It goes without saying that the journey as an architecture student is fairly extensive, however the oscillation between university and professional environments keep the student alert and inquisitive throughout the process. This toing and froing between two separate disciplines (university and work) gives the student a strong balance of architectural principles – but should universities offer more insight into the real life profession the student has signed up for? I am a part I architectural assistant at WR-AP and am approaching two years of working within the team. I’m keen to share my part I experience and the transition between education and practice to offer another ‘thing to go by’ to students at a similar stage of their journey.
Architecture schools celebrate their involvement within art and design, and so they should; however upon starting work within the industry I became aware of the wider realm of architecture, one that deals with the honest pragmatics of a building. Of course the first three years of training to be an architect are primarily about learning the basic principles of architecture; including architectural theory, history and representation, however are we missing out on an opportunity to learn about other core values of architecture during our university education? Looking back, I wasn’t completely aware of what to expect as a part 1 architectural assistant, my aim was to grasp the internal functions of a practice, whilst at the same time, contribute to the studio environment with the skill set obtained from my previous studies.
From my experience, working within a small up-and-coming practice, allowed me to absorb a rich taste of the profession ahead of me, giving me insights into the role of an architect rather than solely the role of a part I architect. Before anything else, I was shown the documentation processes of digital information behind each project. I soon became aware of the extent of information that supports the work, and the importance of organising so much digital content. Even though we all still do it occasionally, saving to the ‘desktop’, could almost be sackable offence.
The preferences of CAD and editing software differs from practice to practice, as well as each individual. Having come from a university where we were advised to use a certain CAD software, I was keen to gain an understanding of a new software package through my working experience. Through drawing up 2d drawings and 3d models, I became up to speed with the current drawing techniques within the studio. By asking questions and taking notes from the answers, things became more and more clear, so if you have a question, just ask!
Personally, I enjoyed working between physical model making, sketching and BIM. I was shown the powers of virtually drawing the project on a computer during the design process. Other than undertaking site visits, BIM gave me further insights into how buildings are actually put together, another thing that is only touched upon whilst at university.
Once I had a sound base set of knowledge from the internal mechanics of the studio, I was keen to show my skills and allow my colleagues to understand the ways in which I work and how these can contribute to the wider team. I have always been interested in architecture for its creative setting, and this always reminds me that each member of a practice is creative in their individual way, whether they are new to architecture or extremely experienced. I soon became aware that architects are always willing to learn. The processes and evolution of architecture is in constant change, therefore it is impossible for any architect to be familiar with it all. By being willing to learn, as well as have the confidence to teach others, you can begin to understand your own stance within architecture and the experience becomes more enjoyable and fluid, resulting in more interesting conversations and consequently, better architecture.
Like many part 1 architects, I was introduced to the procedures of how work is obtained and subsequently the stages that follow early conversations between client and architect. I became involved in projects that came about through a wide variety of ways, whether it was through word-of-mouth or a winning competition, each project has its own individual story. My role was spread across a wide variety of projects at different scales and at different stages of design, and within a few months I had experienced site visits, submitted my first planning application, completed a competition entry, engaged with meetings and prepared a full set of tender drawings. Undertaking 2 years of working gave me a full experience of what it is like to work in an architectural studio and although the part 1 architect is not classed as a student; it is crucial to retain the student mindset of absorbing the information thrown at you.
The experience as a part 1 architect is extremely enjoyable and the knowledge concerning real architectural situations is very valuable. Whether or not students should be exposed to similar experiences during their preliminary studies; I believe that learning different things and experiencing different ways of working to university education is somewhat refreshing. Following this experience the student should be ready to hit the ground running when returning back to university for their part 2 journey and keep interested throughout each stage of the process!
Blog by Oli Reynolds - WR-AP - Part 1 Architects Assistant