PRP Now! Ariel Cohen // Overland Partners

April 28, 2016
PRP Now! is a series of interviews that highlight a current UTSOA Professional Residency Program student every few weeks.
prp now

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 mostly recently had the pleasure to speak with Ariel Cohen [M.Arch. '17] about her experience. 

PRP: Tell us about your PRP firm. Where are you working?
I'm working at Overland Partners in San Antonio. It's an extremely diverse firm - there are projects at every scale, from single-family residential to urban master planning across the globe. 

PRP: Do you enjoy the city you’re working in? Favorite aspects?
Even though San Antonio is just over an hour away from Austin, it's so different! I'm really enjoying the slower pace and the fact that the city kind of forces you to discover it. It's also a really interesting time to be here since the World Heritage designation for the missions, and there is a great sense of urban renewal. Young people are starting to have a much bigger presence here. 

PRP: What is currently on your desk? What are you working on?
Coffee, always! Lots of  markers and pens, 2 sketchbooks, a flyer for an Ideas competition sponsored by Overland, a box of photos from an image session, and a bunch of test prints for a concept design package, which is what I'm currently working on for two new projects on university campuses in the Rio Grande Valley. About a month ago I got to attend half of a week-long project kick-off workshop with the client. It was amazing to experience the Overland design process from the very beginning and how that process engages the client to bring their needs and vision to reality. 

PRP: Describe the firm culture? The office atmosphere?
For being a somewhat large firm, the office environment feels pretty intimate and laid-back, which was a very pleasant surprise! People are focused and hard-working but always open to chat or offer help. It is a highly values-based firm, and it shows from the type of people who work here and the work being produced. I really appreciate that I don't feel like 'just an intern' here - there are 7 of us, and they really want to make us feel integral to the teams we're on. One of my favorite traditions is whenever a new project comes in or there is exciting news to deliver, someone rings the bell over our main gathering space and everyone stops what they're doing to come hear the news. Some of the office programming includes Tips + tricks, catered  lunch on Wednesdays, Lunch + Learns, and one Thursday a month we all get together to do a certain activity outside of the office, often volunteer-based. I'm pretty sure we also have every social sports league covered - I've played on the kickball, volleyball, and soccer teams (we're not very good but we have the most fun!). The office space itself is an amazing renovation of an old plumbing warehouse done by Overland a few years ago. It's only a couple minutes away from the fantastic Pearl Brewery complex and right off of the Museum Reach of the Riverwalk. 

PRP: What is the first thing you'll tell your classmates upon your return to UT? 
That I can't imagine not taking advantage of this opportunity! Something we don't get to experience much of in school is working with a team, and under varying leadership - learning to navigate through those dynamics, especially before graduating, is so important. I would also say if you are going to participate in PRP, choose a firm that will make you feel valued and give you real responsibility and opportunity for growth.

PRP: As you’re finishing up the week, what are your plans for this weekend?
This weekend is actually the last weekend of Fiesta, San Antonio's two-week city-wide festival! The whole city pretty much shuts down for it -  it's Friday today and the office is closed because the parade runs right in front of it, so we're having our own crawfish boil and parade-watching party right here! Tomorrow is the King William fair, another event that happens to be right in my neighborhood, so I'm really looking forward to that.