collage graphic with pink squares and image of Celeste Martore MArch '24 working on a paiting

Celeste Martore’s journey to completing her master of architecture at the GSD followed a nontraditional path that started on the soccer field, in theaters, and on film sets.

Celeste attended UC Berkeley to play soccer and earned her undergraduate degree in sustainable environmental design. With the rigors of collegiate soccer, she was unable to pursue an architecture degree at Berkeley, but she gained a deep curiosity about the built environment during her time there.

After enduring knee injuries that signaled the end of her athletic career, she returned to her childhood fascination with theater and began a career as a production designer, creating sets and spaces for theatrical productions and TV commercials. In 2018 she was recruited by Google to help design the first Google Store in New York City, translating their well-defined digital identity into a physical space.

“I was becoming competent at designing individual rooms and spaces off of somebody else’s scripts—narratives that I inherited. I was curious about how to create my own narrative and how to move from the design of spatial storytelling in a controlled environment—like a black box theater—into an actual city, affecting people’s daily lives on a bigger scale.”

Celeste had no plans to attend graduate school, but her experiences working with Google led to a curiosity about how spatial design had shaped her own life. Instead of being tasked to design what’s on a tabletop, Celeste yearned to understand the ecosystems of design.

“I have a very diasporic family history. Through architecture and design, I’m trying to understand identity across continents, across borders, and in marks left on walls. A lot of my works try to visualize or approximate an identity that is not tied to state or nationhood, but one of the contemporary city; exploring themes such as access, ownership, and the right to stay in place.”

Celeste was first introduced to the GSD at UC Berkeley where, during her undergraduate studies, she was able to take three architecture studios taught by GSD alumni. When it came time to apply to master’s programs in architecture, the GSD was at the top of her mind.

“I felt [as though] GSD graduates were everywhere. They were my professors, the authors of books I liked, the principals of offices I was curious about. GSD graduates were prolific and present at the time I applied to graduate schools, appearing in the texts I was reading and the conversations I was having.”

Celeste was accepted to the GSD, and the financial aid package she received made attending possible. Yet other graduate programs in architecture were able to offer additional aid, so she had to weigh her choices carefully. In the end, it was a combination of the financial support with the reputation and pedagogical approach of the GSD that convinced her to move to Cambridge.

“I’m thankful that the GSD gave me financial support, and I have no regrets. I knew I would receive something from the GSD that didn’t have a monetary value: learning from my peers and the professors that I would come in contact with.”

Celeste quickly found her passion in the hard skills required to bring ideas to life. Among her favorite courses at the GSD were the core studios in structural design. By learning how materials fit best together and what they’re used for, Celeste developed the skills to devise projects that function both conceptually and practically.

This work directly prepared Celeste for her thesis: an adaptive reuse project along the Los Angeles River. In her proposal, Celeste suggested repurposing small portions of building materials into a simple roof structure to provide shade along the 51–mile riverfront.

“A question I asked in my thesis was, what do we do with the things we’ve made, and how do we incorporate more viewpoints than our own? We’re in a moment in time when there is an excess of designed objects. In order to create an environment that works better, what can we do with the things that already exist?”

As a recent GSD graduate, Celeste is committed to starting independent practice, working across disciplines to help architects, builders, and citizens make sense of what’s at stake within the complexities of the contemporary city. By finding ways to reimagine the built environment of cities, Celeste hopes to map out a new role of architects.

“I’m thankful to be part of this moment in history in which it’s acceptable to practice on multiple scales in multiple mediums. I’m hoping to have a practice that can ask urgent questions in a number of different scales and materials—from the public art realm, to designing pavilions, to partnering with city governments and NGOs. I feel I have enough tools in my toolbox now to be able to reach across many disciplines.”