Did you do your BA in Architecture at Kent?
Yes, I did. I love Canterbury and the University campus and I found the School to be a very close community. So coming back for the MArch was a no-brainer really.
How was working life?
For my year out I worked in two practices – one in London and one in Brighton. Because both of them were small, I had the chance to ask the questions, and go to the meetings and cover the entire scope of things. I really enjoyed that. One of them specialised in conservation work so I worked on some historic buildings. One project we did was reworking a church so that it could incorporate community spaces.
How did you find the process of returning to your studies?
For me, my confidence has changed. I don’t know everything, but I understand how the professional world works. I have some experience and I’ve found the areas that I want to learn more about. I’ve come back with more drive, because I know where I want to be heading.
How are your studies going?
Our unit was based on a regeneration project in Stoke-on-Trent. You investigate the area yourself, so we went there and met some people. Basically there are six towns in Stoke-on-Trent, but if you ask any of the locals they’ll say there are five. One of them – Fenton – has been forgotten and my ambition was to reinvent this town – to put it back on the map.
All your modules interrelate with each other, so last year, I wrote a cultural essay about the themes in my project and for the employability module, I learnt how to do a project report – how it would it work in an architectural practice, what stages you go through. It’s really helpful because you’re very focused on doing your design project – and it’s nice that your other work is related to that.
What have been your favourite parts of the programme?
Obviously, design is my one of my favourite things: it’s what I love doing and why I chose architecture as a career path. For another one of my modules, I’ve been teaching first year undergraduates and I’ve really enjoyed that too. There is a lot of personal satisfaction in seeing a student doing well and enjoying the course. You see the relationship from the other side.
Have you taken part in any extra-curricular activities?
Through the School I was able to get a fellowship at the Architecture Biennale in Venice. Last summer, I was given a scholarship to go there for a month with eight other students. I worked in the British Pavilion, talking people through the concept of the display, and wrote a research paper for the British Council. I felt very lucky to be involved in that.
What about the relationship between students and tutors?
Having a good relationship with your tutors is very important, especially when you’re taking a creative degree. You put your heart into your work, so having a good rapport makes it easier in the ‘crits’ – you can hear constructive criticism. If you don’t have that, then it can be a struggle. I found my tutors’ teaching style to be really good; they were quite tough on you but the crits were always constructive – you were given reasons for everything.
And your fellow students?
Kent is very welcoming place. It’s an open studio so you can talk to everyone. And within the ‘units’ 4th and 5th year students work together, so you meet people who are in the year above and below you. That’s really nice. You walk round the School saying ‘hello’ to everyone. I really enjoy that.
What are the main differences in studying at undergraduate and postgraduate level?
It’s a lot more self-directed at postgraduate level. You’re choosing what your own project will be for the year and it’s tough because there are all these things you like and are interested in. You need to choose something with a strong narrative, that can fulfil the needs of the RIBA as well as keep your interest for a year.
What are the resources like?
There are a lot of digital resources; for instance we have a new crit space – a high-tech presentation room with touchscreens and so on. And there are still the resources to create physical presentations if you want to – making models and so on. But to be honest, the best resource that the School has is its staff. The tutors here are excellent.
What are your career plans?
My friends who graduated last year are all working in architectural practices now; some of them had jobs within weeks of their final crits. I’d like to work in a practice in Brighton and long-term I’d really like to do some teaching in an architectural school.
Any advice you’d give to people coming to Kent?
Work hard and play hard! If you’ve come back from working in practice and you’ve been used to a normal working day, then keep that up! It’s so easy to become a nocturnal creature.