Internship with Steven Holl Architects

     It’s time I wrote about the place I have disappeared to:  the New York office of Steven Holl Architects (SHA). The studio, located in the Chelsea area of Manhattan, is located on the 11th floor of an old building with a peculiar elevator system  - which ensures the day starts with meeting colleagues even before entering the office. This offers  a nice way to catch up on the progress of different projects – or to get a recommendation on what exhibition to visit from Steven Holl himself.

The NYC office is made up of around 30 people. When I first heard the number, I was really surprised – the output of the studio seems to be that of a much bigger firm. Now, it seems to make a lot of sense – this size allows Steven and his Partners to be directly involved in each project, and keeps the studio efficient and focused. The fact that there are 10 more people working in Beijing also helps increase the productivity – they work while we sleep, and vice-versa – so that the office develops some projects 24 hours a day. I find this absolutely amazing. 

The studio is really hands-on. Everything is tested with physical study models  - simultaneously with the production of Design Development drawings/3D-models. Currently, I am working on a 1/4' (1:48 translated into metric) model that takes up half of the workshop – this way, everything can be discussed in detail during the weekly pin-ups with all the team members. Somehow, those sessions remind me of the Reviews (Crits) at School – only taken to a completely different level.

One of my favourite things about the studio is the extensive Materials Library. It’s amazing to be able to touch and compare pretty much any architectural material one can think of – with more samples placed all around the studio. A lot of the materials are really cutting edge: one day, we had a Lunch & Learn session with a representative of a glass manufacturing company, and he was showing off the latest samples; his reaction - upon hearing that some of the products were already specified in the projects  - was priceless. Other materials are ordered in specifically: recently, I helped unpack a massive stone sample sent in directly from the quarry – apparently, it was just 21 million years old. 

It’s a great environment; everyone is really friendly; there is too much work; the standard is set very high – so I stay in studio until late. Following the good traditions of New York, we get food delivery almost every night – last week, 6 of my dinners were at work, with some interesting discussions during this short break. I get home late, and wake up early. Sleep is for the weak.

The Internship at SHA in short: intensive, demanding, exciting and really inspiring.

Steven's office
Materials Library