Advice to Young Architects

A small collection of videos where successful architects give their advice to the next generation.

Norman Foster:

Bjarke Ingles:

Frank Gehry:

Roger Diener:

AIA Architects share the best advice they ever got:

I hope you found these useful. If you have any other videos which follow this theme please comment below and I can add them to the post.

Great habits to develop for architecture school

Get Sketching! – Learning to draw by hand is a key skill for an architect. It is a quick and easy method of explaining ideas to both clients and other industry professionals. Since the development of computer software, we often forget what a powerful tool sketching is. Get in the habit of carrying a sketchbook with you at all times and sketch when and where you can.

Give back to your studio community – It is often easy to feel competitive with your studio peers. It is good to have a bit of competition to drive you forward but don’t forget architects work in teams. There is no harm in sharing your knowledge or expertise with your peers and no doubt they will return the favour to you. This can be extended into the profession.

Consult your peers and superiors – Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The beauty of university is that there are people there from all walks of life and at different stages of there academic or professional careers. Try talking to other year groups, your tutor and open communications with your classmates. We can learn a lot from each other.

Read – There is an abundance of material on all aspects of architecture: books, journals, magazines and blogs. Whenever you have a spare minute delve into the unknown. You will never stop learning something new. My favourite times to read are: whilst travelling, half an hour before bed and on the weekend. Don’t forget to arm yourself with a cup of tea.

Get out the studio – We all spend too much time in studio even though we come home thinking it wasn’t long enough. Don’t spend your life in front of a computer. Get out and look at and experience buildings or research in the library. It is important to have a change of scenery. You will work better if you have variety to your week.

Self Wellness – To me, this is the most important factor. Take care of yourself. Make time for your basic needs. Shower, have a good meal and get enough sleep. A lot of work goes into an architecture degree and you want to be working at your best. In my opinion there is no point slugging away at 4am producing mediocre work and then having to attend a 9am lecture you won’t absorb.

Have a life outside of studio – Give yourself time to concentrate on other things. Go the gym, go for a walk or learn to play an instrument. If you do not allow time to relax and pursue other interests you will start to hate what you are doing. Don’t make it a chore. No one likes chores.

Listen – As an introvert myself I find this habit pretty natural. Listen carefully in lectures, listen to critic and listen to your family and friends. hey can see things you can’t and it always interesting to get a different perspective.

Learn to deal with criticism well – Final crits are never fun and you rarely get one with sunshine and rainbows so don’t be disappointed if things seem to not go so well. Listen to the opinions of others and take the criticism on the chin. Remember everyone has their own style and you may just get a critic with an opposing one. It is the universities job to toughen you up a little for when you get into practise. It is daunting now but you will feel better for it in the end.

Think – Learn to think for yourself. Look carefully at the brief and approach it from many angles. Develop your own ideas. Let the design stem from the site, client, and the program specific requirements. Finally, question everything.

Be brave – It’s university, have fun and take risks. Be confident in your ideas. This is the safest time you can experiment with form and architecture. Try new ideas even if at first they seem far-fetched, you may just end up with something wonderful.

Enjoy yourself – Remember, you’re there to do something you love! Have fun with it!

Site Anaylsis – What should you be looking for?

Upon starting a new project, a site visit is one of the first steps in the design process you tackle. Conducting an analysis can be a daunting task and because these initial stages are incredibly important I have listed a few areas of focus for you to consider.

What should you be looking for?

Location – Undertake prior research of the area before visiting. Make a mental note of what areas you could focus on upon arrival. Where is the site located? How is the site approached? What is the existing land use?

History – How has the area developed over the course of time? How can your design be respectful of the existing context? What architectural movements are in the area? Are there any important parts of the sites history you want to preserve?

Geological – Geological factors will influence certain aspects of your design. It is important to have an understanding of what your building will be built on. How stable is the ground? What types of foundations would be appropriate?

Anthropological – The study of humans, past and present, with in the area is important. How is the area occupied? What are the neighbourhood relationships like? Human interactions?

