PRP Now! aims to showcase the great experiences students encounter within the Professional Residency Program. PRP offers upper-level architecture students a unique opportunity to expand their education through work experience in the architectural profession. Over the past twenty years, our students have been linked with 260 firms in 29 countries. We will feature a handful of students within each session, graduate and undergrad, domestic and international firms. PRP staff most recently had the pleasure to speak with Angela Vanella [M.Arch. '18] about her experience.
PRP: Tell us about your PRP firm. Where are you working?
I am working at Marwan Al-Sayed Inc. (which also goes by MASA Studio) in Los Angeles, California. It’s a small firm that does mostly residential work. They pride themselves in their thoughtful use of materiality and light. The spaces they create are truly sublime.
PRP: Do you enjoy the city you’re working in? Favorite aspects?
I love Los Angeles because it’s endlessly intriguing. Even though its sprawl and gridlocked freeways make it seem homogenous at first glance, there so many hidden special moments throughout the city. Someone from the office recommended that I visit the Bonaventure Hotel, which looks unassuming amongst the new downtown LA skyscrapers, but the interior made my Po-Mo-loving heart so happy!
PRP: What is currently on your desk? What are you working on?
The office, which is housed in what was the old produce market of LA, is composed of tall, white, slanting walls with integrated stone ledges, one of which wraps around the main studio space and holds my computer station--so I don’t have my own “desk” per say. These long ledges are great because the boundary of your work space can expand as needed. Next to my computer, I have a glass of tea on a metal coaster, my little book of ongoing to do lists, colored pens, and some print-outs of a millwork package that I am revising.
Right now, I am working with Mies, Marwan’s partner, to wrap up two interior design projects, which involves lots of AutoCAD millwork drawings and Photoshop. It also requires hand-selecting stone slabs, lighting and plumbing fixtures, hardware, and visiting the job sites almost every week. Additionally, I’ve had the chance to help with a large residence that the office is working on in a variety of capacities like adjusting architectural drawings, coordinating fixtures, and attending client meetings. I have also helped put together prospective client presentations and proposals. All in all, I can say that I have had some level of involvement in almost every project that the office is currently working on, which really takes the idea of “exposure” to a whole new level!
PRP: Describe the firm culture? The office atmosphere?
The office space is visually serene. The structures of the old market have remained, but the interior of the office was designed by MASA Studio. Most of the surfaces are white and the ceilings are high with big windows that let in lots of natural light. If you were to walk in on a random weekday, you may come into a quiet space that reflects the serenity of the design, you may overhear a phone conversation with a contractor, find a group discussing some material samples, stumble upon people eating lunch around the large conference table, or find that the office is empty because everyone had to head off for some meeting around town. Due to the small size of the firm, every person has a relatively high level of responsibility, so the team is constantly active, keeping every day exciting.
PRP: What is the first thing you'll tell your classmates upon your return to UT?
I will tell them that working at a small office is perfect for somebody who wants to be exposed to every facet of an architecture firm in a short period of time. Although this is my first experience working in the field, I feel that I have picked up so much vocabulary and general familiarity that the prospect of graduating seems much less daunting and makes me much more excited to learn what’s in store. I always thought I was destined for a life in academia; now I’m not so sure, and that’s exhilarating!
PRP: As you’re finishing up the week, what are your plans for this weekend?
I think I’m headed down to San Diego for the weekend to see some friends. I spent last Saturday walking around Venice beach and Sunday at Ventura County Line watching the surfers. Can’t complain!
PRP: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
LA has so much going on right now! I hope more students consider the city in the future for PRP, because there is definitely much to learn out here. The lovely SoCal weather and culture doesn’t hurt either!