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December 2012

Architecture : David Pow

Architecture was introduced to me at a young age by my father during an extension project on our home. I found it fascinating that the scale drawing on the coffee table was becoming something real and tangible. Interest unwavering, the words you should become an Architect gave way to the realization that a love of Lego, k-nex, the Sims, drawing and building could actually materialize into a career in something I love. As trivial as childhood interest may seem in the academic and professional realms, this is the greatest head start as far as your path of qualifications is concerned. Knowing your interests and your goal allows you to strategically pick your route to higher education and avoid studying Journalism just because you did ok in English! If you are creative and inquisitive with a passion for Architecture, do not hesitate to set your sights on a career in the most exciting and rewarding profession imaginable. Applying to a school of Architecture requires much more than good grades. Carefully selecting your courses at college is the key to getting on the course. I attended Luton Sixth Form and studied Art, Graphics, GIS, Geography and Physics. Beginning college, I imagined that acing Physics would be my best bet for getting myself into University. This was absolutely incorrect. There is a huge difference between studying Architecture and being a professional Architect. All of the universities I visited stressed that on top of your A-level qualifications (respectable schools requiring at least ABB) a creative portfolio was the way in. This made Art the most valuable subject that I chose. Luton Sixth Form offer an unendorsed (non-specific) Art A-level, which leaves the student free to choose anything from fine art, to Architecture. Needless to say this is a golden opportunity and can act both as a foundation year in Architecture to explore your real interests and also form your portfolio as you go along. Physics was not even next in the hierarchy of importance. Geography came in a close second, with an outstanding teacher known lovingly to most as Scraggs (I cant even remember her real name) who assured me on the open day that we would not be making toy volcanoes, but looking in detail at human geography, social impacts of development, infrastructure, and a huge focus on all things eco. Everything we learnt could be closely linked to Architecture. Understanding the physical, social and even political environment you are designing within is equally as vital as being able to draw. During high school and College I was presented with invaluable opportunities to bolster my application. In high school, I entered a local design competition which was heavily based around Architecture. Alongside my school work I got

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to enter the world of 3D design (Google sketch-up - good starting point but it is very important to move on to real design software such as AutoCAD/ Vectorworks/ Rhino/ Microstation as soon as possible knowing one of these before you start university will be absolutely priceless). In college I was given the chance to work at an Architects Practice in Camden called HTA for two weeks over the summer. This was an incredible learning process. Now, not only did I have the artistic brain to begin the course, I had an understanding of the inner workings of a professional climate before I had even finished it. These opportunities seemed to fall into my lap, but in hindsight there was probably hundreds of placements and competitions that I could have actively applied for had I been looking. I strongly recommend looking into placements and competitions for skill development and a great CV. So with a good set of A-levels, a knowledge of the world and an artistic flare demonstrated through your portfolio, you are ready choose your preferred schools. By the end of college you will have visited a good handful of Universities on your maybe list. There are some very good websites with ranking tables to create your maybe list from, but be careful to look at columns such as student satisfaction and employability scores on a few different tables, not just what the Guardian thinks of each one overall. A factor in my maybe list was the location. I really wanted to go to University in or around London. What better place to study Architecture than the capital city? And only an hour away from home too. This is down to the individual though, some might prefer to study somewhere far away for a new experience, or the facilities may be far superior elsewhere. It is all well and good applying to the big shots: Cambridge, Oxford, Manchester, UCL, Sheffield, the AA (to name a few), but question why. Did you visit the campus and really like the student halls? Did the Dean of the School seem motivational and enthused? Are there fantastic printers and critique rooms? Or do they simply have a good reputation and are notoriously difficult to get into. The best thing about attending a school with a sparkling reputation is the employability prospects. But that is only one factor. I chose University of Greenwich because it had the most impressive library I had ever seen. Rows and rows of books on Architecture and regularly updated journals. The open day staff werent pushy or fake, the halls were more reasonably priced than most of London, and there was a gym in the middle of the halls. Moving to university has to be about your whole life, not just the time you spend in the studio. Listening to the open day presentations about the ethos of the course, and reading the course specification in the open day book is crucial. If the school directorate are interested in completely different aspects of Architecture to you, question how rewarding the next 3 years are going to be if you are designing to their standards. As far as Greenwich is concerned, I joined at a very turbulent time, with staff upheavals and changing grade boundaries. This was unlucky and could not have been preempted, but with a brand new school with state-of-the-art facilities being finished in 2014, and a pool of staff headhunted from The Bartlett (at UCL the best Architecture school in London) and RIBA award winning practices such as Wilkinson Eyre Associates, I would now

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recommend joining University of Greenwich School of Architecture and Construction to anybody. IMPORTANT Make sure the schools you apply to run RIBA approved courses. Waste of time otherwise! Beginning life as an Architecture student was exciting and new. I have learnt some vital lessons along the way which I would have loved to have known when I started: You do not attend an Architecture class. You attend a tutorial. Do not expect to be spoon fed an AutoCAD manual. Some students love to hand draw, some love to computer model, some love to create physical models. You will be expected to find your own way of working which is productive and successful. If we were all taught one method of production, there would be no variance or individuality. Do what you do best! Under absolutely no circumstances let your tutor take over your project. The moment you start taking their feedback and suggestions as gospel, you lose confidence in your own convictions. Interpret your brief in a way that excites you, sell your ideas loudly and confidently and fight your own corner. If you beautifully present and believe in your own ideas then everyone else has to. Never take your eye off the ball it doesnt matter if you have managed to scrape success in years gone by. Architecture tutors are ruthlessly blunt and honest, and can see through your work. If you are not producing, you will not succeed. In the same breath, quickly learn to take criticism. At a crit (critique) you will present your work to a panel and answer their questions afterwards. At most schools there are two main crits in a year (Christmas and finals). To begin with, these will seem daunting, but over time your presentation skills will come on massively. A remedy to the above point, and the most recent and enlightening lesson I have learnt make Architecture your hobby, not your chore. As a child/teenager, you would prefer drawing or Lego to your Maths homework. Dont let Architecture become the Maths homework, let it be the drawing and the making that it was intended to be. Imagination is key if in doubt, just start acting like a child again. Once you are excited and engrossed in your work, nothing will halt your success.

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