Rachele Louis was born and raised in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, N.Y., after her parents immigrated to the U.S. from Haiti. She was introduced to architecture in junior high, when an architect visiting her school taught some classes; she and other students got to document, draw, and build a model of the 1891 Boys High School building in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
In high school, Louis considered pursuing either architecture or computer science. She took a few courses in each and “computer science didn’t fare so well,” she says. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in the upstate town of Troy was recommended by one of her teachers and set her on her current trajectory.
“First year was really out there,” she recalls. The class did “dumpster diving projects” where they repurposed materials and created things out of garbage. “It’s not architecture,” she says, “but then you realize—yeah, it is.” She worked two summers for small, design-oriented offices in Manhattan, where her duties ranged from cleaning up the library to working on construction drawings. This past summer, she interned at Gensler’s New York office as a winner of the Gensler African-American Internship and Scholarship. She gained additional experience by working in the firm’s commercial building studio.
Following graduation this coming May, Louis hopes to expand her horizons by moving west, perhaps to San Francisco (where her Gensler contacts might prove useful). Three years of internship, licensure, and then graduate school for urban planning: “That’s my five-year plan,” she says.