Hydrologic – Analysis: Water movement, water distribution, and quality of water in the area.  Research the water resources in the area and environmental watershed sustainability. Is there any potential for rainwater collection or any need to plan for flooding?

Patterns – Can you notice any patterns such as: Street patterns, natural vs man-made, street variations etc.

Circulation – How do people move in and out of the space and through the area? Concentrate on vehicle Vs pedestrian movements, cycle routes, access to and from the site.

Orientation – The orientation of the site will prompt some design decisions. It will tell you the best way to position a building in order to optimise the natural resources such as the sun and wind. It can also indicate where certain rooms will be best positioned in the design for example: putting the kitchen in the east for morning sun.

Temperature and Sunpath – Look at the local climate and monthly average temperatures. This will indicate potential for natural lighting techniques and solar energy production.

Wind Direction – If you are to design a climatologically responsive building, careful consideration will be needed to best use the direction of the wind to create natural ventilation. This will initiate the placement & size of openings such as windows and doors.

Soil Type and Condition – From a structural point of view this is an important aspect of the site study. What will your building be built on?

Topography – By looking at the slopes and levels of the land you can produce a detailed contour map if necessary. Other areas to focus on include: Edge conditions, surfaces and materials in the area.

Vegetation & Natural Features –  Look at the trees, fauna and flora present in the area. You should indicate these on the site plan so you can refer to them during the design process. Can they be incorporated into the design? As well as the location of the vegetation it is also important to include a certain level of detail about them. For example: type, size, diameter, heights etc. This will help you easily refer back to them and make conscience decisions as to how to work with them.

Precipitation & Hydrology – During the site visit, you need to identify water sources in and around the site, for example: lakes, ponds, reservoirs, rivers etc. The scale and location of the water sources should indicate if they could be integrated into the design scheme. Also look at: rainfall in mm, precipitation, water drainage patterns, relative humidity, moisture content, the water table and the potential for rainwater collection.

Infrastructure Facilities – Make a note about services present in the location. Look for: electricity supply, water supply, waste disposal and drainage connections etc.

Surrounding Land uses and Buildings – By looking around at what exists you can determine certain elements of your design. If there is a problem with the site you can see how other buildings have tackled it. You will also need to look at how these buildings will directly affect yours. Study the noise impact, building heights, scale, hierarchy, form, public Vs private space, open space, negative and positive space and overall massing etc.

Prominent Vision Lines / Visual Links – How a building reveals itself can be extremely important. The views to and from the site can be carefully considered while designing. Are there any perspective relationships and interesting views you want to take advantage of?

Locally Available Resources – This is important if you are trying to design as sustainably as possible. What materials are available in and around the site, which can be used in the design? This will help to reduce the transportation energy & overall costs of the project.

I hope this post helps get you started with this task. Please find below a link to my Site Analysis Example Board on Pinterest for inspiration.

Useful Links: My Pinterest:

(post in progress)

Travelling for Study

Travel is a very important part of architectural education. Each year at Architecture School you will most likely be given the opportunity to undertake a study trip either in the UK or abroad. This gives you a fantastic opportunity to visit places with peers interested in architecture. You start to look at the built environment in a different way. During my part I I got the opportunity to visit: Paris, Amsterdam, Lincoln, Orvieto and Rome.

On these study trips we were taught how to analysis and record the city and also how to correctly undertake a site survey.

What to bring:

  • Camera
  • Camera charger
  • Sketchbook
  • Pencil wrap with an abundance of pens and pencils
  • Ruler
  • Tape measure
  • Map of the area
  • Tracing paper (to trace information over the map)
  • Travel Guide
  • List of places of interest

What should I be looking at?

  • Look up
  • Circulation
  • Pedestrian and transport routes
  • Massing
  • Boundaries
  • Forms
  • Symbolism
  • Main routes
  • Interesting details

Overall, when designing in an area it is important to look at the wider context. There is plenty to learn from in the abundance of cities around the world.

(post in progress)

Map Making

Mapmaking is a basic human instinct. It is how we make sense of the world around us, and has become a hugely important record in our written history. Cartography has been known to date back approximately 8000 years, before we even learnt to write and has continued to be a valuable resource.

