ARCHITECTURAL APPRENTICESHIPS

Photo credit - Architects Journal

Photo credit - Architects Journal

This article was written in response to this Architects Journal piece about the introduction of 'new' architectural apprenticeships in London.

Architectural Apprenticeships are not a new concept. This is exactly how I achieved Part I and Part II and I couldn't encourage it more. Learning on the job has given me such an advantage in the world of architecture.

If you imagine the regular route, of one year Part I experience before back to study Part II, I had five years office experience followed by two years travel, construction and life experience before back into part-time Part II studies, again combining another two years in the office while studying Part II.

So two years after Part II where most students would have three years total office experience - I have over ten years office experience and more than a few years of physical construction experience and project management.

This was my path. I chose it. But it was NOT widely advertised or discussed as viable options within the architectural communities in the U.K. There was only one school of architecture in Scotland that I could apply part-time, the Glasgow School of Art which wouldn't have been my university of choice, and I studied my Part II at The Centre for Alternative Technology, The Graduate School of the Environment, which wasn't a RIBA approved course at that time.

Financially you can support yourself. There are no huge debts incurred, or students exclusively from well off backgrounds as the norm. And let's remember that the original architects learned from their Master Builder. An Architect would have an apprentice and they would teach them everything they know, the architects assistant, was how information and knowledge used to be passed down. 

If there are more apprenticeship options now being offered I'd say the industry might finally be changing for the better!! I'm delighted to read this and encourage everyone to go for it. If you have any questions regarding my experiences, I'd be more than happy to answer them.

I also made a short video - back in the day - about working full-time and studying part-time you can watch it here. Please note that the Architects Map did not take off, and that blog is extremely out-of-date. But I do cover the finer points of why it is good to study part-time.

VW VAN INTERIORS

VW VAN INTERIORS

Custom made and bespoke working desk for the inside of a VW converted van. Even has it's own light box! Every architecture student's dream! All the hinges and sliding mechanisms were custom designed and made by Geoffrey Finnimore.

Read More

DESIGN, BUILD, ARCHITECTURE

img_4529.jpg

I thought I'd update the blog to reflect where I am now and what I'm doing with design, building and architecture. For those of you who read the 'What's a Part Two to do?' blog, where I questioned how I was expected to reach Part II without any financial help, you'll be pleased to hear that my appeal was successful, and I was granted half the money by SAAS towards the Part II Professional Diploma in Architecture course at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales. I am halfway through the course now and enjoying it tremendously. I've had several opportunities to build things, enjoyed a couple of group design projects and have learnt an awful amount of information about the wider context of sustainability and adaptation in the built environment. Learning about the various political, environmental and societal subjects in conjunction with the design and architecture is and will continue to be vital to my understanding of architecture within the built environment. I can use the course to test ideas, not necessarily strictly to do with structure, design and construction of buildings but across a wide variety of related subjects. The implementation of all of this knowledge starts in June with our final major project that gives us a chance to produce our own brief and architectural solution to explore our ideas in finer detail.

Some of my models and sketches :

The course itself is one residential week every month for eighteen months - September through to the following January. We share with our fellow students, two to a room and we have our own bar, studio areas, outdoor classrooms, sauna and wealth of nature on our doorsteps. With our familiar routines and intensely packed weeks, there is definitely a fine line on where to call home, CAT or our 'real lives'. There is a real community and love for all who attend the course, our tutors and the staff and volunteers at CAT and the wider community. We've found our little tribe and it feels wonderful.

In addition to being able to attend CAT, the 'What's a Part Two to do?' blog also led to an opportunity to work for Orkidstudio, an architectural charity with projects across Africa, to Project Manage the build of a new school for girls in Sierra Leone. I spent four months there in 2014 from February to June and unfortunately had to return to the UK due to Ebola. Happy to report that the crisis is stabilising and would love to get back out there to finish the building, you can read about our progress on the Orkidstudio website here : Swawou Project

I also had the chance to get involved with Tog Studio summer of 2014, and took part in their summer build, which was an extension of the boathouse in Tiree. Happy to be heading back to Tiree for the month of August this summer to work with the directors of Tog Studio on various other projects and on site construction with a local contractor.

