Interning with EDSA / by Victoria DeWitt

January 3rd: I and my three overweight suitcases arrived in South Florida to begin the next chapter of my life:  an internship with EDSA in Fort Lauderdale. I was overwhelmed to say the least, fueled with excitement to be apart of such an incredible company, restless to start charrette week.

Charrette week is an optional week for EDSA interns where we all get to know each other as well as the company, through a week long project. The first day was spent touring South Florida, visiting Miami, Hollywood and of course, Fort Lauderdale. (I wore the very wrong pair of shoes that day. Never wear a new pair of flats to a first day of work where you have no idea what you will be doing- no matter how cute). We toured tons of really cool places like Sound Scape in Miami as well as some Food Trucks in Hollywood (super cool after working with Ken McCown the past semester). We also spent quite some time that day learning about Fort Lauderdale's River Walk, which led right to our sight. 

Fort Lauderdale's River walk was initially intended to host a large retail scene of shops and restaurants overlooking what else but the New River. Over time restaurants and stores failed and a main hub of the river walk failed, left to look like a spooky ghost town rather than a booming "go to" place. Our site was located along the River Walk next to the Performing Arts Center. We looked at programs and included a Levitt Pavilion, to re-engage and revive the River Walk with the Arts District of Fort Lauderdale.

That week was like a long week of studio- except all day long and longer with a nice cash bonus. As a team we got to learn everyone's strengths and challenges. A lot of new ideas were flowing, it was an adjustment to work with a new group of people rather then my studio mates. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday all included critics with people from the office. We learned tons. Not only did we learn more about our design but EDSA as well. We learned about their specific style and how important it is even in the diagram stage. Diagrams are important to simplify your idea for the client. It allows the client opportunity to think with you and allows yourself to really make sure you idea works and flows nicely. It was a great challenge that helped each of us grow, even in a short week. We produced an exciting project with a Levitt Pavilion that encouraged River Walk activity while fitting in with the location like it was meant for it.

Below is our presentation from the week long charrette.

Below are more site images.

We had the honor of presenting our project to the entire office at the end of the week. It was very nerve-wracking but worth every second. We had some feedback but mostly, the office got a taste of who we were as designers. Our presentation was followed with drinks and the BIG announcement of who's studio we would be joining for the first half of our internship.

I was placed in the Gray Studio!!! After the big announcement I got to tour the studio and meet the team. The Gray Studio is a "close knit team that is personally invested in meaningful and purposeful assignments that energize local economies and create environments that residents and communities are proud of. Their diverse skill set allows for explorative insights when overcoming challenges and a pragmatic realism to project design." Yes that sounds cliche, but is so true. All of EDSA is one big family but the Gray Studio definitely makes you feel apart of the big picture.

BECAUSE I have not been bloggin' lately I had to give you all the quick run down, above. After getting situated into a real studio and the real deal internship, I felt that I was a little under prepared in my technology skills. I know the adobe creative suite, AutoCad, SketchUp and all that jazz, I just did not know the big parts of Photoshop like I should have. I did not know how to render a plan because I have never done it before and felt embarrassed to admit I was unable to complete a task.

This really bummed me out. I was never one to get discouraged and I certainly am not one to give up, but at that moment I felt that I was disappointing my team. They wanted work done fast and well. It took me a moment to realize who I actually was: a student interning at EDSA in efforts to LEARN. I am a sponge soaking up all the information and knowledge I can possibly consume. After a few phone calls home and snap back into reality, I was no longer embarrassed. I have asked more questions than I can put a number on, resulting in learning more in these past three months then I ever expected. My advice here for anyone reading, is to not belittle yourself. Don't be afraid to admit you do not know how to do something, not knowing just allows that much more opportunity to learn. Ask as many questions as you need because you are an intern and learning is what you are there for. You will also learn faster and better ways to do things-- compared to secretly googling your questions online :)

Now that we are all caught up with a brief tag about whats been going on. We can talk about the big project I have been working on at work. Lets start with Central Park. Yes, the one in New York. Yes the huge one. Now imagine 6 of those combined. Now take that humongous central park and place it in Egypt. Cairo, Egypt.

This huge central park in Egypt is still in it's design development stage so no idea is too crazy. They want programs and beyond. We have put anything from a jogging trail to a safari to drone surfing in this park. The Egyptian government is loving our ideas and really challenging us to create something great. We have worked on a 5000m scaled plan that is over 160in long and that is just half scaled. Our full size plan allows myself to lay next to it about three times, and I am tall. This project is unique not only because of its scale, but because we are also working with MELK, another landscape architecture firm. I have been able to sit through conference calls with them to be apart of the entire design and presentation process. Its been a great opportunity to be a part of this project from its near beginning. I have helped draw this plan from concept to setingt up InDesign presentations, helping with design elements as well as rendering this more developed plan on Photoshop (yes round of applause I have learned how to render a plan on Photoshop!!!).

The concept of the plan is flow. The design looks like a system of veins- putting the life into Cairo's Central Park. Our series of path and roadways, plants and green spaces to hinterland all help reinforce our flow concept.