Hannah’s dream internship at RAMSA in New York

Many of us dream of living and working in New York. Earlier this year, Robert A.M. Stern Architects offered an internship, organized by RAMSA Partner and University of Melbourne alumnus Grant F. Marani, for a student from Melbourne to undertake ten weeks of paid work in their office in Midtown Manhattan.

One of 24 interns and the only Australian, Master of Architecture student Hannah Puckey was this year’s successful candidate. We caught up with her when she returned to learn more about her experience.

What was working at RAMSA like?

It was an amazing experience, working on two floors near the top of a beautiful building in midtown Manhattan in New York City. RAMSA’s staff and culture were incredible and surpassed anything I had hoped for.

RAMSA dedicated significant time to ensuring we were up to date with core software programs (such as InDesign, Photoshop and Rhino 3D). The firms’ dedication to training, offered to both interns and staff, was very inspiring and gave me an added level of confidence when applying these skills to “real projects”.

There were also a lot of social activities, such as lunch and learns every second day, and occasional cocktail evenings. I also really enjoyed catching up with interns and colleagues outside of work, who would show me around the city and who I now consider to be life-long friends.

Bob (Robert A.M. Stern) would often walk around the office which was amazing, and the Partners took a keen interest in each of us which was really motivating! I was lucky enough to work next to Partner Grant Marani, an incredible architect whom I have immense respect for.

What project were you working on?

I was working on the firm's largest single-family residential project to date. The project was in the schematic design phase and I assisted predominantly with the documentation, model-making, presentations and selection of finishes. The project timeline worked perfectly, with the final schematic design package being issued on my final day.

It was a relatively small team, so I was really fortunate to work closely with RAMSA Partner, Grant Marani, and Associate Partner, Bina Bhattacharyya, as well as an inspiring and intelligent support team.

What was the process for scholarships and funding?

The University of Melbourne, alongside RAMSA, promoted the internship, offering me an opportunity of a lifetime. The visa and associated costs were completely covered, alongside my paid internship. RAMSA engaged Cultural Vistas who assisted in ensuring a smooth process for every aspect of the move. I would be happy to discuss the logistics of the process with the next potential candidate and answer any questions they may have.

What did you learn most from that experience?

RAMSA’s commitment to the fusion of innovation and tradition allowed me to develop a closer understanding of the design process and key architectural foundations. RAMSA’s often traditional approach to design was unique and different to the style I have been surrounded by growing up in Australia and New Zealand. Looking at design with a new perspective was inspiring and I look forward to combining both approaches to all future projects.

It also really helped me understand why practicing architects do things, more so than at university because here you can understand how it is implemented, how it impacts the real world and see it go up! It was definitely a rewarding experience.

How did your studies inform your work in New York?

I did feel prepared by my studies to a certain degree, as my project definitely played to my strengths. Studying at MSD means I can apply theory into practice in different contexts, and working in New York meant that I was now applying my knowledge into a real-world situation.

You came from Western Australia to Melbourne and have now also done work in Spain and New York. What makes you curious about different perspectives?

It is important in architecture to have an overall perspective of what’s happening in the world, what different cities are doing and what different cultures are doing. Different perspectives allow us to learn from one another, ensuring we make informed choices that create architecture of value.   I have also found it extremely interesting observing how different cultures interact with one another and can use this to inform my design decisions.

You’ve also been working as an interior designer during your studies. How does architecture inform you in that work?

Architecture requires you to have a broad spectrum of everything. It is about how you feel, externally and internally. It is this consolidation of disciplines that inspires me to develop every aspect of the design – from the planning, sections and volumes, through to the materials and finer details. Working on a residential project during my time at RAMSA encouraged me to apply skills I had developed as an Interior Designer to ensure the design would thrive as a home.

Do you have a big dream project that you want to work on?

I really want to help people. When you study architecture, you understand there is an opportunity to do this; however it can sometimes be overlooked. I would love to work on a project that truly helps the community and brings people together, especially when considering recent global and national displacement.

RAMSA’s approach to design also gave me an even stronger appreciation for creating buildings of value. Careful design consideration and creating value ensures we create lasting designs. This is extremely important in an industry that is responsible for a large percentage of global waste.

Are you interested in working in New York in the future?

Absolutely, it’s my favourite city in the world and the level of architecture is of such a high standard. I think there is a drive to push boundaries, more so than I have seen elsewhere. I would love to be a part of this.

What would your advice be for people considering applying next year?

It was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life: for the people, the opportunities, the design skills and the life skills. I feel as though I could take on anything now.

There is a small clash with the semester two calendar given the internship is over ten weeks, which you can work around by taking intensive subjects to make up lost time if you want.

That being said, it truly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I would encourage you to go for it.

There will be another opportunity for final year Master of Architecture students to apply for the ten week internship at RAMSA in 2019.


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