Master of Architecture student Mackenzie Peachey is about to embark on an experience of a lifetime after receiving a paid internship to work with international architect Renzo Piano in Genoa, Italy.

Ms Peachey will spend six months at Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW) – the firm behind some of the world’s most famous buildings, including The Shard skyscraper in London and the New Whitney Museum in New York.

UNSW Sydney is the only Australian university to be offered a Renzo Piano Foundation internship, which covers flights, accommodation, living expenses and salary. The Pritzker Prize-winning architect himself established the non-profit foundation to promote architecture through study and research.

The guiding principle of the internship is learning by doing, helping emerging architects bridge the gap between theory and practice. All interns participate in every phase of architectural projects, from design and experimentation to site visits.

Ms Peachey says the internship is the culmination of her six-year journey at UNSW and something she has dreamed about for a long time.

“Another student at the time, Sasha Lesuik, was completing the Renzo Piano Building Workshop internship in 2019 and delivered a digital presentation about her experience, and I remember sitting there just being in awe, and I couldn’t stop talking about it with my parents on our way home,” Ms Peachey says. “Jump to five years later, and I am lucky enough have this incredible opportunity... it’s very surreal.”

Ms Peachey is familiar with Piano’s body of work, having studied the architect’s philosophy throughout her time at UNSW, and is looking forward to working closely with the architect.

“I’m extremely excited to be working with Renzo,” Ms Peachey says. “His building workshop is world-class, so it’s incredible that I’ll be able to live there for six months and see inside his imagination and experience the environment of his office.”

Ms Peachey says she is inspired by Piano’s ability to integrate architecture so thoughtfully into the local environment.

“Looking back over the last six years of my studies, Renzo has become one of my main inspirations,” Ms Peachey says. “I have a deep interest in designing environmentally responsible and sustainable buildings, which aligns with his body of work.”

Professor Philip Oldfield, Head of School at UNSW’s School of Built Environment, says the internship is a one-of-a-kind learning opportunity that Ms Peachey will carry well into her future career.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for Mackenzie to work at one of the world’s most prestigious architecture firms and recognition of the incredible talent she’s displayed throughout her architecture and interior architecture degrees at UNSW,” Prof. Oldfield says. “That she is the third student from UNSW to be offered an internship at Renzo Piano Building Workshop is also a great credit to our educators who are passionate about providing students a global architectural education.”

Ms Peachey’s passion for architecture was nurtured from an early age – her mum and dad being her biggest supporters. Some of her fondest childhood memories were inspired by buildings. 

“My Dad is in the construction industry, so I grew up visiting job sites with him, and I remember being invited to grand opening nights at the end of projects,” Ms Peachey says. “Seeing the fulfillment it gave him was a major inspiration for me pursuing architecture.”

Ms Peachey completed the Bachelor of Interior Architecture (Honours) before applying for the Bachelor of Architectural Studies pathway, graduating with both degrees in just one additional year before returning to pursue a Master of Architecture.

“I started with interior architecture at first and loved it, and then graduated feeling like there was even more to learn,” Ms Peachey says. “So, I decided to study for the Bachelor of Architectural Studies and fell in love with it even more.”

“I was lucky enough to get a job in Surry Hills at an architecture and interiors firm called Akin Atelier, where I’ve been working for the last two years. I give recognition to the Akin team, especially Kelvin Ho and Amayah Harvey for their ongoing support and guidance.”

“Working for Akin was always the goal – their work and values have always inspired me.”

For Ms Peachey, it will also be her first time in Italy, and she couldn’t be more excited.

“I am looking forward to living like a local and embracing the Italian lifestyle,” Ms Peachey says. “I’m excited for the culture, food, getting lost in the city’s rich history and experiencing some of the places we’ve been studying over the last six years.”

After completing the internship, Ms Peachey will spend the second half of the year in Venice on exchange as part of her Master of Architecture.

“I look forward to meeting an incredible group of people, forming lifelong friendships and experiencing some incredible architecture,” Ms Peachey says.