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 Andrew Stone [M.Arch. '18] about his experience.
PRP: Tell us about your PRP firm. Where are you working?
I am working at Bora Architects in Portland, Oregon. It’s a fairly large firm, with about 70 employees. Bora has been around for about 60 years and undergone several name iterations. Our most recent rebrand was going from BOORA to Bora. We’ve got a lot of extra O’s here if you need any. We do a lot of large projects, especially schools, university buildings and performing arts centers. We specialize in workplace and educational environments.
PRP: Do you enjoy the city you’re working in? Favorite aspects?
Portland is great. It reminds me a lot of Austin, except with much cooler weather. My favorite part of Portland is the walkability. I live downtown, about a 5 minute walk from the office, and it’s great. The downtown area is perfectly scaled for pedestrian street life. Like Austin, there are lots of food carts (they don’t call them food trucks here). The Willamette River is very close, and I always go there to run along the waterfront. I have to make an effort to get out and see other parts of the city, because everything I need is within a 5 minute radius of where I live! Including the Portland Timbers stadium, who are a very big deal up here.
PRP: What is currently on your desk? What are you working on?
I have been working on a project in collaboration with a real estate development class at Portland State University. It’s more of a conceptual project – Bora is working with the real estate students in the role of the architect. The students are putting together a pro-forma to develop a really interesting site in southeast Portland, right near the river. The site comprises three blocks, each of which will have industrial space on the ground floor, and some combination of parking and rentable office space on the floors above. It’s actually quite a thought-provoking project that touches on lots of architectural issues – urban industry, public space, waterfront connections, flexibility and modularity, etc. On top of all that, we are proposing to build a CLT parking garage! So we’re dealing with lots of very interesting construction issues as well. Right now my desk has a lot of trace paper and some wood study models as I’m trying to figure out how a modular CLT system might work for a parking garage. It’s fun!
PRP: Describe the firm culture? The office atmosphere?
We have an open office plan, like most other architecture offices. Typically we work in small project teams, usually of about 4-6 people. Project teams sit together, and sometimes meet together in conference rooms or smaller team meeting spaces. We are about to start some renovation work on our own office, expanding the model shop significantly. Everyone I have met here is nice and helpful, and the office culture reflects this. Last week they rented a charter bus and took all the employees to tour two of our projects which are nearing completion, a high school and a combination elementary/middle/college/health clinic. It was a great way to see what we’ve been working on, and to see the impact that architecture has on real people. Afterwards the bus took us to a bar and we got free chips and guac and margaritas! It was a great experience and it is the perfect example of Bora’s values at work in creating a supportive and collaborative office environment. One of the big employee benefits is the use of the Bora Beach House. Bora built this house on the Oregon Coast about 20 years ago for employee use. Every year they schedule out the use of the house, and employees get to go throughout the year and spend several days there. Still no word on when I might get to go…..
PRP: What is the first thing you'll tell your classmates upon your return to UT?
Nothing. I’ll eat Torchy’s first. Then I’ll tell them to do PRP! It’s a great learning experience. The most important thing is finding a firm that values teaching and learning and supports their employees. You can tell a lot about a firm by how they treat their employees. Every architecture firm is going to try to make a good impression on clients, the general public, and the architecture community at large – it’s how they make money. But firms that respect their employees and treat them well, like Bora, show a real commitment to the value and respect of individual people – and it comes through in their work.
PRP: As you’re finishing up the week, what are your plans for this weekend?
I’m actually headed to Corvallis, Oregon to visit a cousin who lives there. Corvallis is in the heart of the Willamette Valley, surrounded by mountains. Some weekends I go to the coast, which is beautiful. It’s only about a 1.5 - 2 hour drive, and there are plenty of cute little towns to explore along the Pacific Coastal Highway. I’ve been a few times to Cannon Beach, which is where they filmed the beach scene in The Goonies. Goonies never say die.
PRP: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
In regard to the Keep Portland Weird vs. Keep Austin Weird debate. I am of the opinion that the phrase started in Austin, and Portland stole it. However, I think that Portland is probably weirder.