2007 PFIG Recipient Sebastijan Jemec

Career Administrator

Sebastijan Jemec
School of Architecture
Studio Art
2008 Graduation Year

Internship: Studio Acconci in New York, NY

This summer I am interning with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). I applied for the position last November, ECA contacted me in December for an interview, and my security clearance and the details of my internship were finalized in the spring. I am working in the Alumni Affairs office, which provides resources to alumni of U.S. government-sponsored foreign exchange programs both to and from the United States. The Fulbright Scholar program is probably one of the better-known programs that ECA sponsors, but there are at least a hundred other programs of varying scope and duration, designed for participants of all different age groups and backgrounds.

I hope my internship experience will provide me with an interesting background that I can build on and bring with me to a career in law. I hope to meet people from around the world and within the State Department, and I’m looking forward to broadening my knowledge of different parts of the world.

Notes on the first week

Art and the creative | visual world have always been my main passion. Our society is currently going through a new renaissance where visual culture is very prevalent due in part to the immediacy and accessibility of digital media. Oddly enough, very little of this imagery is for public intellectual and creative stimulus. Studio Acconci, where I work is a world renowned design firm that focuses on civic architecture and installation. Their approach is unique in that it does not view the architect/designer as an individual designer that creates his design for the masses but rather the opposite. The designs are attempts at making public spaces as accessible and provocative as possible to everyone rather than just a work from and for the mind of the creator. They view the architect on the same level as the client. I also am interested in their use of the latest technology and embracing of progress and new opportunity through cutting edge design research. I wanted to work for studio Acconci because their philosophy meshes with my personal opinions very well and to learn and be part of this unique environment.

Ever since I have been interested in architecture and art, the name Acconci has been very prevalent due to their unique approach to design. Their role in both the art and design worlds was inspirational. It has been a goal to work for them for a while. I obtained my internship because I am an artist as well as a design student. Vito Acconci, the principle and I had a great conversation when I came and visited the firm last winter. His background is poetry and art and as art is mine also, we meshed well.

I hope to learn a lot of new processes both new technology uses and fabrication processes and research. I will learn the process of design in the actual job world outside of the cloister of academia. Most importantly I hope to gain many new mentors and contacts that will be valuable to me as an artist and designer in the future.

My first week has flown by. I have been working on a public art installation in Indiana that is nothing like I have ever designed before. It is very intellectually stimulating. I have also had to learn some new computer software that will be useful lint he long run. The people in the studio are great, very approachable and close nit. Everyone is a friend here and people hang out even outside of work. This is due to the small size of the firm.

Life in New York City has been great! I live and work in Brooklyn and bike everywhere I can. My apartment mates are great and I have made a few new friends. There is nothing quite like sitting on a rooftop with a great view of Manhattan.


I have been here in NYC for almost 2 months now and I have gotten used to it and enjoy it. I could do this as a full time job. Working 11 to 7 is just great! I have met some great people through my roommates and my friends up here. I am already looking forward to potentially move back up here more permanently after graduation. The internship at Studio Acconci is going very well. I have learned a lot about architecture and realized a lot about myself. The job has been a bit different than I had thought it would be, it is a bit more mathematical and less creativity oriented than I imagined, but in my opinion it still surpasses traditional architecture firms in creative environment. Also, the point of view and approach to design and the idea of public spaces that Studio Acconci works with is quite different that the limited scope of the architecture school at UVA. I have enjoyed that and it has expanded my interests. We have recently been bombarded with interesting projects from public art installations in parking garages to visitor pavilions at international art fairs to ice-cream trucks being converted to traveling art galleries and performance spaces…the projects are all very different and interesting. I have realized that I know a lot less than I previously thought I did. I guess the philosophers of old were correct in saying that the more you know, the more you don’t know… luckily the studio has thousands of books and publications and research is strongly encouraged. Almost half the time there is spent researching and grazing through these. There are also constantly conversations about the projects to stimulate the creative and design process. It is very enriching to engage in these. I feel that I have made some valuable connections through the studio that I will be able to utilize further down the road. I also would have to qualms about working at Studio Acconci after I finish up school.

Final Reflections

So, my summer internship working for Studio Acconci in Brooklyn, NY is all done with and I am glad and sad and mad and confused… I came home to Charlottesville for a total of two days after having an amazing 3 months in New York and before I leave to Copenhagen for the semester. It is such a dynamic and transient stage in my life right now that it has been quite arduous comprehending it all.

Let us begin with the glad: I learned so much about myself and architecture and myself in relation to architecture. I realized that traditional architecture is not what I want to do with my life. It is too removed from the outside world, too much time is spent before a computer and too little is spent outside and with real people, the profession goes to people’s heads and becomes more about pride and the romance of being an "architect", and lastly I get bored with the projects long before they are completed. I guess those reflections can be viewed as negative also, but I see it as a great realization. I don’t want to be doing something with the rest of my life that only half intrigues me. Working for Acconci introduced me to a new and more my type of architecture that I had never really been exposed to. The projects are diverse and interesting and almost all of them are public works that involve radical perspectives of the idea of "public realm." And also, the projects are for the most part smaller and shorter so I am engaged and stimulated though the extent of the duration. Also I have made not only a great group of contacts but also great life-long friends. Unfortunately Vito Acconci, the head of the firm, had heart surgery in the middle of my stint, so I had minimal contact with him.I am sad that I had to leave just as I was having all these revelations about me and architecture and my relation to architecture. I would have loved to stay much longer, but finances, school and Denmark were unpushable.

I am sad that I had to leave my new group of friends, who were really sad that I had to leave. It is interesting how one can make such good, life-friends in 3 months. The sadness is also a bit of madness. Why did I have to leave so suddenly? Just as everything was amazing I had to pull out! Its not fair…why can’t I just postpone everything else for a year or two or three…? But, alas.

All of this is making me confused — but in a good way. It is making me actively think about my life and other people and how my seemingly selfish life pursuit of the creative (architecture and art) can be made unselfish, can be made more truly public. Everything that Acconci Studio works on is public. Their philosophy has to do with the removal of the hiererarchy in the design process and design world. In their minds, the architect is not on top of the food chain — there is no food chain. All of the projects I worked on (an art installation in a public parking garage in Indianapolis, a fountain in a public square in Bristol, UK, a prefabricated and mass customizable house, and a public plaza on the Toronto waterfront…) were public works that were unique and provocative both to the public and the design worlds because of their rejection of the typical architect/artist to client/public relationship. This new mindset will forever change me and my path in life and hopefully this confusion will eventually sort itself out but the curiosity and self-delving will continue.

P.S. And also, Thanks to the Parent’s Fund for the grant. I could not have done this it without the help.