Designing the Future: An Interview with the Nepal Architecture Interns

Architectural Interns with their supervisors at the Build Change Kathmandu Office. Left to Right, Front to Back. Aastha Sigdel, Ayusha Joshi (Design Support Team Leader- New Construction), Sandesh Devkota, Salina Pradhan (Technical Liaison Coordinator), Astha Panta, Suresh Twanbasa, Dikshya Pokhrel.

Over the past year, Build Change, in partnership with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) provided placements to five architectural interns from Tribhuvan University. The five students gained invaluable experience while assisting Build Change and UNOPS with their work in Nepal.

The Architectural department at Tribhuvan University requires students who are in their third year to undergo an intern placement for a minimum of 90 days, with the potential to extend depending on the needs of both Build Change and UNOPS, and the availability of the students. A marking schedule was provided by the university and the marks given by supervisors at Build Change and UNOPS contributed to the interns’ overall course mark. The aim of the placement was to give the students exposure to a wide range of different architectural techniques and concepts, allowing them to build on their architectural knowledge and skills in a meaningful way. The placement also provided architectural support to the Build Change and UNOPS teams, across all of their operations.

The 5 interns: Astha Panta, Suresh Twanbasa, Aastha Sigdel, Dikshya Pokhrel, Sandesh Devkota were divided between the Build Change and UNOPS teams with a rotation between the organisations halfway through the placement.

After the students completed their placement and before they returned to university, Sujeena, (a Communications Officer from Build Change) caught up with them to chat about their experience.

Sujeena: Hello and welcome. Thanks for taking the time to sit down with me this afternoon. First, could you tell me a little bit about the work you have been doing during your placement? 

Dikshya: I have been working on the Socio Technical Facilitation Consultancy (STFC) project; in this project I have been assisting with the designing of new houses and other junior architect roles as necessary within the project.

Aastha: I have been working on the illustrations for the pictorial guide for retrofitting. This guide is a step-by-step picture guide to how to retrofit a traditional Stone Mud Mortar House (SMM). Working on this guide has helped me understand the complexities of how to retrofit a house, and has helped me learn how to draw elements in Sketchup.

Sandesh: I have been working on designing houses within the Autodesk Revit BIM software, this is a software that was new to me so I have enjoyed learning how to use the software to draw houses. I have been impressed by how easy the software is to learn and the quality of the work that I am producing with it.

Suresh: I have been working on designing a police station with UNOPS. I’ve found the process fascinating, there are many different concepts involved in the design. Compared to designing a house, it is a comparatively long process.

Astha: My work was on the STFC project and designing new houses for the earthquake affected communities of Nuwawkot.

Sujeena: How have you found the placement here at Build Change and UNOPS?

Dikshya: It is far more exciting and dynamic than I ever expected, I have really enjoyed both the atmosphere and the experience! Also the team members within Build Change that I have been working

closely with have been very supportive and approachable, especially Kriti. She has been able to take the time to explain things to me to make sure that I understand concepts.

Astha; For me, it’s been a very enjoyable path of learning about the reconstruction guidelines and the role that Build Change has within that. What drawings a homeowner requires, and what the process is of making those drawings from start to finish.

Sandesh: I have been impressed by how efficient and streamlined the process is to get a drawing to a homeowner. Everything is properly organized and managed and from initial request to quality check, to me it’s very smooth and efficient.

Astha: What I really enjoyed while at Build Change and UNOPS is how approachable the staff are, I never felt like my questions were trivial or irrelevant. I was able to ask anyone in the office a question and they would take the time to answer it.

Suresh: This placement has given me the opportunity to learn different types of architectural styles that are used in rural housing. Before I started my placement I did not know how to design and draw rural houses as all my focus had been on drawing modern, contemporary houses. I look forward to being able to use these skills that I have learned in my career.

Sujeena: What has been your favorite part of the placement?

Astha: For me it was the variety of work and the fact that the work never got boring. Because we were constantly shifting between departments and organizations, I was constantly learning and being challenged with new concepts and techniques.

Suresh: For me it was the innovative use of the Dashboard to assign work to each off us, how the dashboard keeps the progress recorded of all the drawings in one centralized place so that we could see what needed to be done at all times. Also the process of using Technical Support Centres (TSC’s) to provide remote communities with information about reconstruction and be the ability of the TSC’s to provide house drawings to the homeowner.

Dikshya: How collaborative the work here is, working at Build Change is very much a team effort. You need to think of the destination and the best way to get there as a team.

Sujeena: Do you know what you would like to do after university?

Astha: I have really enjoyed my placement with Build Change and UNOPS working on houses and police stations. With my placement I wanted to experience and be part of something that was new to me. This placement has given me that challenge. After I finish my studies I am interested in getting a job within a commercial architectural firm and have a few companies that I am interested in working for.

Suresh: The social enterprise, non-profit aspect of this placement was one of the main reasons that I applied initially. I was interested in seeing what help I could provide to the earthquake affected homeowners. It has been a very personally fulfilling placement because of that. It was also has furthered my belief that after I finish my studies I would like to work for a non-profit or a charitable cause. I’m not sure what direction that will take, but I have certainly enjoyed the charitable aspect of my role here.

Astha: I hope to be able to use the techniques that I have learned here around earthquake resistant housing and rural housing for my career, I certainty have a developed a greater appreciation and understanding of these techniques and would like to further refine my knowledge.

Thanks for taking the time to speak to me today, I wish you all the best in your future studies!