I have been taking courses at City College of San Francisco part-time for the last four years while working part-time. After walking by a flier for a short-term internship sponsored by the Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure (OCII) and SF YouthJobs+, I took the time to submit my cover letter and resume, knowing it would be a good educational experience. What was the worst that could happen? Or, what was the best that could happen? Four or five interviews and a few weeks later, I was officially an intern at LMSA!
LMSA is a small firm, diverse in gender, educational backgrounds, and levels of experience. The office space is an open floor plan with a lofted second level. Their desks, scattered with pencils, trace paper, and example projects, made me feel better about my work space at home and in the studio.
Just in the first few weeks, I began making the connection between studio at school and studio in the office. Aaron Thornton, my mentor at LMSA, immediately put me to work correcting some elevation renderings for a community meeting. My second task was to use AutoCad to edit some unit floor plans for 88 Broadway – a project that will eventually provide low-income housing to families and seniors . The plans had two building standards -one from the City Building Department and another from BRIDGE Housing Corporation - that I used to specify measurements as the plans were developed.
Being a part of a pin-up review was the most shocking thing I experienced in the office. I have always viewed pin-up reviews exclusively as an element of education, so I was surprised to see one scheduled on the office calendar. However, if there is one thing I learned interning at LMSA, it’s that we are forever learning, developing, and growing. In an office setting, the pin-up review sessions allow architects and designers in the office to see how other projects are developing and to provide feedback on the design process.
My time with LMSA was not all office work – I also had the opportunity to go on different types of site visits. The 88 Broadway project is located in the Northeast Waterfront Historic District, which means there are stricter regulations on design options. Aaron, John Westell, and Bill Leddy brought me along for a walking tour of the district , searching for evidence from the older buildings to inform material choices and facade treatments.
I was also able to tour the new Commonwealth Club of California building, which is currently under construction and is located on Steuart Street, located in the Embarcadero Historic District. Chris May, the architect in charge of construction administration, led our tour explaining the building’s construction process.
An affordable housing complex in the Mission District on 16th Street was the project I was able to work on the most. Currently called the 1990 Folsom project, the building will also provide space for child care and art activities. I worked with project manager Ryan Jang to create a site context packet from start to finish, beginning with going to the site and capturing 500+ photos, piecing together panoramas of the immediate site and adjacent streets, and laying out that information in a packet in InDesign.
At first, it felt like there was so little time to take everything in. However, now that the two months are over, I can’t believe how much I was able to experience and accomplish while with LMSA. There are no words for how eye-opening of an experience this was, having a taste of what a possible future career in architecture entails. I feel it has put my education in a better perspective – now, everything my instructors have lectured on makes more sense. This experience has demonstrated what I really enjoy doing as an architecture student and shown me what I need to develop moving forward.
My advice to the next intern and other first-time interns is to take advantage of your time working in an office, even if it’s for a short time. Be curious, be engaged, immerse yourself, and be aware of what is going on around you. Connect what happens in your courses and try to imagine what you want to do with it. Most importantly, do not get discouraged! An instructor once told me the difference between an artist and a designer is functionality; the functionality aspect is the difficult part of the job, but it’s incredible when you figure it out.