Laura Broderick the education advisor at the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (Cabe) gives her thoughts on studying architecture.
Even though I did a degree in architecture, I was never fully sure about becoming an architect. I’d simply got to sixth form level and realised that the course would combine a lot of subjects I’d enjoyed – notably art, science and history. I also liked the idea of doing a degree that was studio based, rather than involving mostly lectures. I felt that would lead to sharing of ideas, as well as an opportunity to be creative and to get involved in a lot of teamwork, which it did. When I started the degree, I realised I was in the minority – most people wanted to go on and become architects, but I didn’t mind.
I enjoyed the degree, although it was harder work than I’d expected. I was also surprised by the level of criticism I was exposed to. You have to constantly present your ideas and you get some very harsh feedback. It’s a reality check, but I learned a lot from it.
My interest in the social side of architecture, rather than the design side, remained strong and after graduating in 2002 and working in South Korea teaching English, a job came up with an architectural charity in Newcastle, where I’m from. It involved exploring how young people learn about architecture and doing workshops with them.
I’d worked in schools during my degree, so I was well suited to it and it led to a job as educational officer. Three-and-a-half years later, I went to work for RIBA as a student and graduate liaison officer in their education department. That involved engaging university students and giving careers advice. Eighteen months later, I moved to the Cabe, where I’ve been education advisor for the last three months.
With hindsight, I’d say my degree had a lot of transferable skills – presentation, research, analysis and teamwork were among them. And although I haven’t done any design work since leaving university, having some visual and creative training is useful.
A lot of universities say they’re open to people doing an architecture degree even if they are not sure about becoming architects, but the reality is that you can be taken less seriously and you often have to be prepared to find your own work experience because the university contacts won’t necessarily be so useful. But it depends on the university and even in the worst case scenario, it just means being a bit more proactive and resilient. I’m certainly no less passionate about the built environment than any architect.
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