1st Year Architecture was one hell of a roller-coaster ride. From school to college, new environments, new friends and of course, a totally different academic course. Agreed, the year had its fair share of fun moments, but boy, was it frustrating too. Work, work, work. Almost all the time. Assignments, research work, design problems, models and what-not. Sleepless nights and a few tears were not uncommon throughout the year. So I wasn’t surprised when most people said they didn’t want to have to do ANYTHING with architecture for the two months of holidays post our final exams.
I agreed with them. I was tired. And all I wanted to do for two months was enjoy. Do things I liked to do otherwise – watch good cinema, play and listen to music, play video games. Ah….a perfect two months.
So yes, I did retaliate when my parents expressed their desire to send me to an internship during these vacations. I protested. A lot. But when your parents pull off the ‘we-don’t-usually-force-you-to-do-anything’ card, there is seldom much you can do. ‘Might as well utilize your time these vacations’, ‘You wouldn’t do anything productive otherwise, blah, blah, blah. ‘Oh well, it’s just a few weeks’, I thought.
So there I was, on a solo train trip to Chennai to work under Benny Kuriakose. Honestly, the following three weeks was one unique experience.
In the first year as an Architecture student, a lot of stress is given to ones understanding of a ‘good design’ and a ‘bad design’. Most of our subject pertain to the ‘creative’ aspect of the course- designing, arts and visual communication. Hence, a general line of thought is that the skill of designing is the supreme skill in this field.
I was proven wrong. In my three weeks working in Vedika, I was astonished at the varied amount of skills an Architect is required to master. Management. I noticed how key management was to the successful life of any firm. Managing accounts, filing documents, making sure everyone is focussed and that all work is undergoing good amount of progress. Which is not an easy thing to do, especially when a firm like Vedika is headed by a single architect. A single person to oversee the work of a bunch of employees and young, distracted interns. And it isn’t just overseeing their work. Guiding them, giving them tips, telling them what is wrong and what is right. Different interns might be given work on different projects. I was amazed to see how Benny Sir efficiently switched his thoughts from one project to another within a fraction of a second. He was like an all-knowing entity, whom I regarded with awe. From being able to communicate well with the employees as well as the clients, of course. I was allowed to sit in on a few meetings. With the very limited knowledge I have, most of the talk went over my head, but not to say that I couldn’t grasp bits and pieces of vital information. I could observe how projects and problems were discussed and addressed, how clients and salespersons were to be handled. It was more an insight into how an architectural firm functions, rather than just the process of designing.
Specifically, I was given the duty to work on a short 2-minute video on the architect and his works which was to be submitted for a national-level competition. And trust me when I say this, is wasn’t an easy thing to do, despite having a bunch of interns helping me. Everything, from collecting good photographs, scripting, learning new software, recording audio and music was to be done. It took almost a week to finalise these things. Then another two weeks in the making of the film itself. Every take had some flaw that was to be addressed. Suggestions were made. Compromises were made. Sleepless nights. Scolding after scolding. Yes, it was tough. I’m probably the laziest 18 year old boy in the world. I can compromise on my meals, but not my sleep. So you can imagine how the experience was like hell for me. But it was like compulsion. I did not want to disappoint. So I went out of my comfort zone. I surprised myself sometimes. But in the end, the movie was completed, much to the satisfaction of almost everyone in the office. And I got a few pats on my back, some of them my own.
It was amazing regimented the office was, yet, in a strange way, very free. Everyone was on time, very serious about their work, ever trying to be on time with their work. Yet, there was a fair share of jokes flying around, people sharing music, videos of cats and babies. There was a healthy amount of office gossip, like all offices (some of them of myself, a hilarious but cute little tale my good friends at the firm would recollect). Benny Sir himself would join in on the fun sometimes, which I found very well. I doubt there would be many firms where the head architect has so much direct interaction with each intern. He would be in a playful mood but still have an air of authority about him. While believing that a strict leader and slight restrictions is key to running the office, he doesn’t make it seem like a dictatorship. Yes, everyone was scared of him but he was still one of our own…..someone whom we could turn to for any sort of advice.
Barely a week into the internship, and I was already meeting a number of clients, going to visit building sites and helping around in the office. Again, I consider it a luxury to have so much of exposure in a first year internship. And rightly so, most interns there agree with me in that regard. Benny Sir’s office was truly like none other. The level of exposure one gets working there is unparalleled.
College opens for me soon, and I’m not usually the sort of person who goes about bragging about my experiences. If I’m not eaten alive when I tell people that I went for an internship……I won’t be able to stop myself from feeling a step ahead of all others there. And as Benny Sir rightly pointed out to me, I should take acknowledge of this fact and maintain this advantage over others. Sending me off with a bunch of tips and suggestions, he awaits me next year with a whole lot of expectations. Like I said, I might be a lazy bum. But I don’t like to see disappointment.