Architecture internships have today become more than a line on the CV of an architecture student. They have now become a career-defining process that will add to the student’s skill set, allow him/her to add professional projects to his/her portfolio, and also help students figure out what specialization or career paths suits them best. Students today have become more aware and informed about conducting the necessary research while looking for firms or organizations for an internship or professional experience before landing into one. This article is here to aid architecture students and architects in their research into understanding and deciding on how to choose an internship experience with the right firm. 

Building Characteristics of the Region

While choosing an architecture firm, the geography or the physical features of the region like terrain, topography, or climate are of key importance as different regions have different building characteristics and specific building requirements. The designs should be developed based on the physical and social features to blend in and perform well in that region. Hence, several design studios specialize in the geography of the region that they are based. Their designs are in sync with the surroundings and aim to complement the topography of the region. For example, coastal areas will require the structures to be built on stilts, while, buildings in hilly regions will require slope stabilization or stepped foundations. Moreover, looking for architecture studios in specific terrains allows you to explore those regions both for professional and leisure purposes. Some architecture firms specialize in metropolitan cities and some work in rural areas. Each region, be it urban or rural has its characteristics, and deciding on one specific demographic region based on your interest will allow you to specialize in the same. Other factors that will influence your internship experience are population density, city composition, growth, movement, and social influences of the place.

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The Firm’s Portfolio

An architecture studio’s portfolio could be of a singular type that specializes only in a particular kind of buildings or it could be varied with a variety of project types. Architecture studios might take up all, some, or one of the following project types: residential projects, commercial buildings, sports facilities, hospitals, hotels, cafes, restaurants, office complexes, industrial buildings, public/government buildings, mass housing, transportation infrastructure, etc. So, if there is a project type that you want to pursue further or if there is something new that you have not explored yet, the internship period is the right time to do so. You can find information on this through the firm’s project portfolio. 

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Interns at Work_©

Size and Scale

Another important factor is the size of the projects that the architecture studio takes up. This is an important point for you to consider while deciding on the best firm for your internship and professional experience as it will also define the range of projects in your portfolio. Hence, if you want to maintain the uniformity of your work portfolio, then decide on the scale you want to focus on based on what you would like to pursue going forward, that is large-scale or small-scale projects. Large-scale constructions can include residential or housing societies, convention centers, or IT parks. Whereas small-scale projects can be homes, offices, or shops. An important point to note here is a project type can be either small-scale or large-scale based on the capacity it is addressing. For example, a hospital with 200 beds is a small-scale project whereas a hospital with 1500 beds is a large-scale project. Hence, if you are keen on a particular project type, you need to have a close look into the firm’s portfolio. 

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A Cartoon Shared on Ouora_©Quora

Listen to the Reviews

Reviews about the firm, its reputation, the work culture, and the environment are things that people tend to skip or miss out on in the hurry to land a job. However, this is something extremely important as it will make or break your experience during your time there. Most firms, big or small have reviewers either on Google, Glassdoor, or other employee forums. Apart, from these, reviews from employees or interns either from your college or friends circle will be helpful in the process. After all, nobody wants to land in a mentally exhausting environment, especially when they have just started into the professional world. 

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Interning for Free

Though most of the architecture firms pay a stipend to their trainees or interns, some studios and startups might choose not to pay. Have a clear conversation about this during the interview stage, keeping your expectations in check. However, if a firm decides to not pay their interns and the experience and exposure are worth it and the organization is a great fit for you, you should pursue it without a doubt.

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A Candidate with a ‘Will Work for Free’ Placard_©

Sowmya is an architectural journalist and writer. In this column, Sowmya takes you through stories on eco-architecture, biophilic design, and green buildings from across the globe.