(Photo taken on Sophia’s last day in the office. From left to right: Sioned, Beth, Sophia, Erica and Jason.)
Arkitrek’s family has grown through the years and this year, we have added another 3 more into our ever growing social enterprise. Meet our present interns Beth, Sioned and Erica!
Beth and Sioned are both Architect students from UK whom we have selected to join us as interns after they participated in our Design+Build camp. We also have Erica from KK who is our first ever marketing intern.
Why did you come to Arkitrek?
Since graduating from my Part I at Bath University, I became greatly interested in the rapidly globalising and polarised world we live in after reading two books (which I highly recommend!) – The World We Made by Jonathan Porritt and This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein.
With the climate change movement gathering great momentum and at the forefront of my mind, I felt urged to leave the world of conventional architecture and go out to experience developing countries facing unprecedented changes and challenges, with the hope of doing some more meaningful design. I searched extensively, reading blogs and articles and found less than a handful of practices/charities which provide this kind of design service. Arkitrek was one of them – and the rest is history!
What are you most proud of?
Biggest achievement has got to be completing the design and build project I participated in – The Fig Tree – just in time for the opening ceremony. The building is an experimental synthesis of traditional and modern construction techniques designed by a team of 12 international architects. The design team and local builders collaborated in pioneering a new method of construction using a sacrificial bamboo frame that is cast into a permanent bio-crete wall. Split bamboo was used to encase the bio-crete walls creating a sustainable alternative to using plywood or plasterboard formwork. The building is the first of its kind, providing a low-impact, low-cost alternative to the concrete houses built by the locals.
Living in the rural village – Kampung Mantob – side-by-side with the local Dusun community and the other 11 participants was a personal highlight for me. During our 8 week stay we made strong bonds with the adults and children alike, ending our stay with the community by trekking 8 hours from the village to a nearby campsite, finishing in an idyllic waterfall setting. A true paradise!
What do you plan to do after you complete the internship?
On my way back to the UK in December, I am having a 3-week stop-off in Nepal where I will be joining All Hands Volunteers in their earthquake response team. They are currently deconstructing and clearing rubble sites from the 25th April + 12th May devastating earthquakes this year which killed over 8,000 people leaving thousands homeless. They are starting the reconstruction process in the following months in rural communities where I hope to get stuck in and make as much difference as possible (as you can in 3 weeks!). I imagine this will be an intensely different on-hands construction experience than I have had here with Arkitrek. It will be a real emotional and physical challenge!
You’ve just completed the Arkitrek 2015 programme, were there any highlights for you?
So many highlights! I came on the Arkitrek camp hoping to get more hands-on construction experience. I couldn’t wait to get out on site every day, working on a design which ‘we’ – a team of like-minded enthusiasts – designed! As expected, this aspect of the camp was incredible, even the hour-long hike up beautiful, wild Bukit Gumantung became a highlight of my day.
However the highlight which stands out most is the relationship that developed between us Aritrekkers and the local guys who helped us every day. To begin with, the cultural differences between us seemed to dominate our fascination with each other which in some ways created a barrier between ‘us’ and ‘them’. However after trekking up together every day, working, eating, singing, dancing and relaxing together, the divide between ‘us’ and ‘them’ disappeared.
What projects have you worked on so far?
Since finishing the camp I’ve been working in the Arkitrek office, mostly focusing on The Gathering Place. I’ve been setting up a drawing package so that the building work can continue on site, making revisions when necessary. I’ve been able to return to the site every few weeks to check up on progress and to try recruiting new people to help get the building finished.
I’ve also been preparing project reports and writing a SEED application which has been great for gaining an appreciation of how amazing the project actually is! In addition I’ve been working on a design project on Peninsula Malaysia, expanding a holiday resort on a rocky, seafront site – completely different to Bukit Gumantung! We have regular design reviews where we talk through our progress, and then we try and solve design problems together. The office has a very relaxed environment so I feel comfortable enough giving ideas and voicing my opinion, which is refreshing after being in a big London office where freedom for testing ‘the unknown’ is restricted!
What did you learn from the camp experience?
I learnt so much about design, construction, how to engage with communities, how to express ideas, and I learnt a lot about myself too.
We had a really diverse design & build team so we learnt lots off each other as well as from the locals, e.g. my understanding of different cultures widened, I learnt how to make best use of traditional techniques of construction, and how to solve problems on a remote, challenging site.
What do you love most about your internship with Arkitrek?
This is actually my first ever exposure to the real working world and I must say, I consider myself very lucky to get an intern position in Arkitrek. The thing I love most about being an intern at Arkitrek is well, just being here actually! I am constantly surrounded by people who are passionate about what they do here and the energy is infectious. Everyone here shares the same view in the importance of nature conservation and working with a conscience even though we have different professions and backgrounds. I also love that I am given the opportunity to take on certain responsibilities and a chance to assist Arkitrek in their marketing and communication activities that I would probably not get if I interned elsewhere.
Of course another thing I love about interning here is the fact that I was given the opportunity to visit project sites. I had the chance to stay with a group of Design+Build camp participants and did some trekking in the rain up Bukit Gumantung with them which was an absolutely amazing experience for me!
What do you hope to achieve at the end of this internship?
Since the beginning of my internship with Arkitrek, I have actually been working on a research paper, a course requirement I need to carry out and complete in order to graduate from my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration (Marketing). The research is basically an assessment of Arkitrek’s brand through an integrated marketing communication approach, something that the company has never conducted before. Through the research, I hope the outcome will be very useful to Arkitrek and in turn, contribute to the company’s growth and success in the near future.
What have you learned in Arkitrek so far?
Lots! But I guess one of the major things I learned (being a non-architect) in an architect company especially one that focuses on sustainable design and building is gaining greater insight on what sustainable architecture really is- Something that I have never paid much attention to. The whole concept is just interesting because everything with regards to sustainability is taken into consideration, from logistics of transporting materials to the type of materials used for the building and so on. I have always been fascinated by architecture but being in Arkitrek has really taught me to appreciate architecture and nature a whole lot more.