A Co-op Experience: Shawn Sullivan

September 06, 2017

My first day at Wilson Butler Architects immediately set the tone for the remainder of my eight-month internship with the firm. There were short introductions and the obligatory paperwork, but soon after I was immediately assigned to a small team tasked with drafting an architectural job proposal. I directly contributed to conceptual brainstorming, the digital modeling, and final formatting of the proposal during my first few days at Wilson Butler Architects. Throughout the first week, my supervisor kept insisting, “It is not normally this busy.” Eight months later, however, I can safely say that there has never been a dull moment during my internship.

Before my time with Wilson Butler Architects, I spent two and a half years studying architecture at Northeastern University. At Northeastern, our academic program includes two six-month internships through the Cooperative Education and Career Development program. These “co-ops” allow students to take the content taught in the classroom and apply it to the “real world”. Although I have had past experiences with other architecture firms, my co-op at Wilson Butler Architects has been the first time that I have been fully immersed in all aspects of a working architecture studio.

One of the most valuable takeaways from my internship was gaining a better understanding of the entirety of the architectural process. While my school’s curriculum emphasizes realistic and practical studio projects, there is simply no feasible way to simulate the process that a firm undertakes on the quest for new design work, and this is why the co-op experience was so beneficial for a budding architect like myself. I now understand that only rarely are firms simply handed design opportunities. Architectural offices must put forth an immense amount of effort tracking potential projects, courting clients, submitting qualifications, and creating design proposals in order to receive a new project. If a firm is fortunate enough to be awarded a new job, then the design process intensifies.

During my time at Wilson Butler Architects, I was able to collaborate with a variety of teams within the office, sit in on client meetings, attend brainstorming sessions, assist with master planning efforts, draft job proposals, and digitally model various design schemes. Unlike my classroom work, the projects within the office extend far beyond the duration of an academic semester. It can take years before a project goes from sketches on paper to physical reality. With the multitude of projects going on within the firm, I was able to observe or directly participate in nearly every design stage within the life of a project. Whether I was working on a job proposal for a state-of-the-art performing arts center or digitally modeling the “next big WOW” for Royal Caribbean International, I was always immersed in work that proved to be both interesting and valuable for developing my skills and knowledge of the architectural field.

In between all of this hard work, I have still managed to have a great deal of fun at the firm. I am proud to say that I made it to the semi-finals of the office ping-pong tournament and also managed to out-bowl Mr. Wilson while filling in for the WBA bowling team.

I have enjoyed my experience at Wilson Butler Architects so much that I was thrilled to twice extend to my co-op to keep working through the end of August. Now that my co-op has ended, I look forward to applying my new found skills and knowledge to my coursework this upcoming fall semester. With two years of my undergraduate degree as well as a master’s program ahead of me, I am unsure of exactly where my architectural journey will lead, but I certainly hope to have the opportunity to work with the WBA team again in the future.

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