This is a guest blog post written by Aditi Saldanha.
Summer’s over? Alright, I guess I had to head back to school at some point. New York, I’m only just getting started with you!
Somehow, I’ve been lucky enough to intern at one of the best hospitality design firms, Rockwell Group, as an architecture intern two summers in a row. I couldn’t be happier to add NYC to my list of places I call home.
Everyday was a new adventure here. You could walk the exact same street every day and have a crazy story to tell everyday. I almost felt guilty if I went home. Well, when I had time for it. As an architect, I’m no stranger to all nighters. Surprise, surprise, it didn’t get much better in the workplace either. There were weeks where I’d be leaving the office at 9, and all I wanted was my bed. But the days I got off early, I explored. I happy hour-d. I went to concerts. I was a New Yorker.
But let’s start where it all began - my first day at Rockwell Group.
Despite the fast paced and demanding nature of New York, I couldn’t have had a sweeter and more welcoming team. I struggled in the beginning. Going from hypothetical school projects to dealing with glitzy clients and high end restaurants felt like being thrown in the deep end and not knowing how to swim. But you learn quick. I learned more at my internship than I could have ever learned at school. Design offices are always super chill. When everybody at Wall Street is dying in their suits in the 90 degree weather, we get to come in jeans and flip flops. It’s pretty awesome.
But that’s not the best part – dogs are welcome at work! I’m seriously impressed with the productivity at this office considering the ridiculously cute and cuddle-seeking dogs constantly parading their fluff around the office. I was spoilt by my location this summer. I was in the heart of the East Village, a 10-minute walk from my Union Square office. I had everything I wanted within walking distance and almost never took the subway. Trying not to think about full time where I probably won’t be able to afford more than a closet in Brooklyn...
Walking to work was my favorite part of my day. Union Square had the strangest characters, it was such a fun place to people watch! Grown men in leotards, hippies, child musicians, chess players, you name it! Not to mention, public yoga and the farmers markets! Ugh, trying to get myself out of the square and into the office was a daily struggle.
Happy hours were popular at work..... and after work too. I mean, we needed inspiration for our projects, right? Did I mention, I got to design New York rooftops at work? On my first day, I found out what I’d be working on: a summer rooftop restaurant and a winter rooftop ice- rink. Rooftops were my all time favorite thing to do in New York and the fact that I was designing new destinations in the city just made the experience so much more amazing.But yes, if you summer in New York, spending your evenings sippin’ on pina coladas with killer views of the Empire State Building and the city’s gorgeous skyline will be a thing. Architecture is rough. When there were deadlines, I’d be working 12-hour days, sleep the rest, and then be right back at it again.
But the days I did get off early, I almost never went back home. I loved the parks in the city. I loved the feeling of sitting in these massive lawns encircled by trees but still be surrounded by the tallest skyscrapers. I could sit and people watch for hours. Or just get lost in the busyness of the city around. Just one of the many indescribable feelings of being in this city. Staying late wasn’t even the hardest part. Honestly, it was deciding what to eat on a daily basis that took up the most brain time. The area around Union Square probably had 15+ options of every cuisine imaginable. I spent way too much time (and money) on food related decisions. But once you’ve spent half your lunch break deciding on what to get, you get to enjoy it in one of the many parks around the area.
In between the late hours at the office and the rooftop brunchin’, it’s pretty easy to forget that I was an architecture student in basically one of the best cities in the world. But then you look up... And you see things like this. And realizing that you’re designing something that is essentially changing the landscape of New York is a pretty surreal feeling.
If, like me, subway isn’t your thing, don’t worry there’s plenty other options! It takes a while to find your groove in the city. The city bikes are pretty cool way to get around, but majorly stressful and terrifying in the big streets. Not every road has a bike lane. My personal favorite was via kayak. I’m still working on finding friends with yacht connections... One of the best things about living in NYC is the visitors! 4 years in Iowa and not a single visitor. 7 weeks in New York, and suddenly everybody I know wants to visit me! My bank account was not happy. I heard the line “oh come on, I’m only here once” way too many times.
It doesn’t take long to feel at home in this city. I loved showing friends around my favorite neighborhoods, restaurants, and bars. Think I managed to convince a few of them that they needed to move here too. Honestly, I wasn’t sure I’d like New York. As a tourist, it always seemed way too chaotic. Perhaps because I always strayed too close to Times Square. But as a resident, it didn’t take me more than a day to fall in love. Imagine a night where you spontaneously decide to go to the Brooklyn Bridge at 3am and watch the city lights sparkle till dawn. Those nights only happen in New York.