The evolving speed and dynamics of the workplace have diminished the ideal of the three-year architecture internship. The intent of the traditional office interface was to provide a bridge between education and the profession for young students entering practice. Graduates are now increasingly expected to be operational upon graduation. Seeking alternatives, the Center for Design Research in the School of Architecture + Design at Virginia Tech and Payette, the 2019 AIA Firm of the Year, have created an immersive practice, design, and research experience. The Nexus studio embeds ten students within the day-to-day workings of the office.

The collaborative studio, located in the Payette office in Boston, introduces students to Research as Practice. Through an immersive residency in the CDR/Payette Open Studio students interact with more than 160 interdisciplinary design professionals as they undertake a semester-long design research effort. Based on industry-driven opportunities for technology development, transfer, or adoption within an architectural program, topics include: tectonics, tooling, performance, building technology, automation, computational design, human factors, and social impact.

An exhibition of the students work was on display at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg. Photo courtesy of Robert Dunay, FAIA.

Payette is an internationally recognized leader specializing in science and healthcare architecture that utilizes a transdisciplinary collaborative approach to practices, embracing innovation through the mantra that “a good idea can come from anyone.” The Open Laboratory-Boston expands this notion by placing students in face-to-face engagement with real world design challenges and providing them with the tools to define, develop, and propose solutions that will drive the future of architecture, engineering, and construction — ultimately informing the way we will live in symbiosis with our built environment — and in doing so, positioning the student as part of that development.

Open Lab – Boston exhibition at Virginia Tech. Image courtesy of Robert Dunay, FAIA.