Information gathering allows for informed decision making
Architecture is a big decision. It is said that it does not become just a vocation but a way of life. It is seemingly impossible to separate the two, work and life, and for some that will be something that they can deal with, even crave. But for others, this may be too much and can cause them to burn out and lose their love for architecture.
Before taking a small step into the world of architecture by applying to study at a school of architecture, I decided to scope out the field first. To do this, I decided to find myself some work experience in an architecture firm and using the information I yearned from this experience, I will be able to make a far more informed decision, rather than just looking at the pages of a prospectus.
This is something that I recommend to anyone who is thinking of studying architecture at university or through an apprenticeship. Trying to secure a work placement at any architectural firm will offer yourself an insight into what it is like to be an architect. I have found it very hard to gain a sense of what this felt like through reading a blog post, reading a book or watching a YouTube video. This initial step will save surprises further down the line when you are more committed to the cause.
Good networking is key in today’s highly competitive world.
This initial step is of course sometimes the hardest thing when trying to seek out a work placement. It can be daunting trying to open a conversation with people you don’t know but it is important to know that every architectural professional you speak to was in your position at one time and will be able to relate to what you are going through. Of course, you may be rejected, but do not take this personally. It is more likely to be because they are unable to facilitate you at that time or they have too much work on. But you will never know if you do not ask, there is no harm in making that initial correspondence. These conversations that you begin to have all start your network that is so important going forward in the profession. Good networking and the maintenance of relationships can pay dividends in the future; this could be in the form of a job interview or collaborative purposes.
My personal experiences
I thought I would mention some of my initial experiences in the architectural world so that you can understand what can be possible.
I first approached a local firm in Ramsgate, Kent called del Renzio & del Renzio. After coming in for an initial conversation with the firm partner I was lucky to be invited in for one day every other week for a year as well as working during some school holidays. During this time I experienced how a small scale architectural firm worked and learnt physical model making skills, as well as being introduced to certain software packages. This particular experience was pivotal to my decision to apply to study architecture at university. The professionals within the firm also gave me support in my portfolio creation as well as offering advice on a whole host of subjects.
One thing that did cause me stress during the first few weeks working here was the tea order. Trying to remember 6-8 different tea orders and what mug matched up with what person, whilst I was still mixing up people’s names, was a recipe for disaster. After a few embarrassing mistakes, I adopted a post-it note method where I would jot down the tea order and stick it onto the mug. Problem solved! It does get easier over time so don’t worry too much.
I also secured a week-long work placement at a large scale architectural firm in London, HTA Design. This was invaluable as I was able to see how a larger firm differed from a smaller firm. During this week I worked with a host of individuals on a social housing project and was able to understand some of the processes required to push a project along. Within this time I worked with 3D printing and modelling software to create a scale model for the project as well as receiving useful advice and experience. It also gave me a sense of what it was like to work in the city.
These two experiences provided with the information needed to make an informed decision that architecture was the route for me. This allowed me to look forward towards my studies free of any doubt that can creep in when choices are made.
I have gone through my experiences and hopefully, you can see how this should be something to think about when working out whether architecture is a route to take. Good luck and all the best in your journey.