During my time away from CAT I have been working for DENHAM / BENN as a consultant, really enjoying designing on a daily basis, and being part of a growing architectural practice. Lots of opportunities to push the boundaries of design and collaborate with interesting clients and consultants.

So, lots on my plate with grand plans for the year, culminating in my final architectural student project and hopefully a Part II and Professional Diploma in Architecture. The connections I'm making and the experiences I'm gathering are shaping me to be the kind of architect that I could only dream of, and I love being a part of making my dreams come true.

HEMPCRETE Vs STRAW BALE CONSTRUCTION

HEMPCRETE Vs STRAW BALE CONSTRUCTION

"The two materials I intend to compare and contrast are hempcrete and straw bale construction; two easy to use building materials that could be sourced locally and built with volunteer labour, reducing both material and labour costs. I will compare them on their affordability, buildability, thermal and structural qualities and carbon sequestration ability.

Read More

INFOGRAPHIC

INFOGRAPHIC

"A lot of statistical information and percentages which provided me with the opportunity to design an infographic. I've always wanted to try one and this presented the perfect opportunity; a way of clearly and effectively communicating a wealth of information in a presentable and visually stimulating graphic.

Read More

WHAT'S A PART TWO TO DO?

14141524_10153850693053803_969176319193951259_n.jpg

Having worked full time for five years in conjunction with studying part time towards my undergraduate BArch Part 1 at Glasgow School of Art, After graduation I took a year out with well earned savings to travel a little, explore the world and most importantly volunteer and join in design and construction projects so that I could gain some valuable experience working with materials and doing the job of builders on site. The year out led me to some excellent people, projects and ideas of what I want to do with my life and career. Sustainable living became a large part of the volunteer way of life, and vegetarianism, community meals and permaculture food production became more and more important to me. It got me thinking, is there some way I can combine permaculture, food production and sustainable living with sustainable, off grid, well built and efficient buildings? Why live in an energy efficient building but still shop at Asda? Why shop and grow your own food, but your living situation drains you of gas and electricity?

I stumbled across the Centre for Alternative Technology in Mid Wales, where I was delighted to find they had a course for prospective Part 2 architecture students; a postgraduate Diploma in Architecture in Advanced Environmental and Energy Studies. Fantastic!! I applied straight away, the only Part 2 course I intended on applying to, and was invited for an interview. On my interview day I was blown away by the place, definitely for me. I couldn't stop telling everyone about it, and now that I've started it's by far the best place for me to be. A chance to explore my ideas through 18 months of full time education, attending one week every month. I can apply for a Part 2 at the end of the process and this is one step further towards my goal of becoming a fully qualified architect.

So what's the problem I hear you cry? Well there are 12,750 of them. That's £12,750 tuition fees that I cannot seem to obtain from any source!

As I am a Scottish student I cannot apply for a student loan through SAAS (Student Awards Agency for Scotland) because I funded my undergraduate part time by myself so don't qualify as a 'continuing student' which is the usual method of part 2 architectural graduates getting funding for their postgraduate degree.

As I have travelled for a year, and not worked, and now have a job which is a ten week placement and not considered full time, my credit rating is poor and the bank won't grant me a Career Development Loan.

As this is not a RIBA certified course, I do not qualify for any funding from RIBAs many sources.

I have already enrolled on my course. I have thrown myself in head over heels, love everything that it stands for, started a new volunteer side project within the CAT community and have the resources there that I need to explore my future endeavours. I want to create healthier, sustainable efficient lifestyles for people.

I am working full time in the three weeks in between the week long intense attendance required at CAT and am being funding for ten weeks on this work placement by a GoWales campaign.

So dear lovely people out there, do you or your company fancy sponsoring an enthusiastic architecture student in a predicament? Small or large, any donations are going to help me on my way!

