from playing it on KTRU, Bergrin also creates music himself. He considers himself a perfectionist about music and has been working on an album throughout his time at Rice, as a diary of the pivotal moments they’ve experienced in the last four years.

“I’ll take a month to refine an idea either on paper … or just playing it over and over in my head before I sit down to do it, and then I hyperfixate on it,” Bergrin said. “I’ve skipped parties on the weekends to literally sit down and write for like 12 hours.”

Bergrin said that there is definitely a dialogue between the music they play and their architecture work, largely due to his synesthesia.

“I have a lot of color and texture associations for sound so in a very literal sense, I want the music to work right in my brain with the colors in the space,” Bergrin said.

Bergrin has also been interested in fashion since college, sometimes choosing the colors of his outfits based off of a synesthetic association of a song he wants to listen to.

“[My interest in fashion] definitely exploded, especially this year. That’s when I started switching to he/they pronouns as well … coming to terms with being queer,” Bergrin said. “I always thought about [fashion] but didn’t necessarily know how to go about it affordably.”

After graduating from Rice, Bergrin hopes to go to graduate school to study urban planning or anthropology.

“I don’t want to be an architect. I’m pretty sold on that. What’s really started to captivate me more now is less the actual design process and more a deeper understanding of space and cities,” Bergrin said. “The last thing I want to do is make mansions for rich family clients. The entire reason I came to Rice … is to be equipped to make some kind of difference closer to home.” 



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