[Ed: Phillip Bongomin worked as a site architect for the Nanga Sumpa Eco-Lodge Renovation from November 2013 to March 2014. Phil is our most experienced Intern to date, with over 10 years of commercial architecture practice in London. In these edited excerpts from his feedback, Phil discusses the value of a career break with Arkitrek.]
What was your favourite moment?
The best part of this project for was how much control/autonomy I had over the overall progression and development of the scheme once I was on site and the remote nature of the project… [It] allowed me to re-engage my architectural engine in a way that reminded me why I pursued this profession in the first place. For the first time in a long time I was able to undertake a project that aided the development of a community in need, rather than purely for the financial gain of a commercial body…
What was the worst moment?
The worst moment, and the most frustrating, was the lack of professionalism within the workforce. [It] eventually contributed to the delay of the project, to the extent that my time on the project ran out and I was unable to see its completion…
Preparation / Briefing – Was this sufficient and accurate both pre-arrival and during your initial stages to prepare you for your project?
I felt that I was given insufficient information and time to review [the drawings] before attending site and beginning construction… Even though I relished and adapted to the ‘design-while-you-build’ philosophy and found it quite rewarding I feel that… the site architects’ job should be to refine the scheme/details and not designing [them] from scratch.
Did the supervision and support provided by Arkitrek staff meet your expectations? How could it be improved?
Support and supervision was more than sufficient even though at times I may not have thought so. Subsequently it allowed me to trust my own judgement, instincts and overall experience.
How do you feel about your accomplishments?
If I’m honest, I’d say I’d personally accomplished more in the last 6 months than I have in the previous 3 years… I feel that I have had more of a personal investment in the Nanga Sumpa project; [I] put more into and therefore got more out if it and it’s been a while since that’s been the case.
How is this back-to-basics experience relevant to your career/studies or your future pursuits/goals? What do you hope to take from this experience?
The back to basics/hands on experience has been one of the most rewarding parts of this experience… Working in this environment and [without] access to [the internet] means that you need to understand how details are derived and work… This experience has therefore forced me to tap back into that fountain of basic knowledge and allowed me to have a greater understanding of what I am designing… which inevitably results in the production of a better building.
Would you recommend and/or help promote Arkitrek programmes to others?
Yes I would as I think the experience gained… is invaluable especially for architectural students coming straight out of university with little to no knowledge of how a building is actually built… Even for professionals with years of experience, given the hardships of the last few years, and for those who have spent that time writing door schedules, detailing toilets or doing M&E co-ordination, this would definitely be a welcome change not to mention, an insight of what it is like to work outside the developed world…
Not only that but I would recommend Arkitrek because of what they stand for and what they are trying to do in regards to promoting sustainable architecture…