Mapping was a prominent part of our initial context studies in architecture school. It was a process which could be displayed in both 2D and 3D forms and exercised in a range of media. Maps are incredibly useful for data visualisation which can be used for personal benefit or as a tool to communicate a sense of the area with others. These outcomes can be incredibly important and could reveal patterns you may not have noticed initially. The maps we produce today within the creative field are often conceptual, being used for installation and explanation. When thinking of producing a map there are some things you could consider:

  • Edit out what you don’t feel important or relevant
  • Think of a specific objective
  • Do you want to show complex social structures?
  • Direction
  • Symbolism
  • Micro-climates
  • Sun-paths
  • Circulation
  • Transport
  • What are you recording?
  • What Qualitative and Quantitative data do you want to show?
  • Is it a diagrammatic map?
  • Are you focusing on mapping: particular buildings, roads, landscape, materials, textures or vegetation?

After deciding on the correct approach for your map it is a good idea to make sure you have the relevant information to accompany it or if you feel the image is enough to communicate your ideas.

  • Title
  • Orientation
  • Date
  • Author
  • Legend
  • Scale
  • Index
  • Grid

The map In the reference image is a figure-ground study drawing for Vitra Firestation by Zaha Hadid.

Quantitative – Relating to, measuring, or measured by the quantity of something rather than its quality.
Qualitative – Relating to, measuring, or measured by the quality of something rather than its quantity.
Cartography – The science or practice of drawing maps.

My top 10 ways to stay involved in the profession of architecture.

As we all know finding a placement or a job in the industry doesn’t always come easily or quickly so what I have found to aid this transition are listed below:-

1. Subscribe to a weekly architecture magazine – This is an excellent way to keep up to date with upcoming projects and get a sense of what firms are currently working on. They also often advertise jobs.

2. Media – For a lazy evening treat yourself to some TV there are many programs, documentaries and online lectures that you can catch up on demand. TED is an amazing online space that offers a range lectures covering all aspects of design and technology.

3. Volunteer Opportunities – Keep an eye out for volunteering opportunities in the construction industry located close to home or somewhere you can easily afford to commute.

4. Short courses – There are many short courses that are available that are relevant to architecture. However, be aware that some of these may be expensive and can be learnt from home. Also drawing classes and other evening classes can keep you using improving your skills.

5. Give yourself a project – Setting your own small projects is a great way to target areas that you wish to improve. Sketching, diagramming, 3D modelling and concepting can be practised through these projects giving you goals and targets to work on. This is a really fun way to keep your mind active.

6. Find local lectures or RIBA events to attend – Keep an eye out for RIBA events and evening lectures. I recently attended one in Woodstock at a local museum where architects from MJP came to speak about 2 projects they had worked on in the area. This is a great way to ask questions and meet professionals as well as show you are a keen graduate.

7. Architecture competitions – Even if you don’t have the money to enter an idea I enjoy doing the competitions for my own benefits. It’s interesting to compare the work of those who have entered with your own design conclusions.

8. Visits, Day trips and Tours – Visiting museums and old buildings is a great way to learn about the buildings that already exist. Also try going for a walk around the city to see what gems you can find. Don’t forget a sketchbook and camera. Often the people around these areas share a common interest.

9. Sketch booking – Keep a sketchbook and constantly sketch buildings you see on your travels. This is a great way to practise sketch diagrams for site analysis and drawing skills. Small sketchbooks are great to take to interviews as they tell the interviewer a lot about you and show your thought processes rather then a finished project.

10. Blogging and social networking  

Blogs – Write a Blog where you can record things that interest you and start an online community you can interact with over topics. If you don’t fancy writing one there are many blogs you can follow and you can use the comment section. (I will post an entry on my favourite blogs).

LinkedIn – is a great way for potential employers to find you and you can interact and connect with other professionals in the industry. It is important to have a good profile as many companies use this site to find potential employees.

Twitter – My favourite social network is Twitter. This is a space where you don’t need to spend all day on however, are instantly updated with news from companies and projects.