Inside P+W Seattle: At First Glance
As part of the Masters of Architecture 3+ year Summer Internship Program, I was excited to begin working for an international company with a focus on “sustainability”. Perkins+Will Seattle is a LEED Platinum (CI) office located on the entire second floor of the Galland Building downtown. It is one of the company’s smaller offices with around 50 employees including architects and a few interior designers. I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable such a corporate environment could be. I believe this to be attributed to ample natural daylight bouncing off of white walls, open views, open floor plan, spacious workstations, and most importantly friendly faces.
When I first heard the term “studio layout” on my initial visit, I was a little skeptical from overhearing the term used in offices back in NYC without truly having any meaning. Quite honestly it also brought uncomfortable flash backs of piles of cardboard, plaster, and model carcass explosions throughout our 3+ studio space. On my first day, I was asked to grab my computer and phone from one workstation to another. While I wiped the table surfaces clean with some “green” all-purpose cleaner and recycled paper, I thought the situation a little strange. I shortly realized that this “studio layout” meant everyone was relocated every few months to work in new pods on different projects, carrying their computers and phones as I did. It all started slowly making sense, perhaps as the year’s studio trance wore-off… I also hear it is not uncommon in Seattle architecture firms.
The most crucial piece of information that was provided to me on the first day, which I rely on thoroughly, was a precious document with a photograph of the office employees and bios. I am not talking about the painfully boring and generic bios found on company websites, but comically interesting bios with random facts all written by one very funny office employee. For example, here is one of our Alumni: “I hail from eastern WA, land of milk, honey, and the nuclear breadbasket of our nation. In similar fashion, I like all things dealing with gardening, music, and technology. Whether it’s growing tomato starts under fluorescent lights in my pantry, recording a rap album in view of an organic garden, or designing rainwater catchment systems using VB script, I’m there and excited. I enjoy all-things design, classic high school literature like Steinbeck, and my favorite weekend activity is chillin’ with my family in Seattle” – We are Perkins+Will. Can anyone guess who this describes? The best part about these bios is that most people have not seen theirs and thus makes for a good topic of initial conversation.
I have mainly been working on marketing graphics of completed projects in Adobe Illustrator, which is fun. It allows me to become familiar with completed office projects, as well as the firm’s file system and IT setup. I also measured and drafted one of the conference rooms in AutoCAD for renovations. Perkins+Will predominantly uses Revit, which I am starting to learn. In the many email opportunities offered throughout the day, I decided to volunteer to glue a table (said the email) because I saw the word “blowtorch” and thought this could be dangerously fun while learning a thing or two.
I spent this past Saturday afternoon in a coworker’s garage helping paint and assemble a table together for the Seattle Art Museum’s donor banquet this week. In previous years, SAM has requested selected artists to create a centerpiece or a table exhibited for this event. This year 30 selected artists and architects were asked to create with the theme “the element” and a $400 budget. Perkins+Will designed a “Topography Table” transposing the existing topographic landscape from the Olympic Sculpture Park, where the event will take place, directly viewing West down to the water. Once the concept was created Google Earth was used to retrieve 3D model sections of the Olympic Sculpture Park topography. This was assembled in Sketch-Up and an East to West section was cut (with a ¼ z axis height adjustment down). The contours were then draped in Rhino to create one smooth surface. This model was sectioned into 95 pieces that were then sent to a CNC router. The pieces were painted black and assembled without the need for glue. The finishing touches will be a glass 100lbs tabletop the size of a standard banquet table, and three black sawhorse legs to hold everything up. The table is almost complete!
Partial “Topography Table” painted and assembled
As natural light hits the table, the undulation of the topography is emphasized
Written by Dechen Gonnot, MArch Candidate 2014.