Training to become an architect is a long but exciting process. We talk to our Purcell architect Louise Priestman and our architectural assistant and University of Kent tutor Matt Orme to discover helpful hints to become a brilliant qualified architect.

Tutor recommendations

1. Work collaboratively

In architecture school we mostly work on individual projects, relying on a tutor or critics feedback to develop the design. However, your peers are a great conduit of ideas. Set up a small group to discuss projects with people who are going through the same process as you to develop your design or essay. This is great preparation for working in an architectural studio.

2. Context is key

Good architecture responds to the area in which it is situated, it creates a dialogue with the surrounding built environment, climate and landscape. What's often missing is a response to the historic context of a place. Scratch the surface of the site and the history comes to the top. Understanding the history of a site is a great way of influencing the design of contemporary architecture ranging from form to materiality.

3. Think with your hands

Model making is not only a communication tool for the final design. Models are a fantastic design tool to quickly test ideas in 3D. They allow for quick volumetric studies of a design, using materials such as foamboard, card, pins and tape they can be a rapid way of exploring ideas.

4. Inspiration from outside of architecture

Inspiration for developing projects can be taken from all areas. Art can influence a project in ways such as understanding how to represent your ideas. Film theory can have an influence on architectural theory and how we understand spatial design.

5. Understand ‘isms’

Architectural history and theory are key to understanding how architectural styles evolved, however, beyond that understanding the context and history of the time reveals why the ‘ism’ developed often as a response to socio-economic, political and technological issues and events at the time. This understanding can allow one to see how the architecture of the current time is developing and to what issues they are responding to. 

Architect recommendations

6. Grunt work

It's easy as a Part I to start at a practice and to think you’ll be designing a grand design by the end of your first year, but architecture has a variety of tasks which need doing and these often mean doing CAD work, printing, binding – all the fun stuff! Try not to be put off, we all had to start somewhere.

7. Make the most of it

You might think holding a tape measure whilst you are on site, or endlessly hatching is a bit tedious, but try to look at the bigger picture; take the time to ask questions and be curious about the project as a whole. Go the extra mile and try to take ownership of whatever you do. Your managers will see this and will be a stepping stone to more responsibility.

8. Treat Uni deadlines like work deadlines

There are always people to see and things to do which will put you off writing your PEDR’s or finishing off your career evaluation (or any Part II/ III work). Time management is essential to becoming an architect, so if you can show to your tutors, managers and even yourself that your university work is your priority, they will see this. It’s also a pretty good feeling to have finished your log books whilst your peers have 3 or 4 to write, as well as their case studies because they didn’t do them at the time!

9. If you don’t ask, you don’t get

I’ve been in the position when I was too nervous to ask questions or state my opinion in case it was perceived to be wrong, because I was young and a student. However some really good advice was given to me early on that if you don’t ask, you will never know. If there is something you really want to get involved in or don’t understand then ask! Use your Part II and III as evidence for areas that your PEDRs are highlighting experience that you are lacking or need. If you don’t get an answer the first time, keep asking! Purcell is here to support you and will encourage your development.

10. It’s OK to make mistakes

We’ve all made mistakes, and over our careers we will make plenty more, its how you deal with them that matters. For example, you’ve completed a drawing and you realise what you drew won't work, say the head height isn’t right. First thing to do is DON’T PANIC. As they say at NASA you have to ‘work the problem’, come up with an alternative solution, find a way to make it work if you can. Then be honest, and as early as you can talk to your manager, explain the problem and the potential solution. You will gain a lot of respect by confronting difficulties early on and peers will have faith in that even if you’ve got something wrong, you’ll do your best to get it right.

With these helpful hints in mind, we wish the best of luck becoming a brilliant architect.

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