5 Questions (+1) with Paula

Catlin Bolan

March 20, 2023

Paula joined us in our Sacramento office last summer as a part of our paid internship program that runs year-round. Her prior knowledge of construction documents and developing 3D visualizations made Paula a remarkable addition to the team, allowing her to quickly blend into the collaborative/transparent environment at Dreyfuss + Blackford. Our program’s goal is to provide an experience that is both interactive and will aide in long term professional growth through various activities such as visiting project sites, collaborating on architectural design concepts, reviewing various documents, and shadowing client meetings. Paula worked directly under the guidance of Sr. Associate and Project Manager, Sarah Bergman. we asked Paula a few questions highlighting her experience while at D+B:

What factors helped you determine you wanted to intern with Dreyfuss + Blackford Architecture?

The main factor was the broad portfolio Dreyfuss + Blackford has. I wanted to be part of a firm where I would have the liberty and opportunities to immerse myself in different architectural areas of focus. Having had experience in education I wanted to deviate from that a little bit and dip my toes in areas of architecture which include but are not limited to civic, healthcare, and office buildings. What caught my attention the most was their participation in architectural competitions as well as their art/architecture installations. Another factor that caught my attention at Dreyfuss and Blackford, was their extra office located in San Francisco, which provides the opportunity to work on Bay Area projects all the way from Sacramento. Without knowing the firm’s dynamic, one could tell from the way it is portrayed on the website, that their employees are treated as family; once inside the firm it was just as one would have thought, the transparency promoted inside the firm, the open-door policies, the way people’s thoughts were taken into consideration all created an environment where it felt safe to voice out your opinions.

How did your internship help you grow your skill set professionally?

Architecture school is an amazing institution that helps you grow your design skills, and think outside the box, it promotes the deconstruction of preconceived thoughts and about what architecture is and should be. That being said, when it comes to the technicality of architecture, the business and economics portion of it and something as simple as how one can complete a building are all skills one must learn in the field. At Dreyfuss + Blackford, I was able to gain a deeper understanding of how projects get done from the very beginning of the pursuit of a project to its design and production, visiting and construction site and a finished project. Inevitably one learns people skills and the dynamics of the role of an architect in relation to the different fields present in the completion of a project. At Dreyfuss + Blackford I came to understand that the breadth of architecture requires a lot more life/social skills for one to succeed in the profession.

What have you worked on since completing the summer internship program?

Currently, I am a fifth-year architecture student at Cal Poly. In Cal Poly’s program, fifth year involves working on thesis where students are required to take a stand on a topic, explore architecture’s role on said topic and attempt to create/design an architectural solution to whatever problem we are critiquing. So far, I have participated in Abstract Show and Vellum. For the Abstract Show we were asked to develop a physical model that abstractly showed/and or alluded to our thesis. For mine I casted pieces of fabric in plaster, which left the imprint of the textures, its production and identity of origin without the piece of fabric itself being there.

Vellum, a furniture competition Cal Poly has participated in for years. I wanted to experiment with concrete canvas, which as its name suggests it is a canvas impregnated with concrete. The way this material works is that it is an 8mm thick, 15o pound heavy canvas that can be moldable to any shape, but once it gets wet the material will set in 24 hours. From this material I created a lounging chair, using an actual human body to mold its shape around it as well as curvatures to follow the natural formations of the earth. Currently, I am still developing my thesis and we’re starting to lift up the more architectural portion of it.

Who is your architecture role model? Whom/what do you draw design inspiration from?

To be honest I don’t think I could pinpoint a specific person, firm, or building to choose as my role model. I have come to learn that one’s taste and style in architecture will constantly change, especially in school where you are still trying to find your aesthetic. Currently, because of my thesis, I have been pulling inspiration from more experimental firms that explore different materials and their potential on buildings. I have been getting a lot of inspiration from Studio Anne Holtrop, a firm based in Bahrain that uses materials that come from its immediate site as well as the earth and sees the importance of linking its origin, culture, and identity to the architecture. Another architecture firm I have been very interested in is Studio Ensemble based in Spain, a firm that also uses and focuses on the origins of materiality, study their history and questions the way architecture has traditionally been designed and built.

How did you see your design technology skillset grow throughout the program?

I was coming into the internship with previous Revit experience, but being immersed in a firm where Revit is used daily, helped me grow my skill set exponentially. Interning at Dreyfuss + Blackford, really taught me the ins and outs of Revit, and to explore its full potential, not to say that there isn’t more to learn but during my internship I learned in depth how Revit can be used to maximize a project’s efficiency as well as how it can be used in a collaborative setting. Architecture is always a group effort and learning how technological programs can be used collaboratively is one of the most important skills sets I have learned.

What is one piece of invaluable knowledge that you would like to share with those thinking about entering the summer internship program for 2023?

I think the best advice I could give, is to voice out your opinions on the areas of architecture that Dreyfuss + Blackford has to offer, and you would like to be part of. As an intern that can be intimidating, but if you’d like to get the most out of your internship let them know. As I mentioned before, everyone will always be willing to lend you a hand, take the time out of their day to explain things you don’t understand, and make sure you feel comfortable and welcomed. Ask questions, be curious, and always be open to learning something new.

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