Intern Spotlight: Niamh Gilmore
From Denmark to the Netherlands to London, and few places in between, Niamh joined WRNS Studio last year. We sat down with her and mentor Tim Morshead to discuss what life is like for an intern at WRNS and learn a little more about how she made her way to the Studio.
Q: What is your story? How did you come to WRNS?
Niamh: I came to WRNS on a one-year graduate visa. I have family in the Bay Area, and I was itching to work on larger-scale projects. Previously, I had been studying in Aarhus School of Architecture in Denmark where I was doing a lot of product design. It was fun, but I wanted a bigger challenge. In Europe, there’s a strong emphasis on public projects and contributing to the urban landscape, and WRNS fits in with this sensibility nicely. Plus, WRNS isn’t too corporate (I’m too foreign for the giant, corporate experience!).
Q: Is this your first Internship? Where have you worked before?
Niamh: Prior to interning at WRNS, I interned at One Architecture in the Netherlands. They’re a research-based firm, and I did a lot of work on infrastructure and water design projects (there are a ton of canals in the Netherlands). I also worked on an urban regeneration project in Gouda. For a lot of European cities hit hard by WWII, there were post-war additions that went up quickly, and those areas are struggling now. I worked on a particular development that included social and sheltered housing for the elderly. That internship was the result of an Erasmus Placement Scholarship. I also lived in London while I was getting my Undergrad degree. London is a great place to get a job in the EU, but I’m not sure I’ll go back. After this I’m weighing a few different cities — maybe Berlin. We’ll see…
Q: What projects have you worked on here?
Niamh: I worked with Tim on El Camino Hospital’s new Medical Office Building, doing lobby studies, a material board, and the main staircase. Eventually Tim encouraged me to seek out other teams. He said, “If you’re going to be here for a year, you should work on other projects and get the most of it.” So, I worked on the Microsoft Silicon Valley Campus team for quite a while, doing a lot of model-building, and now I’m working on SFSU’s Mashouf Wellness Center. I’m helping review CA submittals, and a did a little interiors work with Francesca Martin. I like the diversity of work — every day I’m always doing something slightly different.
Tim: As much as we were sad to lose her, I’m glad she got to work on some of these other jobs. Having varied experience is really important.
Niamh: Now that my year here is wrapping up in August, I’m trying to pack in as much as possible!
Q: What was it like working with Tim? How has the experience informed the way you practice?
Niamh: I’ve never worked on a team as large as the one Tim is leading. It was really interesting to see the coordination. I quite liked working with the El Camino team—they were approachable even though they were dealing with a very complex project. I particularly liked working with Tim, because he would answer my questions. He was also really good at proposing alternatives to things. He’d give options and reasons why they might or might not work. He’d talk through everything with you.
Tim: Often on jobs with large teams, people are given tasks without context, so I always try to explain why we’re doing something. It may take a little longer, but it’s always worth it in the end to keep people informed about the bigger picture.
Q: What was your first internship?
Tim: I didn’t really have an internship. My first job was at ARC in Cambridge, MA. I sat next to a couple of guys who would answer all of my questions, so it was similar to an internship in that way. I discovered that if you’re good at asking questions — like Niamh is — you’ll learn quickly.
At various points in your career you learn different things from different people. I think during that first job I learned a lot about detailing. Later in my career I learned more about design, and even later, I learned how to interact with clients, make informed arguments, and write about design to win work. In the end, it’s important to get a collection of influences so you can learn from the diverse perspectives.
Q: Niamh have you picked up any weird skills while you’ve been here?
Niamh: Well, this is a great place to learn Revit, but that’s more useful than weird. I guess the weirdest thing I did while I was here was when Tim asked me to saw a piece of aluminum in half for the material board.
Q: Wait, what? Why did you do that?
Tim: The aluminum sheet was too big to fit. I kind of asked as a joke. I was shocked with Niamh came back with the thing sawed in half!