Left in 1978
Current occupation: Architect
What might you do in a typical day of work?
I am UK director of a practice originally founded and still headquartered in Hong Kong. I have a small team in London but work with many more colleagues in China, Hong Kong and elsewhere in the world, and prior to COVID 19 would visit SE Asia maybe three or four times a and year.
A typical day at the moment involves Zoom calls with colleagues around the world, but I'm lucky in that I still get to draw and sketch, and I'm generally involved in the early stages of very large projects (new bits of a city really), imagining what they could be like.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The variety of work, the opportunity to plan my own time, the opportunity to get to know a diverse array of different kinds of places and people.
What experience and qualifications do you need to do your job, and do you have advice for current students looking to go into your sector?
You do not necessarily have to be academically brilliant to be a good architect. Nor do you need to be good at Maths, which is what some people think, although I took A-Levels in Maths, Physics and Art. I then studied Architecture at The Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London where much later I taught for twelve years.
Currently the usual route to becoming an architect (increasingly there are alternative options) is to do a three-year university degree in Architecture, which technically gives you exemption from the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architecture) Part I exam, followed by a year in practice as a RIBA Part I student. You would then follow that with a two-year post-graduate diploma or similar at the same or a different university, which would give you exemption from the RIBA Part II exam. This is followed by a further year in practice, as a Part II student, during which you will also attend a few evening lectures leading towards your Part III final exam, which is primarily about building contracts, practice administration and legal matters. If you pass your Part III (most do), you can then register with the Architects Registration Board of the UK and call yourself an architect. So seven years in total. It sounds a lot, but for two of those years you are working. And it will change your life.
What challenges have you faced in your career so far, and how have you overcome them
Recessions hit construction on a regular basis, and this always hits the profession hard. But this often leads to interesting changes of direction. I ended up living and working in Hong Kong for five years as a result of the early nineties recession – and I wouldn’t have the job I do now if I hadn’t. Next goal? We are currently entering a competition to rethink the design of small train stations in the UK.
What is one piece of advice you would give to current students?
If you enjoy making and creating, and are interested in how things are made, and have a natural curiosity to explore new places and to understand why they are as they are, then architecture may be for you. Don’t be put off by the length of the course. A Part I Architecture Degree is also a great starting point for many other design-related careers.
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