PRP Now! Claire Townley // Renzo Piano Building Workshop

December 19, 2018
PRP Now! is a series of interviews that highlight a current UTSOA Professional Residency Program student every few weeks.

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 Claire Townley [M.Arch. '19] about her experience.

PRP: Tell us about your PRP firm. Where are you working?
I am working at Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW) in Paris, France. RPBW is an international firm founded in 1981 by the Pritzker awarded architect by the same name. Since its founding, lightness, simplicity and attention to detail have been hallmarks of the firm’s design.

PRP: Do you enjoy the city you’re working in? Favorite aspects?
It’s hard to imagine that any architecture student wouldn’t love living in Paris! It’s simply brimming with vibrant urban activity. Some of my favorite things to do include, running along the Seine, checking out the expansive street markets, and of course, visiting museums. For anyone traveling to Paris, I would recommend the Pompidou, Brancusi, Picasso and Rodin museums. Oh, and you should check out the Orangerie too!

PRP: What is currently on your desk? What are you working on?
After an intense few weeks of preparing for a major presentation, I cleaned off my desk today! This was a little bit of a production. True to its name, Renzo Piano Building workshop operates like a workshop, and is constantly cranking out models, many of them beautifully designed by the firm’s professional model makers. The project I’m working on probably has upwards of 100 physical models, so my team spent part of the day archiving the old models that had been encroaching on our desk space. Now my desk is clear, but for some trace paper, sketches and a cup of coffee!

PRP: Describe the firm culture? The office atmosphere?
The office atmosphere is energized (thanks, in part, to lots of caffeine!), lively and welcoming. With about 100 employees, the Paris office is the largest of the firm’s three offices, and it is located in the Marais district, a very hip neighborhood with lots of shops and restaurants. I go out to lunch with my team or the other interns nearly every day, and have formed close bonds with several of my coworkers. One of the highlights of my workweek is attending a lunch break yoga session every Thursday for RPBW employees. Although I’m always lagging a bit behind because I don't understand many of the French commands, I always come away relaxed.

PRP: What is the first thing you'll tell your classmates upon your return to UT? 
Living in a foreign country is a humbling experience, and I have many funny stories of trying to navigate daily life. For example, when I traveled to Basel I watched four trains go by before I figured out that I needed to push the red X button to open the door. I am looking forward to having a good laugh and sharing my stories.

PRP: As you’re finishing up the week, what are your plans for this weekend?
This weekend, after the office holiday party (yay!), I’ll be traveling with the three other interns to the RPBW office in Genoa, Italy! I am especially excited because I will see one of my dear friends from UT, who also did her PRP placement at RPBW and now works in the Genoa office. A few months ago the two of us met for a weekend in Rome, and I’ve had the chance to travel to many other places in Europe over the weekends, including Barcelona, Porto, Ronchamp, and Basel.

PRP: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Thank you, PRP, for making this opportunity possible! I am humbled and grateful!