Summer Internship: In Retrospect

John Nguyen

About the Author:

John is a local OC kid from the small city of Westminster. He grew up in a family of 4 siblings, 9 aunties and uncles from each side of his parents’ family with 15 cousins and about 8 nieces and nephews. He moved to the United States from Vietnam when he was bout 9 years old, and has lived in Orange County ever since. He found beauty in design and construction from his dad and grandfather. John is  going to graduate at Cal Poly Pomona in the Spring of 2019 with a BLA. His goal is to become a Registered Landscape Architect. Like all millennials, he enjoys surfing the web and staying up-to-date with social media news and trends because as a designer, John wants to be adaptable to new technology/software while still implementing some traditional skills like hand sketching. Whenever time allows, he loves to condition on the basketball court, hiking with friends, fishing on the Newport Beach pier, or creating fun things with digital fabrication.

Tools of the Trade:

This is my first time being introduced to a great software like LandFX, an extension of AutoCAD. It takes a lot of the hard manual work away from inputting the plant symbols and data. Being able to get familiar with this software was one of my top three goals as an intern this summer. Through two projects that I was working under for Rex and Tim, I can proudly say that I am proficient in the program. This for sure will be another helpful design tool that I can add on my belt that can set me a part from other future employees.


For Wood & Lurin, I helped Rex design a conceptual planting plan for a new developing neighborhood in Riverside. The first thing I did was Google the given plants list including Trees and Shrubs and get familiar with the way the plants look: shape, foliage color, multi-trunk or single trunk, deciduous or evergreen, drought tolerant or CA native, height and spread, and WUCOLs, etc. I have learned to design landscape in layers from low groundcover/shrubs to medium shrubs to tall shrubs/medium trees. The streetscape trees are so also very important because it is a landscape architectural feature of that neighborhood or street. It gives a sense of ownership and appreciation for the surrounding community. In school and also in the professional practice, I have always appreciated critiques and “red lining” is my best friend. I was able to receive many constructive criticisms from both Rex and Tim with these two different projects. Some of the ways I can improve my planting approach is to pair plants that either complement each other or have a little contrast in the shrubs structure to the softness or hardness of the foliage. Overall, there were a few challenges in learning the technical side and design aspect but there is nothing LandFX cannot fix. (P.S. I heard from Rex a SLO Alumni developed this software, so big props to him or her for making our lives as Landscape Architects a little bit less stressful.)

Graphic Work:

Awhh, the post-production graphics. As technologies are evolving, there is an emphasis on new architects and designers about not only conveying an idea from pen/pencil to paper, but also the importance of how we have to be efficient in putting together a nice exhibit or renders to really push and sail our ideas to the client. Coming into this internship, I felt quite experienced on 2D & 3D programs, such as: AutoCAD, SketchUp, Rhino 3D, and Maya. Also with some post-production knowledge with Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Premier, and other rendering software like Lumion and Vray.

One of the earliest projects I was working on is called the 6th & Olive with a collaboration with Phil Barnes and Katie Hartman at the UASD office. I helped to furnish two different alternative “boujee” high-rise outdoor pool/spa areas with daybeds and liquor bar. I mostly used SketchUp to furnish the model with the help of Austin Price. I think one of the coolest parts about this project is when Thuan introduced Twinmotion into it. It was first time hearing and learning how the software works; I even downloaded a free trial version on my desktop to teach myself some tricks and tips. I was really amazed to witness the incredible design Thuan and Austin put together for the Anaheim Roundabout competition. They definitely deserved to win the first prize. The second project is not as cool as the first but it is a pretty heavy loaded Photoshop project that I helped Michael Knight on. My task was to clean up a few section sketches, inputting real-life shrubs and trees from our UA Graphic Library due to the client’s request to make the drawing look livelier. A section drawing is one of the key drawings in a design; it can give an audience a sense of elevation, space, and emotion. I was able to get a better understanding of planting design by visually putting them in layers from short to tall. Overall, I believe post-production plays a big role in completing the whole-design.  After all, a picture is worth a thousand words and a graphic is a great transcript that conveys an idea with one another.

Coming into this summer, I did not know how I could handle my very first internship let alone juggling two internships back-to-back everyday from Monday through Friday. My day at Urban Arena starts out at  7:30 to 12:30, with a lunch break, then I am off to start at the other firm from 1:30 to 6:30. I always looked forward to our weekly Monday meeting at 9am with the Landscape Department ran by Vincent. We all get a scope of what each of us is up to for the week and whoever has some free time will offer their help with one another without any hesitation. It is hard for siblings even to offer help to each other in a family, so the bond that we have at UA is a special one. One person I would like to show my most sincere appreciation to is my mentor – Rex Cayabyab.  Aside from being my Asian brotha-from-anotha-motha, his energy and guidance is outstanding. I am glad he could help answer all my curious questions on everything we do around and outside of UA. I have to admit that I am not a morning person, even a couple of weeks into the program it is still difficult for my brain to operate so early so sometimes I might not be the brightest kid in the room. I want to thank Rex for being very patient with me, and for taking the time out of his busy schedule to find projects for me to work on, explain everything thoroughly, and making sure I can learn something everyday.

Overall, I had a great first internship experience at UA, I was able to work and shadow almost everyone within the Landscape Department. I was able to gain technical experience as well as professional practice. Best of all, I have learned a lot from my mistakes and slowly becoming a better designer as a scholar and also as a future employee. Last but not least, I personally want to thank the upstairs crew Michael, Jackie, Knight, Tim, Michael G, and Loren for welcoming me into the exclusive upstairs club with open arms and warm smiles every morning. Until next time UACM family, take care and Ciao from Italy.

P.S. I ‘woof’ you Ace! <3

Elia Osorno
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