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Internships: Combining theory and practice in unique settings

Internships: Combining theory and practice in unique settings | IE

Franka Ducic, 4th year of the Bachelor in Architectural Studies student, currently doing her internship at EDM Arquitectura in Madrid

By Martha Thorne and Matan Mayer.

In Spain, the path to gaining a license to practice architecture necessitates  completing a degree program, which in turn is approved by the Ministry of Education.  This means that our students must be fully prepared for the professional world as much as the academic one when they graduate.  With this in mind, IE School of Architecture and Design established a student internship program about 10 years ago to provide our students with  experience in a range of  professional settings. This not only helps prepare them for their future careers, but also allows them to practice different roles in host organizations, which in turn will help then chart their own fulfilling professional path.

Our 4th-year architecture students combine professional experience with online learning for a period of more than three months. Our 3rd year architecture and design students can intern full-time when their classes end in May. Upon successful completion of an internship, it is entered on the official transcript as an important learning experience.

Today there is a lot of talk about interns and free labor.

At IE, an internship is a learning experience where students don´t just work; they  also analyze and evaluate the host firm. They need to develop not only their  architectural abilities, but the many soft skills needed professionally. They must learn to understand  context through observation, and asking questions, as well as developing a critical mindset.

Internships have proven a positive for networking and introducing our students to potential employers.

Today, we can count more than 125 placements throughout the world that we have worked with over the years. These range from Shigeru Ban Architects in Paris and Tokyo, Zaha Hadid Architects in the exhibitions and archive department, Christoph Ingenhoven Architects, Stefano Boeri Architects, Ecosistema Urbano, Architecture Review magazine, SHoP Architects, AECOM, Odile Decq Architects, B720 + Fermin Vázquez and many, many more, including IE’s own D-Lab that collaborates on projects for non-governmental associations and Segovia’s City Hall.

Student Javier Fernández

During his internship last year at RCR Arquitectes Studio, student Javier Fernández (second from right)

This year in particular, our students are interning in firms and organizations that focus on a diverse set of scales and disciplines in the built environment. Javier Madero is helping Distrito Castellana Norte envision the future of Madrid’s northern expansion; Hannah Demeyere is aiding Prizker Prize laureates RCR Arquitectes in a range of public projects; Carla Poler is assisting in setting and running the UIA International Forum in Madrid; Roché Rabie is working with architecture publisher Actar on UrbanNext; and Alexander Aggersbjerg is engaging in the development of building information modelling technology at Modelical.

Each student’s experience is different, challenging and rewarding.  Here are  some of their stories.

June Aoun, 4th year student of the Bachelor in Architectural Studies, currently doing her internship at Mola Architekten in Berlin:

“I am currently in Berlin doing my internship at Mola Architekten. I have been working alongside partner Luis Mola on a very exciting project, the first NZEB in Latin America. It is an Urban Living Lab designed for the Universidad Iberoamericana, in Puebla,  Mexico. I have been focusing on the design of “celosias”, a brise-soleil facade system, which I am developing through parametric modelling. Additionally, I have been developing a parametric code over the past three weeks for analysis of the performance of the building in its climatic passive strategies, which is triggering multiple project reforms.”

“My experience so far has been entirely different to, and sometimes exceeding, my expectations. For one, I wouldn’t have imagined practicing so much of my Spanish in a German office. I am also the only Grasshopper software user in the office, so with the absence of a mentor in that regard, my skills have progressed exponentially and have given me much more confidence in the program. Some of my older colleagues are always intrigued about the “modern witchcraft” I’m working on, which often leaves me with a delightful gathering behind my desk.”

Franka Ducic, 4th year of the Bachelor in Architectural Studies student, currently doing her internship at EDM Arquitectura in Madrid.

Student Sania Abdollzadeh at BIG’s office in Barcelona

Franka Ducic, 4th year of the Bachelor in Architectural Studies student, currently doing her internship at EDM Arquitectura in Madrid:

“This semester I am doing my internship with the EDM Arquitectura studio in Madrid,

Spain. The studio specializes in heritage intervention and architectural rehabilitation. Their teams of architects and interior designers work every day to give a new life to architectural objects of great historical value.”

“I am currently working with a team of architects on two distinct projects located in Spain and Tanzania. The first project is the Figueras Palace, in Asturias, Spain where my team is working on designing new event tents as an exterior addition to the building. The second project is a refurbishment of the Pumzika Luxury Safari Camp in Tanzania. Our team is redesigning the camp facilities, rooms, and outdoor gathering spaces.”

“Working every day at the office with my mentors, architects Daniel Mira-García and Carlos Garberí Jimeno, is challenging. They are my daily source of knowledge and motivation. The creative and highly professional studio environment is teaching me how to become an architect that values architectural history and materials, teamwork, and the importance of constant learning and development after graduating from an architecture school. From day one at the office, my mentors have had high expectations from me and my work. Personally, this meant a challenge, big motivation, and joy to work at EDM Arquitectura.”