Life Beyond the Design Studio: From the Eyes of the Summer Interns

Life Beyond the Design Studio: From the Eyes of the Summer Interns

Thinking back to those first years of our undergraduate degrees in architecture, we remember asking ourselves, How long will I have these shivers for? Surely, all who have been through architecture school can relate. It’s those cold body shivers you get when you’ve stayed up for over 48 hours, drilling away on your design projects.

For those who aren't aware, architecture school is a rigorous and time-consuming endeavor because every project assignment is based on individual interpretation. With that being said, it was always hard to decipher when each project was ‘complete’ because our peers and professors had differing opinions about our designs that occasionally contrasted with our own. This inevitably resulted in extensive hours working on campus in the design studio.

However, this all changed when the summer began and we embarked on our first architectural internships here at Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture (BRS). Suddenly, we started to gain normalcy – operating in daylight hours, sleeping regularly, drinking coffee, and interacting with others outside of our studio habitats at school. We started losing our night-crawler mentality and more importantly, we started lives of our own, both socially and professionally. Needless to say, we’re not looking forward to reigniting our nocturnal ways when we return to school in the fall.

Coming from the abstract and limitless world of design school, we realized there was a stark contrast between an architectural design education and an architectural design firm. This summer internship has taught us a tremendous amount about what it really means to be an architect. In design school, the teachings of architecture did not continue beyond the initial schematic design phase. On the contrary, at BRS we’ve been educated on a broader spectrum of topics extending all the way to the contract administration phase in the design process. In school, the “clients” were generally the professor and two or three critics assessing our schematic designs during a final critique. Materials were just pretty Photoshop textures we “painted” on our perspective renders. There were no thoughts about where mechanical and plumbing equipment fit into the design. There usually was no suggestion of structural components, and if they were addressed, they were speculative and lacked the approval of an engineer. More importantly there was no implications of a budget to abide by, leaving our creativity boundless. This can definitely be appealing while learning the architectural concepts necessary for design, but over the summer we realized the sheer importance of working within certain constraints and turning them into design opportunities.

As rising architectural designers, individuals are always coming up to us offering words of wisdom and advice, which we happily accept and welcome their thoughts. During one meeting this summer, a consultant did so by describing the key qualities of a successful architect which he had discovered through many years of experience working with numerous architects. He initially explained that architecture is labeled under a category of creative professions (like music, dance, theater, and art) but that architecture is unique because architects can’t enjoy the full range of artistic freedoms that these other creative professions share. He continued on by stating that architects must be equipped with three key characteristics; first, they must understand the client's needs and apply it alongside their design intent; secondly, they have to follow a schedule and meet deadlines appropriately; and lastly, they need to continually push the creative envelope of a project beyond the required functionality while simultaneously remaining within a declared budget. He explained that if we could commit to abiding by these three qualities throughout our architectural careers, we would inevitably be successful because clients and consultants would continue to return with new project ventures.

After reading through construction submittals and request for information (RFI) forms, we have realized the importance of understanding the assembly process and application of construction and of becoming familiar with product definitions and specifications. The external factors that may alter the chemical balance and properties of a product were foreign topics until we started working at BRS and listening in on client conversations with the architects. The actualities of building construction and the materiality of products can be lectured about for an endless number of hours in a classroom, but for us it wasn’t really understood until it was put into practice in the field. During our physical site visits and participation in OAC meetings, we began to realize the real world applications of building materials and methods, project management, and business administration. We have come to the realization that this opportunity to work at an architecture firm this summer was vital to the growth of our knowledge and is not to be taken for granted even if it meant traveling thousands of miles across the country from Florida to Colorado.

We were looking for an adventure and a change of scenery this summer and we definitely found it here in Denver. Moving 2,000 miles away from home was pretty daunting, but BRS has helped make the transition surprisingly painless. The best part about this firm is the open communication between all levels of employees, from the principal partners down to the lowly summer interns (yes, even we were allowed to converse with the CEO whenever we saw fit). It created an atmosphere that was unlike what we had expected coming into the workforce, but it was extremely beneficial for the facilitation of learning. Moreover, the extracurricular activities organized outside of the firm have built a sense of community within the firm and these have been great opportunities to get to know our fellow employees on more personal levels and to form friendships.

This summer internship has opened our eyes to what's really important in the field, both within the architectural realm and surrounding our daily lives. We've been able to get a taste of what is required for a two-dimensional concept to become a three-dimensional reality. The extent of this ranges far beyond what we've been taught in architecture school and the experiences we've had here will hopefully give us an advantage over the other graduates seeking jobs in the architecture field. We look forward to the day that we can inhabit the spaces that we have had a hand in designing. BRS allowed us the opportunity to see what our future careers will entail and that is an invaluable experience.


By: Devyn Bernal & Jamie Marchini

Posted on September 1, 2015 at 03:26pm

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