TEF principal Alyosha Verzhbinsky with intern Robbie Wilcock
(This story is the ninth in a series to celebrate the 20-year anniversary of TEF Design. Check our blog for newly published, stories about our firm’s people, our community, and what drives us to design. Sign up — in the right corner above — to receive those updates in your inbox.)
This summer, we will have had a total of seven interns in our office, both high school and college students. That’s a record number for us, although we’ve mentored interns for well over a decade now. Doug Tom sat down with four of them to get their perspectives on architecture and find out what it’s like for them to work in a design firm.
Tyler Ying is going to be a high school junior this fall at Drew School. Sofie Huang is going to be a senior at Lowell High School. Both are interns with us through the summer Future Grads program of the Architectural Foundation of San Francisco. Tatiana Jimenez will be a junior at Mercy High School and is an intern with us through the Achieve program, a year-round, four-year high school scholarship and academic enrichment program. Robbie Wilcock is going into his senior year at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and joins us via the university’s San Francisco Urban Program, part of the domestic portion of its Cal Poly Abroad program.
Doug Tom: What sparked your interest in architecture?
Tyler Ying: I was never super-interested in architecture. It was more the design aspect of things in general that I liked. I got into the intern program to try something new. I like things super modern. And so when I walked into this office, I was like, “Oh, this is going to be pretty fun.”
Tatiana Jimenez: I like architecture because I wanted a field where I could be creative and also communicate with other people. Because I like group collaboration. And I also really like math.
Sofie Huang: I never knew that I was going to work with architecture this summer. When I was assigned to this program, I was pretty excited. I really appreciate how architecture is so interdisciplinary and how you really need to have a lot of broad knowledge to become an architect.
Robbie Wilcock: I was good at math and sciences. I found out that we had a drafting program in our high school. So I did that my junior year and then designed a house my senior year. And then it came time to choose colleges. After talking with family and friends as well as some people in the industry, I decided to go with architecture. It’s creative yet very rational.
Doug: Do you have a favorite building?
Tyler: The house that I live in. I go there and I feel super comfortable. I live in the Outer Richmond, five blocks away from the beach. I look out and I can see my elementary school from my window.
Tatiana: The California Academy of Sciences. I love the living roof. It’s pretty and it’s good for the environment too.
Sofie: The San Francisco Main Library. In the center, there’s an open area between all the floors. It’s really spacious, and there’s a lot of light.
Robbie: I’m a big fan of the de Young Museum. Herzog and de Meuron did a study of the shadows of trees on the ground in Golden Gate Park. They wrapped the museum in a copper screen that’s perforated based on the light and dark patterns of those shadows. So it not only reflects its environment, but it’s also extremely tactile and visually pleasing. And I can see the tower from my bedroom window. It’s a cool building.
Doug: Has anything about working in an architect’s office surprised you?
Tatiana: I thought everything would be hand drawn. I was so wrong. Everything’s on a computer.
Robbie: The thing that surprised me most is just how important our consultants are. We really work with them a lot. It’s a network of professionals bouncing ideas off each other.
Tyler: It was surprising to see how much of the work wasn’t even just the building itself, but what you put into the building. Even the upholstery or colors can have such an effect on the way you look at things. That blew my mind.
Doug: Has this experience influenced where you think you’re headed with your college education or your career?
Sofie: I’m looking forward to pursuing engineering. Particularly materials designs, because I’m very interested in sustainability.
Tatiana: I like the interior design portion of it. I think I might go into that.
Tyler: I have absolutely no idea where I want to go. And I really don’t want to. I just want to be happy with whatever I’m doing. Because I like doing a lot of things.
Robbie: My goal is to get licensed as soon as possible. The big decision coming up now is where I want to live and start my career. I’ve given a master’s degree some thought. But I’m ready to get out in the field for a couple years at least.