It’s the middle of summer break after the first year of the 3+M.Arch program. I’m a little over halfway complete with my summer internship which begins my participation in the NCARB IDP (Intern Development Program). Early on in the first quarter of classes we were informed that each of us would be placed at an architecture office the summer following the first year of classes. To participate in the summer internship program, we only had to fill out a brief application and questionnaire citing our particular skill sets, goals and interests. This happened in the winter quarter. We were able to request what size office we prefer, what type of projects we would like to work on as well as citing what skills we needed to develop. We were informed of placement in the spring quarter. Our placement was decided by the faculty. No job interview was necessary. This internship program is made possible through the UW School of Architecture, PAC (Professional Advisory Council) and the various offices participating in the program. Through participation in the program we gain insight into what it’s like to work in an architecture office and it helps to carve a path to professional practice.
I was placed at Johnston Architects. Johnston Architects is a small office specializing in sustainably designed small to medium sized mixed-use, commercial, public and residential projects. Some of the current projects include the Greenfire Campus in Ballard, Seattle Humane Society in Bellevue, The Pass Life at Snoqualmie Pass and a couple of residential remodels. I had a meet and greet with Ray and Mary Johnston a month before I was to start my internship. At the meeting we were able to outline our expectations and goals for the summer and negotiate pay.
The first task given to me was to complete the physical model of the Greenfire Campus. This task presented a couple of challenges. Since the model had largely been brought to completion by another person in the office, I had to be able to pick up on the material language that had already been put forth. Another challenge was studying and interpreting the construction documents. The study of these documents was necessary for me to complete the model and was also a great exercise in learning the office CAD standards. Another challenge with the model building task was interpreting through a shift in materials and scale elements of the actual building that had already been completed. I took part in a late construction phase tour of the building and with direct observation, photos, and construction documents had enough source material to complete the model.
The next task handed to me was to develop a children’s play structure that is to be installed in a mixed use development at Snoqualmie Pass. Ray intended this as an AutoCAD training exercise. He handed me a few concept sketches and asked me to develop the design and produce construction documents complete with plans, sections, elevations and details. I hadn’t worked much in AutoCAD prior to this and it quickly became clear that the office would not be profiting from my efforts. However, it illustrated the commitment made to me and my fellow students by Johnston Architects and other offices participating in the IDP program.
The next task handed to me was a site visit and development of a set of “as-built” drawings for converting a garage to an ADU. This was an exercise in participating in the early design phase of a project as well as an exercise in AutoCAD and a study of the office CAD standards. Somebody else in the office will pick up the project after I’m back at school so the drawings I produce will have to be legible. I’m realizing the importance of collaboration, legibility, and adherence to the office standard with this project.
Another task given to me was to make an on-site visit and offer an architectural and design consultation for a kitchen remodel in Wallingford. Mary sent me out alone on this visit. I imagine she was drawing on my previous work experience as a residential remodel contractor. I felt a great deal of trust was put on me by Mary. After all, I was the sole representative of her company in this instance. The meeting was just a consultation and didn’t result in any physical output such as drawings. It did illustrate that what we do as architects is ultimately about people. The clients in this instance just needed a little guidance and validation. We talked a lot about their ideas and I was able to put forth many of my ideas.
Currently, I’m working on a site model for the Seattle Humane Society project in Bellevue. The project is in the early programming and schematic design phase. The topographic site model I’m building will be used as a study model for the development of the design. For me, this task has been a learning exercise in generating properly scaled 2-dimensional output from AutoCAD and interpreting the output into a physical 3-dimensional design tool.
The summer IDP program for the 3+M.Arch students helps to create a vital link between the academic environment and professional practice. I can say from experience that this program is unique and valuable in the design community. Previous to enrolling the 3+M.Arch program I had earned an MFA in ceramics from the UW School of Art. While I value that experience and still draw from it, there was no program like the IDP. The education was great, but there was no clear path to professional practice. The IDP and PAC are helping to create a path to professional practice which I see as an integral and necessary part of the 3+ M.Arch curriculum. The brief glimpse of professional practice I receive this summer will enhance and inform my learning and working methods through my remaining years at the UW.
Written by Jason Gover, MArch Candidate