Intern at Renzo Piano Building Workshop

Claudia Melchor del Rio is the second architecture student participating in an Internship Program at Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW) as part of a cooperation between the TUM Department of Architecture and the Renzo Piano Foundation in memory of Raphael Hilz, student of TUM and employee at RPBW. She reports about her experiences as an intern.

"The six month internship programme at Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW) is organized and fully funded by the Renzo Piano Foundation. The internship program follows the example of an Italian bottega, where students are encouraged to learn not only through theory but also by doing and being part of the office. The purpose of the internship is to provide students with the opportunity to bridge the gap between academic knowledge and the reality of the architects' profession. The TUM has been part of the agreement since 2016 thanks to the involvement of Dr. Philipp Molter, Research and teaching associate at the Professorship of Architectural Design and Building Envelope.

I have had the opportunity to be a part of the internship program getting an insight into the working ways of an office consisting of over 100 people. I started this internship expecting to learn what makes the architecture of RPBW the way it is, how does the same building style remain similar even if not only one person is overlooking the design process of every single project that is running parallel in the office. I was also curious to discover what the role of the architect is when his practice has reached such growth whilst dealing with international clients.

The office is organised in a hierarchical way that allows the creation of very defined teams that act under the advice of the partners, which then delegate the decision making to the associates or team leaders. The architect then becomes part of a thick woven structure. This way the unity of the projects design is ensured and no design flaws will occur as the conception of the project undergoes many different presentations and critiques. Being able to grasp the complexity of such communication structure has been one of the greatest insights I have gained during the internship. And all in all in the end the power of coherent designing relies in a coherent team of people who work towards a common goal and are led by capable professionals who know how to manage not only the architects but also the engineers; lighting designers, acoustic experts and façade experts.

As an intern your role in the teams depends on the stage your projects is in. The project I joined, The Fubon Tower in Taipei, was already at Construction document stage, which meant working on finishes and details. In the six months I was able to help the team with detail drawings as well as the interior furnishing of the tower lobby's and bathrooms, section drawings, graphic work, 3D modelling for imagery as well as model making.

All in all this was not a conventional internship. I was encouraged to take decisions, express them and be an active part of the team. The office also encouraged me to take trips around Paris to see the architecture and they even organise a fantastic trip to Genève to take a look at the immense archive.

For me the most valuable experience has been getting to know the talented professionals that make RPBW the way it is. I cannot begin to express gratitude for the knowledge and time they have shared with me, improving my architecture vision and skill set.

This experience has surely improved they way I talk and look at architecture, giving me a more precise idea of how real buildings are created. And I will profit from a renewed confidence in my abilities and an improved architectural skillset. I wish for the future interns not to fear asking a million questions, saying what they think and to be open for new knowledge. The team members will guide you through the project but it is you that has to be curious to profit from all the things this big architecture firm has to offer and can teach you."

Field report by Claudia Melchor del Rio

The next call for applications for the internship program will take place in May 2018.