You can tweet or email me if you are interested in helping, or have any further information that could help my situation. All suggestions welcome!

EDIT : I reapplied for SAAS funding and moved back to Scotland. I was awarded the tuition fees in loan from the Student Loans Company. Still not ideal and I have to pay it all back - but it provided me with enough loan to actually do the course!

FURTHER EDUCATION

1490.jpg

Is it just me or does anyone else feel a nagging sense of guilt whenever they're studying in further education? Living in Scotland our course fees are covered by SAAS the Students Awards Agency for Scotland. Each child is offered one undergraduate course funded for by the Scottish government. Sounds like a dream for many of you who studied elsewhere and have had to fork out a fortune for pricey course fees each year?

Because of this opportunity of 'free' studying we were all just expected to attend further education; if you had the right grades then why would you not gain a degree and further your prospects in life right? Careers guidance teachers are presented with the tough job of trying to steer teenagers into making a decision that could affect their career paths. Not once did anyone suggest to myself or so called 'brighter' peers that we would flourish in an apprenticeship or any sort of 'unacademic' course. That was just for the kids whose grades weren't up to scratch.

As a result of this socially accepted path my parents saved a sum of money that would cover my rent at uni, and I would find a job and save during the summer months to provide my everyday expenses.

After the first year, I realised with remorse that the course I had chosen was not for me. I searched for opportunities within the industry for work experience during the summer months and couldn't find anything. On further research I found out that there was only one job a year in my chosen field and I was on one of three brand new courses in Scotland churning out 60 students each a year. For one job? The odds were not in my favour.

I started searching for another career path to follow, and my mum suggested an apprenticeship in architecture. Architecture was something I'd be good at and had an interest in, but it was the idea of an apprenticeship that struck me most. Having dabbled in self reliance and providing for myself for two years the thought of earning a salary and supporting myself working and studying was ideal. Working on the job and learning the theory at the same time made sense to me. Practical and hands on.

In terms of studying, course fees and living expenses, I felt a huge sigh of relief. I wasn't going to be using my parents money any more and would be able to provide myself with independence, a flat, a car and a comfortable lifestyle. The practice I worked for helped with my course fees which were a lot lower than full-time fees, and I had my salary to cover any material and book expenses required by the course.

Having now graduated and received my BArch I face the decision of where to study next. I have to gain a Diploma of Architecture before sitting a final exam to become a qualified architect. Once again I find myself worrying about money and opportunities. If I take out a loan for fees and living expenses then I have to ensure I can land a job when finished to pay off the loan. We can't progress much in this chosen career without achieving the next qualification and with that comes a huge commitment.

Whether you rely on your parents, your other half, an inheritance or the banks to help you, does anyone else just feel this continual sense of guilt? All because we have to be academically qualified to do the job. What happened to the good old days when an architect took an apprentice under their wing and taught them everything they knew eh?

Bring back apprenticeships. Mine was great.

THE THINGS I DO FOR ARCHITECTURE

While on a roadtrip around the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica, myself and friends stopped at Playa Guiones to take in the splendour of the white sand, blue skies and makeshift palm tree shelters. From where we entered the beach, halfway along I noticed an unusual building popping up from the trees at the other end.

I hadn't a clue what it was, perhaps a lighthouse? It was pretty colourful and an unusual shape. I was very intrigued. It didn't look like we could get to it from the beach we were on, but as we were heading north along the beaches I figured that perhaps we could see it from the other side at the next stop.

When we reached the next beach, it was beautiful, lovely fishing boats and rocky areas, and there poking out from the tops of the trees was the building. Someone suggested it might be an observatory judging by the circular balcony we could make out.

I decided to climb up to get a better picture, there was a 45 degree incline from the beach up to the building and the remnants of a pathway. Scratching my knees and ankles I made it up, but there was no fence. The more I explored the more obvious it became that this building was abandoned and no longer in use.

