The Princeternship began at Penn Station, where Bobby Vuyosevich ’76 picked me up. We drove for about an hour and a half to Molloy College where the firm (Butler Rogers Baskett) designed many of its buildings including a residential building and a campus center. On the way there we talked about the architecture department at Princeton and compared our experiences. It was interesting to hear what it was like 30 or so years ago. For one, while he made all his drawings by hand we made ours with computer programs. In terms of the faculty, two of the most prominent figures in post-modernism taught studio courses at Princeton.
When we finally arrived at the college, Bobby gave me a tour of several buildings. We walked around in the campus center, which housed study spaces, offices, and a theater. He explained that before the campus center was built students had little incentive to stay after classes. After its completion the center became a new social and study space for the students and encouraged them to stay longer on campus. We also went to a construction site where a new residential building was in progress. Inside, walls were bare and steel framework was being put together. Bobby explained that the building used to be home to Catholic nuns but as their number decreased the school decided to provide the remaining sisters a smaller new housing elsewhere while the building was transformed into a dormitory. I had never been to a construction site before, and seeing how the building came together—the metal framework, wiring, and plumbing system—made me aware of how the role of the architect is just part of the larger construction process.
After the site visit we made our way back into the city and had lunch. While we ate, we talked about the social life at Princeton and about eating clubs. Then we walked back to the office, where Bobby introduced me to some of the workers at the firm. One of them was Jeff, who showed me the types of drawings that he was working on. As he flipped through the drawings I asked him questions about what it was like transitioning from school to work and the process of applying to graduate school. As a person who had recently graduated, Jeff gave insightful thoughts on both questions. He also said that for architecture, a lot of the learning happens while working for a firm. It was assuring to hear these words from someone in the field, as I had been anxious about post-grad plans and whether I had all the necessary skills to be hired.
Tuesday was more low-key and consisted of museum visits, first to Center of Architecture then to MoMA. At the Center of Architecture we looked at the exhibition of selected works from different architecture graduate schools in the tri-state area, including Princeton. Although the exhibition was small, it was a chance to see how each school had their own character and approach to design. At the MoMA I walked around different exhibitions (unfortunately the architecture section was closed down to prepare for a new exhibition featuring Frank Lloyd Wright). I ended up spending a lot of time on a special exhibition on Isa Genzken—an artist who works with mixed media and produces works that often make social commentary.
When I got back to the firm, Bobby invited me to sit in on a business meeting with a recycled lumber company. The company talked about how disasters and demolition leaves a lot of wood behind and how they take the abandoned wood and recycle it to produce lumber products that are as good as new. After the meeting, Bobby explained that companies selling construction related products often dropped by to market their products, sending in samples and pamphlets.
Overall the Princeternship was a useful and insightful experience that allowed me to see how a professional architecture firms works. Not only that, it introduced me to individuals in the field who I could contact to review my resume and portfolio.