Internship at BIG is a Big deal

While most people might say: “I don’t know what my dream architecture job is”, some of our friends have already started working. Some of them are just trying to gain working experiences to fulfill their respective course requirement but some aim high and challenge their abilities in every aspect.

Ava Kim, 22, who is currently working as a design assistant at Bjarke Ingels Group would tell us more about her internship life at the city of dream, New York.

During her studies, she had some great opportunities to work in several architecture firms such as Plus Architecture Perth Studio and Junglim Architecture Seoul.

“These opportunities have made me realise that work experiences are really valuable for personal and career development. Every office has a different approach to design and production.”

She has always been a big admirer of Bjarke Ingel Group’s work and wanted to work at BIG since the day she discovered the office. So, without hesitation, she applied directly through the job opening section under BIG’s website. “I simply attached a copy of a resume, portfolio along with a short cover letter. I received the acceptance email after a month. And in the next second, I’ve accepted the offer and started packing in a heartbeat.”

Entrance of office BIG, photographed by Ava Kim.

Ava started the internship in New York on March 13th, she has been there for nearly two months. She currently lives in Brooklyn Bed Stuyvesant and usually commutes by public transport, approximately 35 minutes from her accommodation.

Ava got to work in a team of six in the first month. The team structure breaks down into one senior project architect, one team leader, three junior designers and one design assistant. According to her, the team leader usually drives the direction of the overall project concept and design, and junior designers and design assistants work together to produce architectural drawings, physical models and presentation materials. Every morning the project architect would critic and oversee the progress up until the final deadline.

“I mainly worked on precedent studies, producing drawings, making physical models and post-production so I guess on most aspects of concept design.”

“Every month, there is an intern meeting where all interns will get together to present and share ideas or projects that they’ve been working on and get feedback on individual performance.”

Without a doubt, one of the biggest advantages of working for a well-known architect is the scale of the projects. The brand firms tend to attract a variety of projects from master plans to airports to towers and everything in between. Ava got to work on a project combines theatre, hotel and multi-residential programs within one building.

The great projects mentioned above also come with a stressful work environment. “I’ve got to admit that it really is stressful working here in New York where the city never sleeps. I hit 110 hours last week to meet a deadline on Monday.” She said.

“Even though it’s only been a month working at BIG, it’s been a great learning journey. From the kick-off of the project and until the final deadline I was able to meet the different stakeholder such as the clients, developers and consultants to discuss the initial vision for the project and really develop the project to something feasible. Also, I was really fortunate to sit right next to Bjarke Ingels himself in meetings as he was sketching and presenting. Even in a short period of time, I have learnt new and fresh ways of thinking about design and architecture.”

As what Ava noted, her internship gave her many skills she will carry forward in her future. Taking the plunge and committing to an internship at a celebrity firm takes courage. The part of what makes it so scary is also what makes it worthwhile. A great architecture job doesn’t just fall into your lap, so always go the extra mile if you could!


Image 1:

Ava Kim. “Architectural Internship Experience.” Interview by author. April 23, 2018.

All photos photographed by Ava Kim.