PRP Now! Eleanor Wakou // Mahlum Architects

November 17, 2020
PRP Now! is a series of interviews that highlight a current UTSOA Professional Residency Program student every few weeks.

PRP: Tell us about your PRP firm. Where are you working? 
I'm currently working with Mahlum Architects virtually. Mahlum is a medium-size firm with just under 100 people who are equally divided between the Seattle and Portland locations. The work is focused in three main areas: K-12, Higher Education, and Healthcare. The projects tend to be medium-scale, which I personally really enjoy. Two notable projects are the Kellogg Middle School, the first acoustic dowel-laminated timber (DLT) installation in the nation, and Mahlum's Portland Studio, which is the first Living Building Challenge (LBC) certified project in the city of Portland, Oregon. 

PRP: Do you enjoy the city you’re working in? Favorite aspects? 
I started out my internship virtually in San Antonio while staying with my family and now work virtually in Austin. While I wish I could get the full experience of living, working, and hiking in Seattle, I recognize that things are different nowadays and this is what's best for me. In all honesty, I've been enjoying working virtually from Austin while living with my roommates! Also, since in Central Texas we're 2 hours ahead of Seattle, I'm able to get a head-start on projects before the rest of my team wakes up. Very helpful! 

PRP: What is currently on your desk? What are you working on? 
My laptop, 27" monitor, sketchbook, weekly planner, cracked "Coffee: The Official Sponsor of UT Architecture Students" mug with pens & markers in it, empty coffee mug, water glass, and some diagrammatic studies on trace paper for a kidney dialysis project. I'm currently working with Mahlum's healthcare studio on a kidney dialysis center for Northwest Kidney Centers (NKC), the first out-of-hospital kidney dialysis provider in the world. Mahlum has worked on many projects for NKC, but I appreciate that each project is unique and responds to its specific, contextual needs. And since NKC is a non-profit organization, we have the liberty to optimize the patient and staff experience, in contrast to only focusing on the cost of the building. Honestly, I never really saw myself working on healthcare projects, but I'm enjoying learning more about the field! I love how multi-disciplinary architecture can be. 

PRP: Describe the firm culture? 
While the firm has a substantial number of people, it feels quite intimate. You get the vast store of knowledge that comes with a big firm but you still have a an intimate experience with the project team, including daily check-ins, one-on-one collaboration, etc. Overall, I really like the firm culture. It's very non-corporate and free, yet focused. It's normal for people to make jokes, laugh, send gifs on team chats, and share personal life events with one another. Another thing I appreciate is that as a firm we're making a point to learn how to have uncomfortable conversations about particular topics. For instance, during an all-staff meeting, we had a workshop on recognizing, dealing with, and ultimately preventing microaggressions within the workplace. 

PRP: What is the first thing you'll tell your classmates upon your return to UT?  
Do PRP, and be open-minded while you're doing it! It's fantastic to come into an internship with expectations of what you want to get into and learn. However, don't stop there! Explore everything that the firm has to offer. You're there for only 6 months, so make the most of it! 

PRP: As you’re finishing up the week, what are your plans for this weekend? 
Spending time outdoors and hanging out with a small group of friends. For the first time in forever, my weekends are REALLY weekends!