PRP Now! Andrea Becker // Tod Williams Billie Tsien

March 20, 2018
PRP Now! is a series of interviews that highlight a current UTSOA Professional Residency Program student every few weeks.
Andrea Becker

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 Andrea Becker [M.Arch. '18] about her experience. 

PRP: Tell us about your PRP firm. Where are you working?
Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects | Partners, or TWBTA, is an architecture studio in New York City located on the southern end of Central Park, very close to Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and the Met. The longer I am here, the more I realize, how this proximity to treasured arts institutions is inextricably linked with the identity and vision of the firm, which is known for its emphasis on materiality, interiority, and for its work with both cultural and academic institutions. There have been at most four other Longhorns here since I started in January, which makes me feel right at home.

PRP: Do you enjoy the city you’re working in? Favorite aspects?
I love living in New York City. Where else can you walk across the street after work on a Friday and see Van Gogh’s Starry Night at the MOMA (for free!), or attend a pianist’s performance at Carnegie Hall? Living here has given me the chance to understand the city on a new level than was possible before. I’ve also really enjoyed meeting other architects here who are doing interesting work at other firms, since there are so many here. They even all go bowling together as part of an architecture bowling league, who knew?

PRP: What is currently on your desk? What are you working on?
Hot tea, highlighters, some fabrics, and a big stack of drawings. At TWBTA, interns usually work on several different projects during the beginning of their term, so they can get to know all of the people and the work in the office. This week I built a mock-up for a sculpture garden currently under construction near Detroit. I had no idea when I came in Monday morning that I would be running wood through the table saw and smelling like sawdust by the end of the day. I’m also working on drawings for a residential project in Texas, and have designed a wallcovering for a performing arts building at Exeter Academy.

PRP: Describe the firm culture? The office atmosphere?
In short, the firm culture is very playful and warm, while at the same time being very serious and thoughtful about the work. The office itself has grown organically over time, as more and more space has been acquired; the effect of which is a collection of intimate and simultaneously open spaces. There is both an architecture library and an art library. The walls are covered from top to bottom in scale models, stone samples, and felt wallcovering strike-offs. It is not uncommon for the conference rooms to be transformed into model making spaces, or places for artistic experiments. Recently, we all left early to go ice skating in one of our projects at the LeFrak Center at Lakeside in Prospect Park. There has also been an office ski trip, a bar crawl, and several “office chat” breakfast pow-wows, where we all hear about the updates on each project.

PRP: What is the first thing you'll tell your classmates upon your return to UT?
PRP has easily been one of the biggest highlights of grad school. If you can -- do PRP! The extra time has been worth it, and working here has definitely challenged my ideas of what I thought that work had to be. It’s also a great way to explore a new city, without having to fully commit to living there long-term (although the thought has crossed my mind!).

PRP: As you’re finishing up the week, what are your plans for this weekend?
There is always a lot going on in New York, but especially this weekend as March Madness and St. Patrick’s Day converge. I’m also hoping to finally visit the Noguchi Museum and to see the Orchid Show at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens in the Bronx. My brother will be visiting, so I’m feeling a lot of pressure to be the perfect big apple tour guide.

PRP: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
We’ve had three nor’easters in less than two weeks. It’s actually snowing right now. If you PRP somewhere cold, be prepared to pull out all that stuff you boxed up when you moved to Austin! And please….. please, send breakfast tacos!