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 undergraduate, domestic and international firms. PRP staff most recently had the pleasure to speak with Anthony Vannette [B.Arch. '18] about his experience.
PRP: Tell us about your PRP firm. Where are you working?
I'm at Miró Rivera Architects, here in Austin, TX. The firm has a reputation for its high-end residential and small-scale public projects in town and in the Hill Country. However, it was their 2011 design for the grand stand, observation tower, and amphitheater at the Circuit of the Americas that put the firm in the international spotlight. In recent years the work has diversified and the firm is also currently involved in a few skyscrapers in Mexico. The office is small with less than 15 design staff.
PRP: What is currently on your desk? What are you working on?
Currently occupying the most real estate of my desk are plans and renders of a residence that have been heavily sketched on in an internal design meeting. Today is the first day that I've worked on this project so I'm wrapping my head around the design while simultaneously editing the digital model. It's always an interesting experience trying to decipher Juan and Miguel's sketches and turn them into discrete geometry.
Towards the periphery of my desk is evidence of how many projects I tend to be working on at once. There are redlined details from another residence that has been consuming lots of time lately, as-built sketches I made last week for a potential new project, and details and material samples for another residence that I've been heavily involved in since I started in January. At the far reaches of my desk stands a mountain of drawings from at least five projects that I really need to organize.
PRP: Describe the firm culture? The office atmosphere?
The firm really feels like a large family, especially with Louie (Juan and Rosa's dog) around so often. Learning everyone's name on the first day and not feeling like just another face in a crowd is a big plus for me. Because the firm is quite small, there's a fair amount of overlap in the project teams which makes it relatively easy to move around from project to project as needed. So far I've been involved in at least nine projects, some as a key player (sometimes the sole draftsperson) while others I may just be helping out for a few days to get an ASK out to the contractor or a drawing set out for permit or pricing.
There's also a fair share of traditions, such as getting BBQ for lunch on Mondays, sharing snacks on Wednesdays, or trying out new restaurants on Fridays, so there's always something to look forward to each week. Supplementing those are monthly events such as site visits, pool parties, or office show-and-tells. Not to mention major annual events such as the "Thanksgiving Ham" picnic held every April in Zilker Park and the AIA Design Awards which took place in May (and the office took home a couple trophies!) There's always something planned. Informal events happen all the time, too: one weekend half the office went tubing in San Marcos and another I went cycling around the Circuit of the Americas with five coworkers.
PRP: What is the first thing you'll tell your classmates upon your return to UT?
Ask lots of questions! This is my attitude towards everything, but I've found it's really important in the office. Not sure whether a truss would be top-chord bearing or bottom-chord bearing? Go ahead and ask. Wondering which method is preferred for modeling low-slope roofs in Revit? Someone knows (because there are at least three ways to do it and the office probably has a standard). Just asking the first time you encounter an uncertain situation saves a ton of time down the road because you will most likely have to draw many more wall sections or model a few more roofs in the following months. Not only that but it's the quickest way to actually grasp how, when, and why things assemble the way they do.
It's also a way of showing that you're engaged, interested, and willing to learn. You may even catch an occasional mistake and then it's really important to ask questions. Even though your work is being checked something could slip by unnoticed - a dimension here, an outdated detail there - and by the time it's the contractor's problem it really is the architect's problem. Last-minute, in the field solutions are never really pleasing for anyone. The first time I pointed out an error to a project manager I was told "you'll never work for a perfect architect - and you'll never be a perfect architect," an assessment I'll agree with so you can bet I won't stop asking questions any time soon.
PRP: As you’re finishing up the week, what are your plans for this weekend?
Since the all-too-familiar Texas Summer heat has arrived and is here to stay, I probably won't be spending much time outside anymore. All the more reason to find a nice air-conditioned venue to settle in and watch the World Cup. With the US not competing, the office had been rooting for Spain, Mexico, and Switzerland as we have staff members from those countries. Now that they've been eliminated we don't know who to cheer on!
PRP: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Residency is a great opportunity to go far and wide, but there's nothing wrong with sticking around in Austin! Even if you're not a native Texan you've got to be used to the weather by now and if you do hail from the Lone Star State it's hard to beat being close to friends and family.