Graduate profile: Yeni Ope-Ewe, BA Architecture

BA (Hons) Architecture graduate Yeni Ope-Ewe gives current and prospective students an invaluable insight into life at the University of Kent and beyond. Following graduation, Yeni volunteered as an International Aid Worker, worked on some incredible projects as an Architectural Assistant at Article25 and now works at HTA Design as well as being involved with the organisation Black Female Architects.

What advice would you give to a prospective student looking to study architecture?

When pursuing architecture, it’s really easy to get ahead of yourself and bogged down with grades, qualifying and other future things that are way ahead. Remember to enjoy wherever you are at the moment. Enjoy your projects, enjoy your field trips, enjoy being creative and most importantly enjoy your sleep!

How do you feel your time at Kent prepared you for life after graduation?

Honestly, I don’t think anything prepares you for life after graduation! It’s kind of like learning to ride a bike while you’re already on it. Having said that, I think the most notable thing that my time at Kent prepared me for was the sheer amount of diverse people you will meet and collaborate with when you start working. From seeing the array of different ideas in crits, to working with architects and your tutors, even to meeting strangers on international trips  – that’s exactly what it’s like when you start working and networking. There is a LOT of collaboration, and I think Kent set me up well for that. Those group projects are not for no reason!

What was your favourite design project and why?

My favourite project at university was my dissertation project. I had opportunity to explore and research a field of my choice and I chose digital architecture and parametric design. I conducted a workshop where students explored the benefit of undergoing a generative design process. I spent my Christmas holiday laser-cutting and gluing over 300 cardboard components and by applying parametric rules, we were able to create some really cool abstract structural models with them.

After graduation, you went onto be an International Aid Worker. Could you tell us a little bit more about what this involved and why you decided to volunteer?

I always wanted to work in development, specifically in low economy regions, so when I saw the opportunity to volunteer for three months in Kenya I was eager to apply. While there, I led a design and build project with my team, where we constructed a beehive fence on a farm in order to prevent the crops being ransacked by elephants. Not only did this protect the produce, but it also added an additional source of income through honey harvesting. It was an unforgettable experience.

Could you tell us a bit more about the organisation ‘Black Female Architects’ and the importance of the work they do? What was your role?

BFA is a network and enterprise founded to increase the visibility of black and black mixed heritage women within the architectural industry and other built environment fields. As the marketing assistant, I helped to organise several social media campaigns, networking events, a live pavilion design project and I also helped to facilitate plastic recycling workshops as part of our work. You can follow us @Blackfemarc!

You also worked as an Architectural Assistant for Article25. That must’ve been an amazing opportunity – could you give a bit of insight into the kinds of projects you worked on?

Whilst at Article 25 I worked on a school and orphanage project in Tanzania, as well as a housing project in Dominica to reconstruct over 600 homes destroyed in Hurricane Maria in 2017. It was such a great experience working on international projects, and they made me really passionate about focusing my career on residential architecture, social housing and regeneration.

Congratulations on your recent job role at HTA Design. What’s a typical day in the life for you at the moment?

A typical day for me starts off with a project team catch-up. We discuss progress on our work and delegate tasks for the day. Then I’ll probably jump onto Revit or AutoCAD to do some modelling in the morning. After lunch (which is so kindly provided by the chefs at HTA), the team might have a design review or consultant meeting where we’ll present to clients, planners, or even the senior partners within the practice. If I’m really lucky, I’ll get to go out to site to see the current development on a project. It’s a really enjoyable work day!

For all our final year students, what’s the best piece of advice you give as they prepare to start their job hunt and life after university?

I would say be really open to any and all opportunities you find, even if it’s not in the traditional route of architecture. Don’t compare yourself to what “everyone else” seems to be doing, because different experiences can be so valuable for you as you build your career. Your career path may seem very straightforward on paper, but real life doesn’t happen on paper. It happens in reality, so brace yourself and enjoy the ride.

Image credit: Rebecca Dada | @rebeccaodadax

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