Congratulations…….you are now an Architect
After at least seven years of study and gathering experience, three of our recently qualified architects reflect on how and why they came to join the profession and look forward to taking the next steps along their career path.
Emily Harper, Tom Barker, Victoria Slater……..RIBA
HOW DOES THE REALITY OF PRACTICING ARCHITECTURE MATCH YOUR EARLIER EXPECTATIONS?
E: I’d always thought of architects as problem solvers, but in the context of the brief being the problem and the design being the solution, in practice we deal with so much more; managing teams, organising information, unexpected issues that crop up on site etc. It all feeds in to the larger design solution but its just the route that university does not wholly prepare you for.
T: I am not sure I had ever stopped to consider what my expectations were for when I finally became an Architect. At A-S:L I had been given such a good opportunity in my position as a Part 2 Architectural Assistant that I did not believe my day to day job would change much. What has stuck out since qualifying and even after 4 months of being qualified is being able to call myself an ‘Architect’ after all the years of being an ‘almost architect’!
ANY ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE ARCHITECTS?
T: Make sure you are driven. It is a long and tough course, not necessarily academically, but in terms of the workload required from you.
V: If you are about to start Part 1; be prepared to find the first few years a steep learning curve in university, it takes time to develop the wide range of skills and confidence required to deliver good designs as well as visual and verbal presentations. Reviews are not fun, but keep working at them; they really do prepare you for the real world of interviews and presentations. Regarding Part 3; do not put it off! Whilst the more experience you have in practice improves the depth of your case study and understanding of Part 3 issues, you are not expected to know everything, it’s about how you research and apply professional knowledge.
E: Don’t leave the Part 3 coursework and PEDR sheets to the last minute. It is important to find a work-work and a coursework balance. Ask for help; you are more than likely surrounded by a wealth of experience; use it, but be critical, being able to think about things critically and objectively will help in both practice and in qualifying.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE ARCHITECTURE? WHAT DROVE YOU?
E: Art. I’ve always loved the arts and could not imagine a career without doing something creative. I just want to create beautiful things. It may sound superficial but it comes from a good place, I promise! Even though there is no evolutionary reason why humans create art, music, dance, theatre or strive for beauty; it all increases happiness and well-being. We spend approximately 80% of our lives in and around buildings, I want to be a part of creating space to either facilitate the arts or spaces that can achieve the same effect in and of itself. Preferably both.
T: I chose Architecture when I was very young. I grew up on the outskirts of London and used to see 30 St Mary Axe (‘The Gherkin’) by Foster + Partners being built when we used to travel into the city. One day I apparently said: ‘ Mummy, I want to build something like that one day’. My fascination with architecture was never lost after that, as I developed I found myself more and more challenged by aiming to be sustainable and studying the impact architecture has on our communities and environment. These became the two main drivers towards me pursuing a career in Architecture and a passion for bettering the built environment.
V: My interest was rather unromantically sparked by the result of a computer algorithm career test in school! Quite simply a result of my aptitude and passion for science and art, was this alien profession of ‘architecture’. I was intrigued what this actually was, I had a vague notion but was not really aware of what an architect did let alone how you could become one. A selection of history of architecture books promptly arrived for me at Christmas and I became hooked!
WHAT HAVE BEEN THE MOST CHALLENGING/ MOST SATISFYING/ MOST ENJOYABLE MOMENTS?
E: I love that we have the opportunity to see things that not many other people get to; this year I visited a storage facility for one of the UK’s major museums and spent a couple of hours exploring only a fraction of their hundreds of thousands of artefacts and I have had similar opportunities on the V&A Collections and Research Centre project, all in the name of work! It’s really exciting being part of a project that could potentially expose more people to the wealth of culture that is currently stored away.
V: My most satisfying moment so far was attending the opening ceremony for the Aberdare Campus project, the speeches from the college staff and video showing their previous campus really demonstrated how much of a positive impact the new building has on the college community. This is reflected in an increase in both pupil numbers and retention in the year since the project was handed over, it’s rewarding to know the project is actively improving opportunities and education for people in the area. I started working on the project at my first day at A-S:L and continued to be a key member of the project team all the way through to completion, so seeing the building develop and come to life over two years was a great experience.
HOW HAS YOUR PART 2 EXPERIENCE ENABLED YOU TO QUALIFY AND DEVELOP AS AN ARCHITECT?
T: Since starting at A-S:L just over two years ago I have had a great amount of exposure to projects and the full scope of the role of an Architect! I am unsure I would have been able to get this opportunity at any other practice through discussions with my peers. A-S:L have been alert to my capabilities and have allowed me to take responsibility whilst still providing support as and when required.
V: I was very lucky to be one of the recipients of the RIBA Wren Insurance Scholarship in 2014 which meant that I received mentoring by A-S:L during my Thesis project with Phil and Adam in the Liverpool studio. Since joining the Cardiff studio I have worked on a variety of projects in different sectors, with a large amount of design freedom and exposure to project running to develop my skill set further for the Part 3 exam. I am also being further supported to develop my passion and special interest in social housing projects which has been growing in volume in our Cardiff studio since I joined.
E: A-S:L have been very receptive to my personal interests and very supportive of my desire to focus on Arts and Culture projects during Part 2 experience. It makes sense for the business too; having staff that love what they are doing must be good for productivity!
WHAT’S NEXT? HOW WILL YOU CONTINUE TO DEVELOP IN AND OUT OF THE STUDIO, AND WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO DOING NOW IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
V: I will be looking forward to continue developing my interests in community regeneration schemes with more responsibility in both helping to win and lead projects. Beyond that; reading journals, books, attending events, conferences and exhibitions to keep up to date with the latest thoughts and research in practice, art, design and construction. It is also important to keep aware of the trends and news stories within society as a whole, developing my passion for ambitious social housing projects for example includes keeping up to date on political issues which can help inform brief requirements and ultimately the design and delivery of projects.
T: Now I am fully qualified I do not want to stop here, there is still so much more to learn. I want to continue to be passionate about Architecture, I want to continue to seek motivation and learning experiences through architecturally focused activities such as talks on buildings and ethos as well as articles on new technologies and possibilities. Aside from this I have been enjoying being able to focus back on Sport with running, rugby and football. I would like to spend my evenings completing triathlons but some serious work needs to be done on my swimming ability before I ever attempt to compete in one!
E: Outside of the office I have a lot of the world left to see; I was fortunate enough to go travelling before I started university, but still have so many sights to check off the bucket list. There’s so much beauty and creativity in the world and I want to experience as much as I can. So using all my holiday days for long weekends in European cities seems like a good start! I’m sure it can only benefit me in practice…