PRP Now! Allison Walvoord // Michael Hsu Office of Architecture

September 13, 2017
PRP Now! is a series of interviews that highlight a current UTSOA Professional Residency Program student every few weeks.
prpNOW! Michael Hsu Office of Architecture

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 Allison Walvoord [M.Arch. '18] about her experience. 

PRP: Tell us about your PRP firm. Where are you working?
I am working at Michael Hsu Office of Architecture here in Austin. We are very active in the Austin scene, and have been growing, more than doubling in the last two and a half years. We are a medium sized firm now, about 35 people.

PRP: What is currently on your desk? What are you working on?
Right now I am working on five different architectural projects, creating options for a park pavilion and mailbox kiosk in SketchUp that I will work through CDs, working on plan, site and perspective renderings for active projects and marketing documents. In the background, I am compiling the office’s Digital Library, an interoffice resource of materials, crafts and people whose work has become integral to the details, character and feel of the projects that come together at MHOA.

PRP: Describe the firm culture? The office atmosphere?
The office is super busy, and everyone is very engaged in what they are doing. There are no task masters, and everyone seems to enjoy a bit of freedom in how they approach the projects that land on their desks. It’s the kind of office where people tend to stay, and they have formed a very close family here. Despite this focus, everyone still takes time to celebrate special occasions and birthdays with lunch and champagne and cake. Last Friday I came to work and there was a huge balloon installation out front for one of the partner’s birthdays. On personal and professional levels, the office culture is one that embraces sophistication and playfulness, which serendipitously plays out in their creative work too. MHOA also has an in house team of interior designers who are absolutely integral to every project from start to finish. Materiality and details are high on the list of priorities here, and Michael and the partners are very involved in everything.

PRP: What is the first thing you'll tell your classmates upon your return to UT?
I am particularly fond of the office’s creative process – there’s no lingering and waiting. People just dive into the work they are doing. Learning this kind of rapid-fire process seems to sift out the insubstantial questions from architectural work, and maintains a kind of honesty. Spending a lot of time in our material library and working on the Digital Library has gotten me rather interested in material palettes, for both aesthetic and practical reasons, and furniture design, as these element have become more than a sum of their parts in all of the work at MHOA.

PRP: As you’re finishing up the week, what are your plans for this weekend?
I am heading to the coast with Coleman Coker’s design studio to help with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and the ensuing tropical storm. Doing PRP in Austin really allows me to remain close with the goings-on at the university and the community. On a typical weekend over the summer, I usually go swimming somewhere and ride my bike around Austin and visit old haunts. I am really loving having weekends back! PRP: Is there anything else that you would like to add? I am so grateful to PRP for helping me land here! This has been a wonderful experience.