Landing my dream internship at Shigeru Ban Architects!

Ban-san PARTY!What are the odds of landing your dream job working with your idol Architect that is a renowned Japanese STARchitect in this case, and with no work experience at all!!!! and in the best country in the world?! Hellooooo Japan!!!

Yes, admittedly, I am a total fangirl of Shigeru Ban since my first year of studying Architecture. I came across his disaster relief projects and his peculiar use of building material choice – paper tubes. I have always been interested in humanitarian architecture as it attempts to resolves architectural problems for communities in need, especially after natural disasters. Thus, I was inspired and motivated by Ban’s emergency shelters.

So there I was, clicking the ‘send’ button to send off my job application kit to Shigeru Ban Architects. *heh. nervous laughs* What do I have to lose? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. And I was right. *smugface*

I received a reply within a week! *jawdrops!* You cannot imagine how excited and shocked I was! Although I did wonder whether it was really legitimate? I honestly did not expect a response and especially an acceptance! (I actually emailed back asking if this was real, in a polite way)

The Internship!

Fast forward several months and I am now sitting in Shigeru Ban’s office with 3 other interns joining today, we were given an introduction and were then sent to different teams. Ban’s office is in two adjacent buildings, and I was sent to the top floor of the main building, also later known as the ‘meatlocker‘ by us interns. Yeah. You can imagine the working conditions… kidding!24.10 (1)1

There’s an average of 7 to 8 interns at the office, despite the quick turnover of interns, we all tend to grow quite close to eachother, spending our lunch and dinner times together. SO prepared for the weight-gain! woooo~

Okay, I’m going off tangent here now with food…

My first month started off being thrown out into the ocean, and trying to swim in a panic. Basically I’m in the competition team. Not yet having any experience working in a firm, I tried my best completing the tasks I were given – which were making the foam concept / spatial models in my first week. But, as this is Japan, the models were immaculately precise and straight with no rough edges. I was producing at least a model a day! (I felt like a machine!)

And there is no other better reward than Ban-san holding up my spatial models to inspect and explore all the spaces during a meeting. (He even noticed that one of the blocks were out by 1mm! :O Oops…)SBA rendering photoshop

After the first week, I was given other tasks of editing CAD drawings of sections, plans and elevations. Then rendering on Rhino, Photoshop and putting it together on Illustrator (my first time using, but quickly picked it up). Unavoidably, there were many late nights, usually working until the last train (12am!) and working over the weekend just before the submission!

SBA interns model making


Being in the competition team has it’s perks too though, we get to have meetings with Ban-san more often than the other teams. (Despite the meetings were held in Japanese, and when we asked our seniors for translations, they just say one line out of the whole speech Ban-san gave!) I feel fortunate that I joined the team in it’s early stages. I get to witness the whole project’s progression from the beginning, until the day we WON! Yaay!

Feel free to view the project here >> Tainan Museum of Fine Arts!!

Zoe model making
Final 3D printed model we put together for the submission! (roof of model is off)

The rest of my internship was all very rewarding too! I worked on high-profile residential projects in USA with a staff from the New York office, and he was also definitely OCD about models too! Blerghh! But I still enjoyed every part of it, I learnt a lot from him, hence now my skills of model-making are pristine! and quick too! 😀

Social life

You know how it goes… work hard, play harder! Oh 20170508_174439yea, we sure did! There’s frequently a farewell party for the interns 😦 and about once a month (if we’re lucky!), there will be a Ban-party which Ban-san attends too! We go to a local pub near the office and drink all night! (I even managed to snap a selfie with Ban-san! Signed aswell! :P)

Heck, despite all the lengthy hours, and sometimes working on the weekends, we will get an extra day off plus days off due to Japanese festivals “bank holidays”. So a few of us interns would plan together a trip to see the Architecture in and out of Tokyo!

On one weekend, I was lucky enough to be the only intern to join the SBA staffs to climb Mount Fuji too! That was one hell of an experience! A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! Definitely do this if you have the chance in Japan! Reaching the peak was over-whelming, especially whilst admiring the stunning, breath-taking views of cotton candy clouds above Japan.

Peak of Mount Fuji with SBA

The internship overall has been very fruitful, learnt and enhanced my skills, made plenty of international friends whom I still keep closely in touch with, experienced living as a Japanese in their culture, and visited many famous Architectures that I have seen only in pictures!

24.10 (11)copy


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