Nine Questions with Fernando Arana – CARTA REAL Triumph Graduate Spring 2022


Fernando was born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a condition that limits his physical abilities, but in no way has it affected his ability and drive to succeed. Fernando has become a major leader in the FIU Architecture community in every way. Excelling in computer and digital skills, developing an outstanding portfolio, and acting as a voice for change, diversity, and inclusion, Fernando has a bright future ahead of him after crossing the stage this spring.  

Just days before graduation, we connected with Fernando to learn about everything that has led him to this major moment.  

What made you want to study Architecture?  

I have always been interested in drawing from an early age. In middle school, I had an art teacher who encouraged me to audition for an art high school in my city. I applied and ended up getting in, and that exposed me to a wide range of different art mediums. While in high school, I took an architecture course as an elective, and that was my initial introduction to the discipline. When I started looking at colleges during my senior year, I knew I wanted to do something related to art. I remembered how much I enjoyed my architecture elective and that made me want to pursue a degree in the discipline.  

Does your disability influence your perspective as an Architect? How do you plan to make the world more accessible for people with disabilities?   

I think I have a unique perspective when I experience architecture and that has definitely influenced the way I think about design.  

I know what it is like to be in a space that was not designed with people with different abilities in mind and that is something that always stays with me. One of my main goals in all my designs is to make it as much of an inclusive experience for everyone as possible. I hope I can bring these thoughts and ideas into my professional career. 

Can you explain Osteogenesis Imperfecta to us?  

Osteogenesis Imperfecta is a genetic disorder that causes brittle bones which result in higher chances of having fractures.  

You are quite passionate about social justice. What are some causes you have helped bring awareness to, and how did you do it?   

There have been a couple of times where I have spoken in some classes about my perspective on architecture and how I experience things differently. I have also been asked about my condition around campus at different points in time during these last five years. It is always nice to see that people are interested in how someone like me thinks. It is important to consider that everyone thinks and experiences the world differently. 

Tell us about the project you did for your Summer 2021 Comprehensive Design Studio course. What did it entail? What did you create?  

I created a Dance Theater and Community Center in Harlem, NY. I wanted to design a building that respected and gave back to the neighborhood. Both the history of Arthur Mitchell (founding director of the Dance Theater of Harlem) and the city of Harlem were large influences throughout the semester. It was an incredibly challenging and fun semester and I learned so much, I really have to shout out to my studio professor Henry Rueda and IBS professor Juan Alayo for being great professors and teaching me so much that semester.  

Who or what keeps you motivated?  

My family really is my biggest motivation. I am always thinking about them, and I am grateful to have them in my life. They have done so much for me to get to this point that making them proud is the very least I could do.  

What are your plans post-graduation? What do you want to say to other students on campus with disabilities?  

After graduating I will officially begin my professional career as a designer, I am so excited to see what the future holds. 
What would I say to other students on campus with disabilities? I would tell them they should be happy to have gotten to this point, I know it probably wasn’t the easiest journey but being here, pursuing a degree is such a big accomplishment and they should be proud of themselves.  

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