As I made my way up the estate to a ginormous swimming pool and outhouse, I started to get excited about the prospect of this building being abandoned. I could see things hanging upstairs and a couple of items that suggested someone was living there, but it was definitely no longer in use as a hotel or whatever it was.

20121018-115757.jpg

spot the german shepherd…

I cautiously made my way up the open steps of what appeared to be a restaurant, when my heart did a little flutter - there was a German Shepard dog, asleep under a fusball table. I backed up, amazed it hadn't woken up as I was so close and made my way back to the swimming pool and up the other side of the swimming pool area. I figured this was safe enough as I was far away from the house and any potential inhabitants.

At the other side I found myself at the end of a well maintained lawn, with a view of the whole building tower. It was unfinished in places but still absolutely stunning. Behind me were rows of cabinãs presumably rented out back in the day, with access to the restaurant and pool within the bigger building. I cautiously peeked out to take photos in case there were people inside and then turned and made my way down the steps heading back to the pool and the way I'd came.

This is when my heart jumped. I heard dogs barking. Dogs plural, not just one. They were coming from the house so I prayed with luck that one of the others had come up looking for me, and the dogs were barking at them from the front. But no. Within thirty seconds before I even had time to think, four dogs came shooting along the maintained lawn, whizzed passed me and started down the line of cabinãs. Even at this point as my heart jumped I thought maybe, just maybe they'll run right past me and continue looking for some other imposter. But alas. They stopped right next to me on the parallel path, turned and growled. In the split seconds between them jumping over to me, I wondered whether I should run. Fight or flight right? My heart was pounding. All I thought was, "Don't snap at me, don't snap, please don't snap...but at least I have my rabies shot!!"

So it turns out I'm a fight, not flight. Running? Are you kidding me, that would have been far more terrifying, with them snapping at my heels, and a 45 degree angle slope down to the beach. No. Logic prevailed and with a series of "ssh"-ing and rotating so that none of them would snap, I proceeded with caution towards the lawn, hoping beyond hope that there were in fact people within the building.

Fortunately there were two men, up in the building and looking out over the lawn, they shouted at the dogs and I stumbled up the lawn, hand on my heart and managing to repeat the word sorry in Spanish over and over. I explained that I was an architectural student and the man didn't seem too fazed. He motioned for me to come in, or that it was ok, and I headed back down to where I'd come up. However instead of climbing down to the beach I decided I'd walk along the driveway to the road and back to the car park before getting the others. I was shaking and my heart was still going nineteen to the dozen. The sounds of the dogs barking kept me alert and eventually I found a path to the beach just as the others came up looking for me.

They said they'd heard dogs barking and one of them had actually made the joke of "that'll be Kirsty being eaten by the guard dogs then!" I told them what had happened and I headed straight for the car for some water and a chocolate snack. I was in shock.

After twenty minutes or so of talking to a local guy, (and me getting my heart rate back to normal) we left the beach, and I drove up the exit. As we reached the entrance to the hotel, we drove up and someone got out to go ask the men if we could come in and see the building and take pictures. They had better Spanish than the rest of us!

There was a brief moment where we heard the dogs barking and saw our friend running towards the car, which was quite entertaining, but the guys called out to her and we drove up to the front of the house. They locked the dogs in a room, there were seven or eight in total, and allowed us to look around.

The local guy we'd been talking to on the beach told us that it was designed by John Fraser eighty something years ago, as a hotel and restaurant but that his (the local) family who own the beach front location got the area turned into a national reserve beach and that halted construction so John Fraser was no longer allowed to do anything with it. I think the current owner can live in it as a residence but can't renovate or build or use it as a hotel. The recent earthquake caused damage to the tower so I'm not sure if they are allowed to even fix that.

It's an absolutely gorgeous building, almost made better as it's abandoned. The downstairs area that I saw coming up from the beach apparently hosts a whole building underneath the swimming pool according to the local.

It was an absolute gem of a building, and it's a shame we couldn't get up to the tower, but what we saw was definitely worth being chased by a pack of dogs!

It's just one of the things that I do for architecture.