Interview with an architect



How did Part 1 and Part 2 study differ?The first part was much more creative, with life drawing classes, sculpture making, there was a bit of fashion involved - you had to make an outfit and parade down a fashion walk in front of the whole year. It was fun but hard work.

The second part is more enjoyable, and more intense. Your knowledge increases tenfold, as everyone there now knows they’re in it for the long haul, and not just tentatively seeing what career they might like to take. You have to drive yourself a lot more – there are no tutors saying ‘you have to do this, you have to do that’, they just give you a brief (often several at once) and a set of deadlines, then check on you every week or so, so you really have to be on top of it.

Do you have to have done design before you start an architecture degree?It depends, some courses are more technical based, but some are more creative, like Newcastle. But it definitely helps. If you go into architecture with no design beforehand, you’re going to struggle.

How did your Part 1 work placement develop your skills?One of the main things, I guess, is that you finally begin to know what an architect actually does. Only 10% of it is design, the other 90% of it is admin, ringing people and having meetings. If you get through that year seeing the nitty-gritty of it, then you know whether or not it is what you want to continue with.

So, what's next?After this year of practice, I have to take a two-day exam and produce a long document detailing all my architectural experience to date. Throughout your time in practice, you have to fill out logbooks every three months, detailing every hour you've spent on a project, what you've learnt and what you hope to learn in the following months.

Then from January through to September, the RIBA will start sending me through information packs which outline topics I need to understand, and suggest what I should be reading – there’s a lot to learn. When you qualify, you gain the right to call yourself an architect, so they've got to make sure that you are not only capable but an asset to the profession. 

What do you do on a day-to-day basis in your job?To be qualified, you have to see a project through from start to finish to show your competence, so I’ve just started on that. I’m redesigning the front entrances to 58 apartments on a housing estate in Manchester, which entails designing of the stairways, entrances and yards to the front.

So, I’m doing some design work on AutoCAD (a computer aided design package) at the moment. Also, as I’m in charge of this project, I have to make sure it adheres to all the regulations, so again there’s lots of meetings, lots of phone calls with the council and alsorts. Because I’m still an assistant, there’s still a lot of admin - I spent the whole of yesterday printing and folding drawings!

How did you find this job?At our postgraduate degree show, some directors from Manchester practices came and viewed our studio’s work with our tutor - like a private viewing - and a few of us were selected and asked to apply to certain jobs.

I did job hunt in Leeds, but there were no vacancies at any of the 127 practices I rung (that was a fun two days!) Then I got two or three ‘we recommend you apply here’ emails, so it was all fairly straightforward really.

Is that a normal thing to happen?Yeah, if you've worked hard over the two years and produced some good work, the tutor knows you’re a suitable candidate for a Part 2 position. The university is intertwined with professional practice, so a lot of jobs are got like that. I still had to have a two-hour interview though!

What do you most and least enjoy about your job?Admin is tedious – filing, printing and posting letters is pretty boring. But the best side of it is the design stage, followed by seeing your work realised on site; you see the foundations go in and you see stuff come off the ground. Also the atmosphere in the office - we have music on, we can have a chat, we do the crossword at lunch. It has an informal studio atmosphere, rather than an uptight ‘I’m sitting in an office at my desk’ one.