Course: Graduate Diploma in Architecture
A lot of students come out of university with the artistic flair, poetic and philosophical side of architecture but if you’re going to convince an engineer and your contractors to buy into your design, you have to be able to focus on the detail of how the space functions, how people will use it and crucially the construction aspects of it.
I joined Plymouth University in 1997 for the RIBA Architecture course, having looked at a number of universities. The appeal of the architecture campus at the former Hoe Centre at Plymouth as well as the wish to experience life away from home in London, made it easy for me to make this choice. I have fond memories of my teachers, who provided me with the support and the guidance I needed – and this reinforced to me the feeling that I had made the right decision.
By the time that I graduated from RIBA Part 1 (BA Hons) of my degree, I knew that I definitely wanted to be an architect. I took a year out and went to work for my first practice, a company called Hamilton Associates in London. The experience and knowledge I gained here was invaluable. I also picked up essential project management skills that were key to succeeding in a work place environment.
I returned to Plymouth University in 2000 for the RIBA Part 2 programme – Graduate Diploma in Architecture and PG Dip in Landscape and Design. With the experience from Hamiltons, I had a clear vision and direction on how my studies should drive my career. I wasn’t just interested in designing buildings; I wanted to design space – frankly I was quite obsessed by the way architects carve out and modulate space and this continues to be my biggest influence even today. Each of the events that can happen in spaces can uplift and clarify or pull down and confuse. Hence architects have to do a good job here. The programme taught me that architecture is not limited to protection from environmental factors and an aesthetic design. It was important to interpret things that happen inside spaces. A lot of students come out of university with the artistic flair, poetic and philosophical side of architecture but if you’re going to convince an engineer and your contractors to buy into your design, you have to be able to focus on the detail of how the space functions, how people will use it and crucially the construction aspects of it.
After graduating from Plymouth in 2003, I went on to do my RIBA Part 3 at Brighton University whilst continuing to work. I was fortunate to work for handful of firms, each one provided me with a unique insight and perspective. I was leading projects valued at over £100 million when the recession hit the construction industry hard and my career progression slowed. I decided I wanted to be in control of my own career and development and became self-employed. A whole new world was presented to me. It was challenging but I learned about managing clients, networking, building a reputation through word of mouth and marketing.
Two years ago, I joined Boyes Rees, and I am really enjoying myself here, a great place to work at. I am the lead designer and Associate, it’s great to have that level of trust and responsibility. It’s a relatively small to medium size practice, but that means I get involved in all significant projects – and of course there is also the pressure to deliver. And when I was briefed to design the tallest building in Plymouth – a 22-storey student accommodation tower, I was very pleased, especially when they said to me 'This is yours; run with it.'. It’s a project that is close to my heart and the one that I am most proud of - it has brought me full circle.
Plymouth is a great place, a great environment to study. When I look back and think that I’d only been in the country for five years when I started my degree. I really did learn lots of life skills that set me up for my career. Making choices, and standing by those choices, is something that is really important in my profession.
Inspired by this story?
For more information about studying architecture, please visit our MArch Architecture, BA (Hons) Architecture and BSc (Hons) Architectural Engineering pages. For more information about courses within the School of Art, Design and Architecture, visit the school page.
Want to find similar alumni?
Find out what other alumni from the school are currently doing - visit the architecture, design, building and construction interest area.