I’ve worked in and around Northeastern’s Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex (ISEC) for the past four years, and during my co-op, I got the chance to actually work on it. When I started my co-op at Payette in January 2019, I joined the design team for the Northeastern projects that make-up the new academic precinct: PedX, fitouts of ISEC, and the EXP Building.
There’s an interesting duality to being both a user and designer of a place. I was excited to see the PedX open and walk across it, in part, because I knew some of the people who made it happen, but also because it would make my commute to classes easier in the fall. I shook hands with a roomful of Northeastern executives at a presentation to the President, introducing myself as a member of the design team, and of the Class of 2020.
My fellow architecture students never missed a chance to jokingly ask me to carve out some space for them in the new building. While I couldn’t serve as an insider for them, I enjoyed being able to inform my co-workers of campus happenings. I imagine that this is what building your own house or piece of furniture (or being a cubist) is like; you get to perceive things from multiple sides at once.
The EXP won’t open until years after I’ve graduated, but I’m already excited to go visit it and witness all the ways it changes things physically and culturally. Thanks to my experience at Payette, I have a much fuller picture of how an institution functions and makes decisions, when it comes to design. I was able to see the University’s goals and priorities spread out and know how well they aligned with students’ goals. Being part of the design team, I also had to think about the advancement of the university, which was a level I hadn’t engaged on previously. I was used to small, student-run organizations being my avenue for making change within my specific school and college.
Regardless of being on the Northeastern team, I felt a connection between the University and our firm. I could easily be mentally transported back to Ruggles Studio (the studio for students of architecture at Northeastern), simply by talking with alumni or another co-op student. I acted as a bridge between these two worlds in February when I organized a firm tour for the Northeastern AIAS chapter.
While my big takeaways from this experience were about relationships, my day-to-day work was based in technical skills and craft. For the EXP, I created presentation drawings, models, Room Data Sheets and generally furthered our Revit documentation. The few small lab fitouts I worked on moved at a much quicker pace, and I enjoyed switching back and forth between long- and short-term efforts.
Aside from project work, I’ve learned so much about how a large firm functions, how interviews and presentations are approached, the incorporation of building science, being a citizen architect and much more just by attending Payette’s many knowledge-sharing events and listening. It’s these auxiliary things that I’ll carry with me into my final year of undergraduate study.