PRP Now! Nathan Chen // SHoP Architects

October 28, 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 Nathan Chen [B.Arch. '19] about his experience. 

PRP: Tell us about your PRP firm. Where are you working?
I’m currently working at SHoP Architects in New York City – a 180-person firm located in the Woolworth Building. What drew me to SHoP the most was the firm’s ambition in exploring and expanding expertise in all types of building design. It’s hard to nail SHoP’s architectural style down to a singular building typology since there’s such a diverse number of projects in the office – ranging from skyscrapers to mixed use developments, offices, stadiums, and waterfront projects. SHoP is also very interested in incorporating technology into its design process, whether it be for designing, energy performance analysis, or streamlining the manufacturing/construction process.  

PRP: Do you enjoy the city you’re working in? Favorite aspects?
I love New York City in that it challenges you – the lifestyle here just demands a certain energy from you – with being in such close proximity to people day by day and by the pace of things. But the density is also what makes it so exciting. There’s something here for everyone, and even more for those who are looking to expand their interests and experiences. Events and places that I was always aware about in Austin but couldn’t go to because they were in NYC suddenly are a subway ride away.

PRP: What is currently on your desk? What are you working on?
I’ve been fortunate enough to be placed on a pair of office buildings (within the scope of a larger SHoP designed master-plan) project since day one of schematic design and will be following through with it for the full duration of the phase. I’ve worked in all mediums for this project, from various façade studies in Rhino, built a physical presentation model, making VR client presentations, and to doing design documentation in Revit. On my desk right now are my notepad, study print-outs, as well as 3D model screenshots. I’m currently in the process of coordinating a client presentation model with the fab lab for an up-coming meeting.

PRP: Describe the firm culture? The office atmosphere?
SHoP maintains a casual atmosphere of a small firm even with its 180-person staff. For the amount of work that the firm does, SHoP also does a good job of reinforcing work-life balance. During the summer we have half day Fridays, but even after those were over people would always gather and chat over the beer on tap, play ping-pong or billiards in the central space starting around 5-6 pm. The firm is also super active, with its main sport being softball, but there are also groups of people who get together to play soccer, volleyball, basketball, and go bouldering. There’s also a good number of office events: lunch n’ learns, Peers & Beers, which is basically an architectural show and tell by a project team, First Thursday Town-Hall-esque gatherings, and occasional happy hours at the fab lab in Brooklyn.

PRP: What is the first thing you'll tell your classmates upon your return to UT?
I wish Austin had a subway so I wouldn’t have to drive. Also, the wide-open Texas sky is unlike anything else, and I’ve really missed it.

PRP: As you’re finishing up the week, what are your plans for this weekend?
Probably try to catch some cardio with some pick-up football with my coworker’s friends or some pick-up ultimate frisbee in Prospect Park. Some UTSOA friends are also in town, so I’m going to try to meet up with them as well.