The CO / Marymount High School Internship Program

Associates Parini Mehta and Lilit Tegelecian with Marymount High School summer interns.

By Parini Mehta

CO Architects is a collaborative professional environment, and its academic enrichment outreach programs provide a glimpse into the architectural profession to young students interested in architecture. Since 2013, CO has sponsored The CO / Marymount High School Internship, a four-week program for students at Marymount High School in Los Angeles, to expose young women to the architecture profession.

Discussing the students’ models.

The syllabus for the program is organized to quickly acclimate the students to the office, present the basics of architecture, and introduce them to their own design project. Some summers, CO hosts interns who know they want to be an architect, but often times the interns have never been exposed to architecture as a career choice. The goal of the program is to give the students a worthwhile experience, no matter their background or career goals.

On day one, the staff can always tell the students are nervous. We start with a tour of the office to help them feel at ease. On the tour, we show them how our project teams are organized and describe the history and culture of the office. We use this time to ask them questions about themselves so we can get to know them better. By the time the tour is over, everyone is at ease and we are ready to go!

The students are assigned individual design projects for the summer. The project is an outdoor pavilion at LACMA. LACMA is one of the most distinguished cultural centers in Los Angeles, however the grounds lack the necessary spaces for visitors to rest and enjoy the campus. The interns’ project is to design a lounge pavilion with two (3) requirements: shade, seating for 30 people, and another programmatic element of their choice.

Over the course of the four weeks, the students work hard to develop their projects. During the first week, they take a site visit to LACMA, select options for site locations, create inspiration boards, and learn how to draw in plan, section, and elevation. At the end of the week, they pin up their work and CO-workers are invited to watch them present their projects and give feedback.

Presenting to the office during a pin-up.

Week 1 Intern Quote:

We took a nice trip to LACMA to get the final ideas for our pavilion sites and after we ate at the food trucks across the street. Not only was the food amazing, but we also noticed so many unique buildings on our walk back to the office (our favorite being the Peterson Automotive Museum).

During weeks two and three, the students focus on visualizing their projects in 3 dimensions. Week two, they start with a hand built model. The staff show them around the model shop and encourage them to use materials of their choice to build a model. They are always shocked at how difficult it is to translate their design ideas into a physical model!  

Physical model of a LACMA Pavilion.

During week three, they are paired with architects in our office to learn Rhino. The students are always fast learners, and before we know it, their project is modeled in 3-dimensions in the computer. After they model their projects in Rhino, they learn how to 3D print the projects. This is always the most fun part!

3D printed designs.

Week 3 Intern Quote:

Our week was spent modeling our pavilions in rhino, which was frustrating and confusing, but above all, a lot of fun. We still cannot believe we only have one more week left, this internship has been so amazing and we are so grateful to have this experience and work among such talented architects! Thank you all for making this week very memorable.

During the last week of the internship, the students get to visit a CO project under construction. At this point, they understand all the work it takes to design a building and they are excited to see our projects taking shape in the built environment. The internship ends with a final review. Each student has 4 weeks’ worth of plans, sections, elevations, models, and materials to help describe their ideas.

For me, the internship is such a rewarding experience. I truly believe our signature program fosters personal, educational and professional growth – not just for the students, but for the staff as well! 

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