My Experience as a Remote Intern at Hennebery Eddy

By Olivier Mabiala, Design Intern

During his internship, Olivier researched designing on Indigenous Lands and presented this meaningful work to the firm. This case study illustration from his final presentation highlights design features of the Choctaw Nation Headquarters Building, which was designed by FSB Architects.

Each year, Hennebery Eddy welcomes students and recent graduates as interns with the firm. The events of 2020 forced us to adapt in many ways, and our internship program was no exception. Determined to still provide this opportunity for a young designer to gain valuable experience, we welcomed a fully remote intern for the first time. Here, University of Washington graduate Olivier Mabiala shares his experience interning remotely.

I developed an interest in Hennebery Eddy’s work during my graduate program at University of Washington, while looking for great precedents to inspire my design. As I was scrolling through countless projects, Our Lady of Montserrat Chapel caught my eye. I was impressed by the level of craftsmanship and by the interior, which echoed raw natural materials. The combination of stone, wood, plaster, and bronze gave a light and welcoming atmosphere.

Near the end of my M. Arch program, as I was updating my portfolio, I drew inspiration from the Yellowstone National Park Youth Campus project to develop my own portfolio’s project. Amid the pandemic and right after my graduation, I became Hennebery Eddy’s first ever remote intern. How can one feel part of the office culture through a screen? How can one grab lunch with a coworker during COVID? I had all these questions rushing in while preparing to introduce myself on the firm-wide Monday Morning Meeting. For the past couple of months, Hennebery Eddy found creative ways to help me feel professionally and socially included. The 1,700 miles separating me and the Portland office was shortened by virtual happy hours, committee involvement, weekly meetings with my mentors, and by the diversity of projects I worked on.

At the start of my internship, Hennebery Eddy assigned mentors and a buddy who helped me visualize the professional goals I would achieve by the end of the internship. I also have been allowed to work on a vast array of projects, such as a museum, a hotel, and an education center. Hennebery Eddy quickly assessed my skillset and planned on sharpening my skills while teaching me new ones. I got more comfortable with Revit, learned new rendering tricks, and grasped the art of time management. My favorite activity throughout my internship was conducting and presenting a research project. The research was about designing architecture on Indigenous Lands while paying homage to Native cultures of North America. Learning information that could truly impact design for deeper meanings felt rewarding to me.

In his research presentation, remote intern Olivier provided context and tied what he learned back to our firm. This map shows the locations of Native reservations in proximity to Hennebery Eddy’s offices.

What I am carrying from this experience is that design calls for everyone to be involved in a project. Hennebery Eddy has taught me that no one person knows enough, and that opportunities for growth and new knowledge will always be present for those who choose to pursue great design.