Like an impetuous and premature first-time or waking up without beer goggles, sometimes the world reminds us of humbling experiences that have defined our youth and sculpted us into the fine human beings we are today. This week, I awoke to a most nostalgic email that oozed ambition, dripped desperation, and stunk with virginal entitlement. To introduce an exhibit that needs no introduction, behold — the best cover letter ever written:
Applying For Internship
To whom it may concern:
Work experience for teenagers? Yes, but that does not mean basic training, simple task, naive teenagers, etc. I am proficient in AutoCAD, Photoshop and Sketchup, and I am only grade 11. There is no doubt about my communication skills, as I am the top 5% of my grade. Leadership? no problem. I am the leader of student government and have operated many volunteers and activities on my own.
I am looking forward to having a part-time work experience at your studio. Please reply to this email if you are interested in me — I really need your favor.
[big fish, small pond]
Leader of Student Government,
SUIS High School
For those of us consumed in deadlines and change orders, what has become of us? Have we lost the fierce determination that once propelled us through architecture school? Naivety aside, we must applaud this kid’s initiative and blind confidence – a confidence to leap into the unknown and tackle any and all obstacles. For those who applaud the daring, who shall bequeath this young man the favor he so audaciously desires?
One of our obsessions has been, and always will be, scaffolding. There is something about it; this thin wiry layer that echoes its contents. Maybe it’s the way it billows, maybe it’s the way it conceals. All I know is that I want to climb into it.
We’re walking around Berlin’s Brandenburger Tor area, a healthy mix of commercial, retail, and the occasional memorial. Berlin is still a young town – new developments are still going up, and that means scaffolding. A lot of scaffolding.
Scaffolding sets the urban stage. Scaffolding is here today, and gone tomorrow. But here in Berlin, it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon. Behind a flimsy fortification of construction hoarding, a tarnished grey fabric clung and rippled around a clumsily large surface. Hardly seeing the edges of the building behind it, the fabric rippled around a large billboard placed on it – a billboard of white space from none other than Apple.
In a city so newly temporary, is it possible to use these scaffolding-screens as theaters? Can we have screenings at these screens? Maybe the drive-in theater will become instead, the walk-in theater.
There seems to be two camps in terms of representation: people who love silhouettes and people
who love people. We’ve all made both, and quickly we seem to put ourselves into one camp or
the other. There seems to be very little middle ground.
I like people. The starkness of the silhouettes populating the scene give off a coldness, a
ghostliness, of a not yet conceived project. It seems to keep a project in another world entirely—a
world devoted to the abstraction of the render, pristine with shiny materials and black figures.
Zaha Hadid employs the use of the silhouette, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who
has visited her work. There’s inaccessibility to it, a lack of a connection between the computer
rendering and the actual build work. The intangible computer model somehow is translated into a
built architecture, but the blatant disrespect of the human experience still evident in the obvious
struggle to build the unbuildable. She employs the silhouette with shiny spaceship materials to
create a sterile, pristine world.
On the other hand, Archigram conveys scenes that are composed more of people than of
architecture. In a sense the people communicate more the interpretation of the architecture rather
than the scale. The architecture is more present in the actions and interpretations of the people
than the actual build object.
I’m not interested in communicating with clients, which most people say is the reason why
visualization firms such as Luxigon and Labtop employ the use of the person instead of the
silhouette. The innocent bystanders who somehow end up in our renderings exhibit their
emotions, personality, and style, giving another layer of interpretation for the viewer. Very
carefully we curate our renderings to present the people we like, the people we identify with,
the people who will interact with our projects the best even just through the fantasy of the 2D
rendering. We invite the same people back to the party over and over again.
So what are you, a horse or a zebra?
Trained and tested in the flames of inadequacy, the fertile ashes of destitution provide for the emergence of the ripe succulent — so is the rise of the promoted intern. There’s nothing quite like that point in an architect’s career where they go from being an intern to having interns. For some, this is a gradual transition, for others, the brilliant metamorphosis comes with the casualness of a coin flip, such abrupt transitions contain a moment of eureka. Through being spit on, kicked, and blamed for your supervisor’s oversights — you really begin to think about how you treat other people, especially those who are in a place you so recently crawled out from. These are my post-destitute reflections on how to treat interns:
1. Assume interns are as smart as you and kindly compensate when necessary. Simply because an intern doesn’t know what a bulb tee is, can’t spell, “spider joint,” and thinks flashing has something to do with Tiesto, doesn’t make them useless. Your job as an architect includes utilizing their strengths and developing their areas of weakness.
2. Always take credit with “we” and accept blame with “I.” This is more a rule for the workplace in general. Don’t be the dick that “doesn’t make mistakes.”
3. Give of your time. There will always be too much work to do, training your interns right the first time will prevent you from having to redline every fifteen minutes. It’s the whole, “teach a man to fish…” thing.
4. Approximate time you expect work to be finished by and be forgiving if they don’t deliver exactly as you expect. Interns are rarely subversive. Consider the fact you might suck at explaining things.
5. Don’t assign busy work. If there is nothing to do, suggest your intern to work on a tutorial.
6. And this next one has happened, otherwise I wouldn’t say it — don’t take food from interns. Even if they offer, you should be hesitant. At no point ever should you snatch up food from an interns desk munching happily as you condescendingly explain a project.
7. Stop Talking. Leave the friendly banter for the bar, ’tis better to give directions and go. You’ll increase productivity and your interns will respect you for sparing them the obligatory small talk. In some situations, the small talk can be helpful, but keep it to a minimum.
Alternatively, if you’re still an intern:
1. Ask if there is work to do. Don’t sit around expecting work to find you — that’s how you get assigned busy work.
2. Don’t sigh like a little bitch.
Bring the magical atmosphere of a highway-underpass-squatter-encampment into your living room with this 100% recycled aluminum candle holder. This elegant masterpiece comes with a lovingly hand made wax coating at the base; simply heat the bottom of any candle and stick firmly in place. This can also doubles as an ashtray.
Fig 1: Holl, Nelson-Atkins
Fig 2: Three-Headed Dog from Harry Potter
Fig 1: EVE from WALL-E
Fig 2: Masked blob-ghost-monster from Spirited Away
Fig 3: Swiss Cheese
Hong Kong Design Institute
Fig 1: Fishnets
Fig 2: Kebabs