IAP Externships: Architecture from Scratch

by Amy Marcott on January 15, 2012 · 1 comment

in Alumni Life, IAP, Student Life

This is part of a series of posts from MIT students and alumni who are involved in the Student/Alumni Externship Program, which connects current students to alumni in workplaces worldwide during MIT’s Independent Activities Period. Alumni, learn how to get involved.

Guest blogger: Katie Gertz ’15
Sponsor: David de Sola MA ’95, MCP ’95

Katie Gertz '15 (center) flanked by (from left) her 3iVE mentor Roshine Zachariah and externship sponsor David de Sola

Katie Gertz ’15 (center) flanked by (from left) her 3iVE mentor Roshine Zachariah and externship sponsor David de Sola MA ’95, MCP ’95.

I have to admit, I was not one of those people desperately missing MIT over the break. I went home to sunny 80-degree Florida weather, my best friends, my family, my cats, the beach, Busch Gardens theme park…I actually wasn’t too excited about coming back to MIT and below-freezing temperatures.

Thankfully, as soon as I sat down on the plane, it hit me­—for a whole month, everything I’m planning to do is related to architecture. I’ll be taking a sketching class, a form and material workshop (4.100), and an externship at 3iVE, an architecture/consulting and building envelope commissioning company in Somerville. I will be swimming in architecture. It will be lovely; this has been my dream since sophomore year of high school.

Dreamy as the plan was, I was still a little nervous Sunday night as I packed a lunch for my first day at 3iVE. I was definitely excited, but I was still uncertain about some details, like what times and days I would be in the office after that first Monday. My sponsor, the firm’s founder and principal David de Sola MA ’95, MCP ’95, had told me, “I’m pretty confident we can make good use of whatever time you’d like to spend with us.” Totally exciting, but also fairly nerve-wracking for someone who likes to have her schedule set out well in advance.

Katie Gertz

Katie Gertz ’15 on her way to extern at 3iVE.

I had a decent idea of what I would be doing: helping Roshine Zachariah, the firm’s structural engineer, draw structural plans for a clinic to be built in Haiti, and reviewing submittals, which means checking product information supplied by a contractor against the specifications set out by an architect. When I arrived at the office, Roshine showed me around and introduced me to their computer document filing system. David wasn’t in yet, so I got to browse through the gigantic library of past and current project records (Revit files, site visit logs, meeting minutes, specs and submittals, before-and-after pictures of sites and finished buildings). It was awesome, but even after four years of drafting/architecture and engineering classes in high school, a lot of it was way over my head.

This began a pattern. Everything about Monday was exceedingly interesting (what could possibly be cooler than being immersed in the inner workings of your dream job?) but also exceedingly complicated. Even the filing system was complicated. When David arrived, I learned that none of us actually knew how to make a hurricane- and earthquake-proof building; he was going to find someone at MIT to teach Roshine and me and then a friend of his would correct our ideas and make sure they met international building codes.

Wow. We’re starting from scratch. I had imagined myself doing the busywork, just drawing up the plans in Revit—this is going to be way more intense, but I’m going to learn so, so much.

Next, Roshine showed me some submittals 3iVE had reviewed, along with the corresponding specifications books. I’m going to call them books because the PDFs must have been hundreds of pages of every minute detail about how a building is put together. When I say minute details, I mean things like: “the glass must be ASTM Class this, quality that, type such-and-such, manufactured in a copper-free, low-lead environment and must be installed by one of these manufacturers using one of these sealants in weather that does not exceed this humidity or this temperature…” I sat there for at least an hour trying to understand which part of the product information submitted by the contractor matched, or conflicted with, which section of the specifications. Eventually I gave up and asked Roshine for more help making sense of it all, but I still went home feeling pretty overwhelmed.

On Tuesday, through some miracle probably involving “sleeping on it,” the submittals started to make sense! I was able to look through all 60-something pages, writing up comments on what products were correct or incorrect or what was missing, and I even did some research about Haiti and structural building codes. David is out of the office for the rest of the week, so I’m not going back till next Monday – hopefully 3iVE will receive some new submittals by then, and hopefully we’ll be ready to start on the Haiti clinic!

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Steve January 16, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Best of luck to you! I’ve been an architect for over 20 years, and it’s a career I truly enjoy. Hopefully, you will too.



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