University of Cincinnati Co-op Gives Student Practical Design Experience

By Coly Tabberson, Design Intern

University of Cincinnati Co-op student

Coly Tabberson is an undergraduate architecture student and joined Hennebery Eddy in 2020 through the University of Cincinnati Co-op program, where students work full-time at a professional architecture practice. Learn more about Hennebery Eddy’s internal internship program here.

Before the University of Cincinnati co-op process even began, I knew that I was looking for an opportunity to live in the Pacific Northwest. I visited the region several years ago, and I was certain that I would one day find my way back. I greatly admire the regional focus of the firms in Portland and their genuine concern for the communities they serve. Further, the commitment to comprehensive sustainable design in the Pacific Northwest is seemingly unmatched in other areas of the country. Ultimately when it came time to choose a firm for my first co-op experience, I looked for one who embodied the qualities I admired most. Before even setting foot in the office, it was apparent that Hennebery Eddy was committed to sustainable, well-crafted, and regionally responsible design. Since beginning work here, my respect for the firm-wide commitment to Hennebery Eddy’s core principles has only grown, as I continue to learn more about the people and procedures that make great design possible.

A Practical Application of Classroom Lessons

My coursework thus far in my education has focused on the fundamentals of design while carefully obscuring the pragmatic nature of architecture in practice. For the majority of our first year, architecture was characterized very broadly as it relates to concepts like proportion, rhythm, solid, and void without ever really defining a human-scaled space. As we began to progress to human-centric design, these fundamental concepts were maintained, sometimes at the expense of feasibility. The existence of realistic constraints was not ignored but rather set aside for the time being. Therefore, the beginning of the co-op program brought much needed perspective to the world of design and how projects respond to external factors.

Since arriving at the firm in January, I have been exposed to many different parts of the firm, from internal committees, administrative operations, marketing, and of course several project teams with a variety of clients and scopes. One of my most intensive projects was creating a 1/16 scale model of the 10-story NIR Center. I particularly enjoyed having the freedom to work independently to craft the entire model, beginning with 2D Revit documentation all the way through to the finished model complete with site and entourage.

Outside of the model, I have worked on several projects throughout different phases. I was excited to spend time crafting diagrams and presentations for a project in early schematic design as it navigated design meetings with the city and community. Ultimately, I have learned a lot about the careful considerations that go into public projects, where many different voices must be heard and accounted for in the design.

university of cincinnati co-op at hennebery eddy architects
University of Cincinnati Co-op student Coly Tabberson works on a model for the NIR Center biotech lab building.

The Value of Mentorship

I have greatly enjoyed the experiences and opportunities presented to me by the firm, as everyone is very supportive of my education. Rather than being preoccupied with streamlined proficiency and billable hours, everyone I’ve worked with has taken time to mentor my experience and provide guidance for new tasks, even if it could have been easier to have someone else with more experience complete the task. New projects are regarded as learning experiences, and I am given the opportunity to engage with real projects and contribute meaningful work that clients actively respond to. No one sees it as a burden to provide guidance, and rather they seem to value the contributions I can make. This has given me a sense of responsibility and autonomy to work productively at a high quality because I know that others are counting on my contributions. While I am frequently challenged with new projects I am unfamiliar with, I am also given work that complements my abilities and allows me to express my creativity as a designer.

I am certain that the technological proficiency I have developed in new software alone is enough to greatly impact my continuing education, but I believe my time at Hennebery Eddy has provided me with much more than this alone. My observations and experiences working with the internal functions of the firm has informed my plans for how I one day intend to run my own firm. I aspire to build a community of designers and passionate individuals much like Hennebery Eddy.

Looking Ahead

I have an extensive plan for my education and career that will require a great deal of dedication, preparation, and collaboration to create meaningful change through design. I have had my mind set on this goal for some time now, and my time at Hennebery Eddy has provided many of the experiences I have been seeking to build the foundation for the rest of my career. Further, I am excited for what the future holds and the potential of what could be. However, I would be naive if I did not acknowledge the impermanence of even the best-laid plans. Especially in a present time of such uncertainty, I am in no way able to commit to a singular view of the future, given the fact that I do not know how next week may alter my immediate and extended future. Currently I am thankful to be working from the comfort of my temporary home in Portland, while a global pandemic disrupts the normality of everyday life. I suppose this too is an unintended lesson from my time at Hennebery Eddy, as I now experience the uncertainty of what life looks like after this world-altering event.

When I walked in the doors of this Portland office four months ago, I was unaware how the circumstances of my internship 2,000 miles from home would change. However, like any other unfamiliar experience I had previously encountered, it took time to adjust and respond before once again creating a plan to continue learning and growing as a designer. Thankfully as challenges were met, I had the support of my mentors and peers at Hennebery Eddy to help me along the way. Ultimately, our responses to ever-changing circumstances determine our ability to succeed and see our plans become a reality.