Miranda (Randi) McQueen ('18), an Architecture major, received a European Internship and Service Grant from the Nanovic Institute to intern with ARCAS in Paris. ARCAS is an architecture firm that specializes in urban schemes, residential units, and renovations of historic buildings in Paris and beyond. The firm has designed a myriad of projects across Europe and even in Asia. Randi recently wrote to us about her experience:
After working full-time for 9 weeks, I was able to experience firsthand the life of a practicing French architect. I lived in an apartment, commuted via metro, shared lunch with coworkers in the Luxembourg gardens regularly, and I even spent time with some associates outside of the office. Not only did I gain experience in the field of architecture, but I also was able to work in an environment where I was encouraged to speak French, my second major. This exceptionally rewarding internship has affected me in abundant unique ways.
My daily routine consisted of sketching perspective renderings, watercolor painting various designs, and putting together portfolios on Photoshop for competitions or clients. Occasionally, I was also able to design some buildings for urban schemes designed by the architects. I collaborated with the older architects and applied their criticisms and comments to improve my designs over the course of the projects. For one competition, which took place in London, I helped design townhouses, and I painted over 30 elevation drawings with the help of two other interns. I created drawings for other competitions or paying clients in the French cities of Trouville, Paris, Val d’Europe, and Plessis-Robinson (a new and upcoming community outside of Paris). I was even able to listen to meetings, and I visited one of the local restoration sites in Paris, a Free Mason’s Temple.
After practicing these skills in an office setting and receiving feedback from credible architects working in the modern field, I am much more confident in my abilities. In particular, I used to shy away from perspectival drawings and focus more of my attention on two-dimensional elevation drawings. But now, I feel comfortable creating any type of drawing, whether it be two- or three-dimensional. Additionally, I have learned a plethora of watercolor techniques to help bring my drawings to life. I am eager to apply these skills to the classroom and future internship opportunities.
ARCAS’s work in urban design has influenced me to delve into the topic of urbanism and city planning even further. In Rome last fall, we had an introductory Urbanism class, and I was able to apply some of what I learned to the projects at the firm this summer. Additionally, I am hoping to do more research into the urbanism of peripheral Paris in particular. I am incredibly intrigued by the juxtaposition of the low-income Paris suburbs situated just blocks away from Paris’ wealthiest citizens and most cunning architecture. Hopefully, I will be able to get a research grant to learn more about this topic and possibly develop my findings into my thesis project next year as a fifth-year student in the School of Architecture.
After working in Paris with ARCAS, I am more motivated than ever to continue pursuing a career in the field of architecture. Prior to this summer, I never really dreamed of living in France, even though I can speak a fair amount of French. However, now I am convinced that it is very possible to work in Paris as an architect after witnessing firsthand Notre Dame alum Matthew Brown working at ARCAS. He was a tremendous architectural mentor, and he has inspired me to make greater career goals for myself.
As of now, I have made it a goal to find a job as a classical architect in Paris after graduation. I adored the city, and I learned so much about Parisian culture after working with natives all summer long. Again, I am beyond grateful for this truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spend a summer in Paris working in a field I am most passionate about. I am more eager than ever to get back to work as a student at the University of Notre Dame to design even better projects in studio class and to continue improving my French while taking two French courses this fall.