RODE was lucky to have two awesome co-ops this year. Let’s hear about their experiences in their own words:
Zoe Wong (ZW): I’m Zoe. I have a Bachelor of Science in Architecture.
Tessa Harlow (TH): Congratulations!
ZW: Thank you and I’m about to get my Masters. Both degrees are from Northeastern. Who are you?
TH: Hi, I’m Tessa Harlow. I’m completing my Bachelor of Arts in Architectural Studies at Northeastern.
Why did you pick RODE for your internship?
ZW: I really liked the size. I had never worked at a firm that was this small. All of my other co-ops were at much larger firms and I feel like interns can get really lost in a large environment. I also like that RODE isn’t pigeonholed in what types of work they do. They do restaurants, they do multi-family, they do really big projects and they do really small projects. So I thought that was a really good way to get a variety of experiences.
TH: I would agree on a lot of those points. My last firm was the opposite. There was only about 7 of us, 4 in the office on a good day. I definitely wanted something bigger but I didn’t want something so large, because as you said, it’s hard to be yourself or you may get lost. It seemed like a really perfect size at a little over 20. I also don’t know quite what I want to do with my architecture degree. For example, do I want to become licensed or do I want to use my design degree in a different field? I saw RODE as a great opportunity to work on different types of projects within one firm.
ZW: Yeah, they do like everything.
TH: Exactly! Friends ask me what I do at RODE or what kind of projects we do and I’m like “*sigh* restaurants, multifamily, hotels, breweries, etc.” You may not be working on all of the projects directly but you’re at least seeing the process going on around you, and you can like peek in and spy on what’s going on.
ZW: People are always working together and sketching at every surface around the office.
What strengths have you developed in your time here?
ZW: What I was looking forward to working here was being more involved in a lot of the projects. I worked in much bigger firms on so many projects, that I never got the chance to really be invested in something. This is something that I am enjoying developing.
TH: I think in a similar way I have been able to develop my opinions and voice them in a more constructive way. I am becoming more comfortable in talking about design decisions, and kind of pushing past that imposter syndrome.
ZW: Oh the imposter syndrome is so real.
TH: RODE creates a great team environment to get past that ‘fear’. I think being more confident in my design opinions is something I have improved upon.
ZW: I think that’s definitely something I’m still working on. I’m trying to be more aware of where the design is going and assert my opinions.
It’s Ben’s Bagel Wednesday. He goes to Bruegger’s and gets your favorite bagel/schmear combo. What is it?
TH: This is one of my favorite questions!
ZW: My all-time favorite bagel/schmear situation is an everything bagel with scallion cream cheese.
TH: Nice. This is hard because I love so many bagels. I think my perfect bagel Wednesday meal is me cutting up 3 bagels and taking the parts I want. It would be like the top of the Asiago bagel and half of a Rosemary Olive Oil and then I think an Everything bagel, but the bottom is less… you know…
TH: Yeah, a little less everything. And then I’m also doing multiple cream cheeses. That would be my chaotic perfect Bagel Wednesday.
ZW: I should be more adventurous; I’m very stuck in my bagel ways.
What advice would you have given to yourself on day one at RODE?
ZW: Serious advice would be to ignore my doubt in my skills and opinions. I have worked in multiple offices before, I just completed 5 years of Architecture school, I know what I’m doing.
And then, less importantly, there is a second set of bathrooms on this floor.
TH: I think one thing would be to figure out the bus sooner. It’s so much easier to take the 66 to the 47. When I started, I was told to go up and talk to people and ask them what they’re working on and I was worried about interrupting people or annoying them, but then once I started doing it I was like, why didn’t I listen and do it sooner! I think I would have been more comfortable sooner.
ZW: The start of a new job is so weird. You’re so scared of nice people for no reason.
What has been most valuable about your time here at RODE?
TH: The way that RODE approaches analysis pairs really well with how Northeastern drops you into it. All of the presentations are so clear and ideas are communicated effectively to clients and the public. I’m excited to take some of those graphic languages into how I explain the complexity of urban analysis.
ZW: I do wish I had had the experience doing site analysis here before I completed my last semester. The site analysis you do for Comp Studio is a quick one week activity but it stays throughout your project. The process here is so thorough and shockingly easy. Before you know it you’re like “Wow, I have 9 maps and more information than you can use”.
One thing I love about RODE is the way that they use models. I love making models and I think it’s such a great way to learn about the design. The variety of the ways they use them here is really helpful to deeply understand a project.
Do you have an experience that has been the most impactful?
ZW: I think my favorite thing I’ve done so far was a site visit field trip for Skate Club. We compiled a list of buildings around Boston that have comparable site dimensions with a tower. Eric zoomed us around the city to look at these buildings. He asked us “Does this feel comfortable? Is this similar? How does this compare to our site?” It was a really great precedent study to be in those spaces and compare it to what we want to do with our design. Also, it was great to just drive around the Charles River for a couple hours.
TH: On a similar note, I went to a project site in Chelsea. The site is an industrial complex of about 7 buildings where parts of it are abandoned and others are still in use. We went to film a walk-through of the site for the client to get an idea of the space as the buildings link together in a bit of a complex way. There was one building that used to be a factory that is no longer in use. The light sources were primarily just holes in the ceiling or in the boarded up windows. It was really great to take off the creepy goggles and look past to see how the bones of the building could really be reinvented and utilized in new ways.
Oh and there is a great view of Boston on the roof.
Why would you recommend this internship to another student?
ZW: I definitely would recommend it.
First, everyone here is very lovely and welcoming. I loved that on my first day Shelley took me around to introduce me to everyone. There were a few people in a meeting but later they all came up and made a point to make me feel welcome.
You also get to work on a bunch of projects, all at varying stages and even if you are only working on a project for a short time, you feel very involved and know what is going on.
TH: I think one of my favorite parts is that so many of the projects are in Boston and you just start to see them everywhere. My friends have all grown tired of me pointing out RODE buildings or sites where our buildings will be. I think it’s great as a Boston student to get to look at the city I live with a new RODE perspective of understanding the communities and the needs of them.
ZW: No matter where you live, there’s almost always a RODE project in your neighborhood.
TH: Right! I think my answer is a combination everything we’ve touched on. This is such a well-rounded co-op. You will be pushed out of your comfort zone, but not in a miserable or genuinely uncomfortable way. There is a great work-life balance. You are definitely encouraged to have passions outside of work. They want you to be excited about things, because that will be translated into your work.
We wish Tessa and Zoe many ongoing successes in their professional journeys!