The Spring Break Externship Program here at Taubman College (http://bit.ly/GNqs6A) is one of the best resources for the students at the school. Basically, it is a week-long, unpaid internship program that places current students at a firm in the location of their choice (almost anywhere in the country) with the goal of gaining real world experience while creating professional connections in firms or locations that interest them. The program is headed up by our Student Career Counselor Beth Berenter who is an absolute rockstar and will do almost anything to help student get where they want to go.
Of the 170 students that participated in the program this year, I have asked 5 of them to write about their experience. We will start with my own experience at Safdie Architects in Boston, MA.
Safdie Architect, Boston
This year was my second time participating in the externship program here at Taubman College. I had the good fortune of being placed Safdie Architects in Boston, MA. I was immediately excited about seeing the inner workings of a firm as prestigious as Safdie, and the week did not disappoint.
From the moment I walked in to the moment I left at the end of the week I was put to work as part of a design team focused on responding to an RFP to design a new international airport. My timing in the office could not have been better because the firm only had the week I was there to complete the proposal. As part of the design team I participated in all aspects of the project including design meetings, conference calls with other firms and agencies involved, and design charettes. Many of these activities also involved Moshe Safdie himself, who from what I could gather is intimately involved with every project that comes out of his office, not bad considering the scale and quantity of the projects currently in progress at the firm.
When not in meetings or design reviews I focused my energy on drawing site plans for the proposed airport, mostly using AutoCAD and Illustrator. Work on the drawings, print them out, mark them up in a design review, and work on the drawings some more…that was most days.
On the whole the experience was terrific. Although it was a lot of hard work and long hours, the externship experience gave me an inside look into how a firm of Safdie’s caliber operates. Everyone was extremely nice to me in the office and the Michigan Alums there loved hearing about what the school was up too.
Fentress Architects, Denver
I visited Fentress Architects in Denver, Colorado for the spring break externship experience. The office produces lots of models, and I got to walk around their gallery and look at all of the projects that they have done over the years. During my experience, I visited one of their projects under construction, the Colorado Judicial Center, located directly next to the state capitol building. We climbed all around the two buildings of the project, and stood directly underneath the atrium dome (which would normally be stories above the floor).
I also got to make a few sketch models, and use the laser cutter in their office model shop. I met a lot of the employees, and they explained to me what kinds of projects they have been working on during the last few years. Fentress also has their own educational opportunities, which they call ‘Fentress University’, and I got to attend a few classes during the week. Among the classes that week, was one presentation by an employee who had won an inter-firm competition. His proposal was to study Asian airports and analyze what it was like to experience them as a ‘third place’, and he presented his findings.
I also went to lunch with the University of Michigan graduates that work there, and attended the Friday afternoon meeting, where the office provides drinks, snacks, and talks about any news during the week. It was a really great experience, everyone was really nice, answered all my questions, and I learned a lot about what it was like to work there.
Cunningham + Quill, Washington DC
Over spring break I participated in Taubman College’s Externship program and was hosted by Cunningham + Quill in Washington DC. While I was visiting, the office was busy working on several projects in various stages, and I was able to tag along on several site visits, sit in on a couple meetings, and get a little work experience. The firm is working on some pretty exciting projects and while there I helped work on some diagrams for a house in the DC area; which the firm was planning on submitting in a competition.
Also while visiting the firm learned they had won an award from the Congress of New Urbanism from one of their other recent projects. During the site visits I was able to see several projects in various construction stages and get a good grasp of the role of an architect during the construction process.
The firm has a great set of people, and I was able to go to lunch or on a site visit with a different employee each day, which was a great way to meet everyone and learn about the firm and generally working in the field of architecture from multiple perspectives. The experience was a good one, especially made so because of all the great people I met at Cunningham + Quill.
Morphosis Architects, Culver City
For spring break of 2012, I went to Morphosis Architects in Culver City California. This was my second time at Morphosis for my externship. Last year my externship was folded over into a summer internship where I worked at Morphosis as a shop intern and for this summer I am going back to work in the field office for the construction of Emerson College in Hollywood.
This spring break was a dry run to get the lay of the land for the field office which operates very differently than the design studio / shop. With the building being constructed, variances between drawings and realities have to be confronted and resolved. Communication across a variety of people has to be clear as possible to complete the building. I am looking forward to this coming summer and am anxious to what is ahead.
EHDD, San Francisco
I spent the week at a San Francisco firm called EHDD. They’re a mid-size, full service office with a long history in the Bay Area. They have several buildings under construction all over the city, and I spent the majority of my time with project managers on site visits. Every day was a different location, from the Golden Gate Bridge, to Chinatown, to Pier 17, as well as a different building typology under way. It was a fantastic experience to get to know the construction process, especially with a firm that brings such a high level of craftsmanship to the work. It definitely instilled in me a new interest in building, which I am now incorporating into my own work as part of this semester’s comprehensive studio.
I am a graduate student and an entrepreneur at the University of Michigan Taubman College where my studies are focused on leveraging design ideas across multiple scales and platforms. Meeting at the intersection between design, tectonics and fabrication, I am continually exploring how a design idea can navigate complex material and production systems and evolve into fully realized architectural artifacts.