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 Philip Richardson [M.Arch. '18] about his experience.
PRP: Tell us about your PRP firm. Where are you working?
I'm working at SHoP Architects in New York City. We are in the Woolworth Building in the northern end of the Financial District. It is a rather large office at about 170 people right now, but NYC is the only office location. SHoP has positioned itself as a digitally and technologically influenced practice. The office has a small in-house fablab, as well as a larger warehouse for full-scale mockups in Brooklyn. Around the office, there are beautiful scale models everywhere, and you often see a very wide range of medium being used - Rhino, Grasshopper, Catia, VR, physical models, sketches, material samples, renderings, and lots of diagrams. The firm has varying types of groups/specializations including the rendering team, applied technology group, enclosure team, fabrication designers, etc. so it is easy to find a specific place if desired.
PRP: Do you enjoy the city you’re working in? Favorite aspects?
New York City is crazy. It is true, you can feel the energy and it is very motivating. There is always something to do, somewhere new to go, and architecture to critique. The things I love most are having public transportation that goes everywhere and having access to so many different cultures, experiences, and types of food within a pretty small radius at any given point.
PRP: What is currently on your desk? What are you working on?
Coffee, headphones, sketch pad, Rhino screenshots of a design study with some comments, and a stack of screenshots from VR with comments. During my time here I have worked primarily on 3 different projects at various phases. A large majority of my time lately has been spent creating a very detailed VR model for the new Uber Headquarters. Most of the other work has consisted of iterative design studies and CA-related research. The range of work I have been given has been pretty broad.
PRP: Describe the firm culture? The office atmosphere?
The firm culture is great here, very relaxed especially for a larger office. It is not uncommon for people to wear jeans and a t-shirt every day. In the central space of the office there is a ping-pong table, pool table, pinball machine, VR "cave," and iced coffee + 2 local beers always on tap. These spaces and activities are actually used all the time, it is not discouraged to use during work hours or anything like that. All summer long we had "Summer Fridays" which meant we left at 1pm on (most) Fridays. That being said, even after the summer, people seem to start congregating around the beer starting about 4pm on Fridays. There are always lots of office-wide events happening, just this week I had a lunch-and-learn, an office Q&A session, and a "Peers and Beers" event focused on the topic of glass. During my time here, I have played on both the softball and soccer teams, which has been a great way for me to get to know more people. After every softball game we would go out for drinks and food courtesy of the firm!
PRP: What is the first thing you'll tell your classmates upon your return to UT?
Try to find a firm that you believe holds your same values in architecture. I have discovered that people here think and work the exact same way I always have, it is unlike any experience I have had in architecture before and it allows much more room for flexibility and growth as a designer. Worry less about pursuing the most famous firm you can, and more about how the firms you pursue treat the profession.
PRP: As you’re finishing up the week, what are your plans for this weekend?
Well last week was Thanksgiving break and my girlfriend, myself and our son went to visit my family. So this weekend I think we will relax, clean up the apartment, and start preparing for and planning the move back to Austin!
PRP: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Due to the size, I did initially find it a little difficult to find close friends, but now I feel like I know most people in some way. I find myself discovering new things about the firm often, some of which I am very interested in pursuing. What has become very important for me is talking to my project manager about the things I am interested in or curious about so that I can actually start to engage with them and get the most out of this experience.