NYC 2016: Visiting local planners pt.2

WSP – Parsons Brinckerhoff visit

Our second chance to meet local planners was at my current (and Laura’s former) employer, WSP – Parsons Brinckerhoff’s local office in NYC. The NYC office’s history has its background in Parsons Brinckerhoff, which was founded in NYC in 1884 and merged with WSP group in 2014. PB has a long history of projects in NYC, as one of their early projects was NYC’s original IRT subway line which was opened in 1904. So we got a chance to visit a company whose designs we had also experienced as users during our trip.

newport_bridge.jpgWe crossed the Newport Bridge, which is designed by Parsons Brinckerhoff.

We had a casual meeting where we exchanged ideas about current urban planning and design topics in Finland and in the US and our approaches on design.  The contexts and scales vary of course, but a lot of the issues behind our assignments are the same at the moment. We both have projects dealing with freeway removal, transit oriented design, walkability and street transformations. These are of course global trends, so it is not that big of a surprise. But since this was a meeting between two units within the same company, we didn’t have to market ourselves.We could also talk about our daily practice and the difficulties in it openly. And surprisingly, a lot of the everyday challenges were so similar as well!

Besides the projects, the meeting was of course about cultural exchange within a global company. When you give or see presentations abroad it is not only interesting to see what is presented, but also how it is presented. We dare to say that we are at least decent presenters by Finnish standards, but we realized there’s a lot to be learned from the way US professionals present their work. They present even the every-day projects with such a confidence that many times you would expect to see something really groundbreaking, yet you don’t get the feeling of exaggeration.  I think it just shows that they take the project seriously and do it with pride. There is something endearing in our way of being (too) humble in Finland when we talk about our work, but a pinch of self-confidence wouldn’t hurt.

WSP-PB in NYC has a great midtown location which offered us a peak into the daily office life in those busy quarters. After seeing their work environment, we also got an invitation to see their after-work environment in a nearby restaurant. While the atmosphere in the initial meeting was already laid back and welcoming, it was also nice to see the ties loosen up a bit and get to know the people a bit more.

-Tomi & Laura

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