I was feeling excited and secretly proud of my first architectural internship abroad. I was looking forward to participating in creative projects and learning new skills, although I had no clear idea about which exactly these would be. Being an architectural intern is a synonym for an everyday routine that varies from office to office, although it still consists of the same cornerstones, like having to work with actual deadlines, always being ready to help wherever is needed, and being prepared to run errands.
My Responsibilities as an Architectural Intern
On my first day, the secretary explained the office structure and my basic tasks, printing, and plotting, preparing the labels for the project folders, and properly documenting and sharing my files. She gave me an additional file containing organizational information, addresses, and references regarding the local regulations and building authorities.
In the end, she showed me how to make coffee with the french press, an indulgence that we would all occasionally prepare for each other. Of course, I already knew about the strong affection of architects towards coffee, but I had managed to graduate without filling my body with tons of caffeine. The small french press at the office was where one of my worst addictions started.
From Concept to Construction: the Technical Drawings | Architectural Intern
Luckily, I had to start working on visualizations, floor planning, elevations, and sections; thus, slightly deviating from the various designs I had to develop at the university. Model making and project presentations would eventually become part of the intern’s life according to deadlines and discussions with the project manager and the design team.
At that time, I was not yet either fully proficient in creating technical drawings and construction details or familiar with the building regulations of the country. My technical understanding was limited. Part of the university coursework was also the building technology module, but it could not overcompensate the lack of practice.
On my second week as an architectural intern, though, I had to support the team producing some construction details for a new renovation project. So, I asked my colleagues for suggestions and then I started studying technical drawing in relevant books and magazines. I was trying to include as much information, as possible, but I could not precisely relate the depiction to the real structure.
Reality Check: The Visit to the Construction Site
Towards the end of the second week, and while I was still on my first impressions-dress code, trying to enhance the ground floors I was working on, the project manager decided I should assist him at the construction site.
I had to take some photographs of the progress, document some positions, and help with the measurements. I was overexcited and over-motivated to accomplish the tasks as efficiently and as fast as possible. We started with the exterior, where I managed to step in the muddy ground while checking the measurements and drug the dirt all over the building. Despite my guilty feeling, I still did not cause any major problem, since the building was already a mess.
After that, I had to check the state of the attic, so I went up the staircase. The wooden frame structure was revealed. I could see on a 1:1 scale the sections I had been preparing at the office. And still, I had not yet grasped the meaning of these plans.
My brain was not able to understand how the lines and curves react as physical materials in space. What was their weight? How stable were they? How did the surfaces feel like? So, it did not occur to me that I should only walk on the timber beams. Trying to move between point A and point B, I stepped on the insulation, and hadn’t it been for the project manager and two workers that rushed to rescue me from falling one floor, I would have had a pretty nasty accident.
Reflecting on my Architectural Internship
Being an architectural intern who lacks experience can lead to embarrassment and moments of self-doubt. Looking back at these first experiences, I feel happy about all the goofy incidents that have driven me towards learning more about practicing architecture. The shift from university life to the real world of my profession has been complicated.
Having now spent some time meeting various deadlines and preparing plans for the weekly construction-site visits, I have already done my reality check. Practicing architecture goes beyond designing and creating amazing representations. It means providing solutions for real problems, though sometimes incredibly uninspired.
Like in any other business, time and money shape the work reality of the architect. Unlike university years, the best project does not always get credits and it quite often gets past because of its inefficient approach or its utopian vision. It is essential to learn how to re-prioritize personal aspirations according to the clients’ needs and try to acquire strong communication skills. Being an architectural intern is a necessary step in one’s way to becoming an architect.