Students in Architecture Q+A: Rachel Aitcheson

What do students look for when approaching their Part 1 practice placement? We are celebrating our vital student team members, asking them about their experience working in the professional sector so far, which projects they are working on and the values and criteria they prioritize when applying to work at a practice.

Our fourth Q&A is with Part 1 Architectural Assistant Rachel Aitcheson. She offers her honest account of her initial inspiration, her project experience working with us so far and her work ethos and advice on contributing to a positive working environment.

 

What initially inspired you to study architecture Rachel?

To be honest I don’t really know what initially inspired me, I always loved building and creating things and so decided in primary school that I wanted to be an architect. For A-level I studied Art, Technology, Maths, and Physics and just figured that architecture would naturally be the next step.

I love the idea that through architecture its possible to help create places which can have a positive impact on individual people and communities.

 

Since starting at TODD Architects, what projects are you working on and with which team(s)? 

When I first started at TODD Architects I jumped around a number of different projects which was great to get an overview of the variety of work happening in the office. Currently I’m mainly working with Colin Gibson and Jim Mulholland on the Norwich Union House development, an office and hotel in Belfast city centre, along with a PRS scheme on Corporation Street and an office building for the RUAS (Royal Ulster Agricultural Society) – when I don’t get snatched to help with other deadlines!

 

Where do you look for your design inspiration?

I look for design inspiration everywhere- the buildings around me, historical buildings, design from other countries- looking at what works well and what doesn’t. Working in a large office means that there’s so many past and current projects here to learn from too. Pinterest is also very useful of course for design and representation inspiration, but it can be easy to get lost in it!

 

Are there any specific architects whose work has inspired you or your work?

I’m a big fan of natural, pure Scandinavian architecture, which fits so well into it’s context, that continues to be a strong reference point for me. Designers such as Alvar Aalto and Jan Gehl whose work is so clearly focused on the human scale and interaction have strongly influenced my work.

 

If you had the opportunity (and freedom of a limitless budget) to create a radical and visionary structure, what would you design, why and where?

I’m not sure exactly what I’d design, but it would have a natural feel to it, nothing too serious or clinical. I’d love to create a place that would greatly benefit many people, be that in use, it’s location or simply by bringing people together. It would be a playful building which could be enjoyed by all ages.

 

What are the biggest challenges and the most rewarding elements of your work so far?

The biggest challenge I’ve found coming from university, students have such a limited understanding of the scope of knowledge that an architect needs to have. There are so many aspects which need to be considered, even from very early design stages, which I would never have thought about before, and so I’m aware that there’s always going to be more for me to learn. One of the most rewarding elements is simply seeing a design start to take shape and continuing to develop.

 

Apart from project scope and reputation, what would be on your list of priorities when choosing to work for a specific practice?

One of my top priorities would be that the practice is people- focused. This includes care for employees, clients and overall thought and consideration for the end-users of the buildings.

A strong, friendly team and a committed work ethos are also essential.

 

Are there any specialised areas / projects / sectors you would like to gain experience in?

Schools and community projects have always interested me, rather than larger scale projects, but at the moment I’m happy experiencing a variety of projects and getting an overview of different sectors.

 

Would you have any team-based beneficial activity, trip or workshop suggestions you would like to see happen?

Our recent trip to London was great, simply getting the chance to get to know people better outside of work and meeting up with our other office teams.

With summer here, I’m hoping for some fun lunchtime activities outside in the good weather.

 

What words of advice would you offer anyone starting out to study architecture today?

Be prepared to work hard. If you’re committed, you’ll get through it, even if it doesn’t seem like it at times!

Make the most of the people around you. It’s not a competition, so help each other out- you’re all in the same boat and a positive studio environment makes all the difference.

 

What’s next for you, what are your future plans?

I’m going to be taking another year out of university and work for a few more months, gaining more experience, then my plan is to travel for a while (I haven’t decided where yet!) before heading back to Queens for my Masters.

Happy New Year 2019

Happy New Year to all!

We’re starting off 2019 by celebrating some of Belfast’s most influential architecture, both old and new.

Check out Arch Daily’s Architectural Guide to Belfast  by Niall Patrick Walsh, listing twenty unmissable sites including our TODD Architects design for Titanic Belfast.

We’re honoured to be listed here as one of the cities’s top three ‘most influential architecture firms’.

 

 

Students in Architecture Q&A: Izak Christofides

What’s it like for students studying Architecture today?
What do students look for when approaching practice placements?

TODD Architects are celebrating our vital student team members, asking them about their experiences, personal highlights and what they essentially look for in a practice.

Our second Q&A is with Part 1 Architectural Assistant Izak. He shares his insights and experiences working in our London studio and he discusses the challenges and rewards which come with the territory, along with offering some valuable advice.

 

What initially inspired you to study architecture Izak?

What initially inspired me to study Architecture is to have the opportunity in my lifetime to change the environment we live in for the better, however cliché it may sound. I want an opportunity to design and create spaces that work better for people and allow a level of interaction with a building that isn’t often seen.

 

Since starting at TODD Architects, what projects are you working on and with which team(s)? 

Since starting at TODD Architects, I have been based in the London office with two projects in the Greater London area. The first is in Waltham Cross and is focusing on adding a residential block above an existing multi-storey car park. The second is a Hotel Tower project on Edgware Road.

 

Where do you look for your design inspiration?

For design inspiration I look everywhere, especially when I’m walking around in the city. I also get a lot of inspiration through my social media with apps like Pinterest and Instagram, allowing me to see things from all over the world right in my hand.

 

Are there any specific architects whose work has inspired you?

There are a couple of Architects who have inspired me. The first is Peter Zumthor and they way that he uses people and context as a big driver in his design. For him the use of the senses is important in what people see, hear and feel – allowing him to design a feeling of a building, not just an aesthetic. Another set of Architects that have inspired me are Fabrizio Barozzi and Alberto Veiga. I admire the way in which they use delicate tones and texture to create inviting spaces that are comfortable and almost feel natural. It’s these spaces where people enjoy spending time.

 

If you had the opportunity (and freedom of a limitless budget) to create a radical and visionary structure, what would you design, why and where?

Well, the future seems to be in skyscrapers with space at a premium, so I would design something tall, but I feel where similar structures lack today is in creating a space that feels natural and not so clinical. I’d design something that had to the way people interacted with the space at the forefront along with the way it grows into its environment close behind. As to where I would design, it would be London without a doubt. It’s where I have been raised and so it’s a place I enjoy spending time in and am very comfortable in.

 

What are the biggest challenges and the most rewarding elements of your work so far?

So far, my biggest challenge has been starting to understand just how big the knowledge base of an Architect must be even from tiny little things to very important ones e.g. railing heights, hand rail circumferences, fire safety, flood risks and the list goes on…

The most rewarding element has to be coming up with a solution to a problem, sometimes it is simple and sometimes it takes day but it’s always gratifying.

 

Apart from project scope and reputation, what would be high up on your list of priorities when choosing to work for a specific practice?

The social aspect for me is important as I like to think I am quite a social person! I also think that getting a good work/life balance is important as getting it wrong can really affect you both mentally and physically if you overwork yourself.

 

Are there any specialized areas or sectors you would like to gain experience in?

I’ve always been fixated on huge civil projects, things like stadia and airports so being on a project with one of those would be ideal.

 

Would you have any team-based activity, trip or workshop suggestions you would like to see happen?

Nothing comes to mind that we aren’t already doing. I personally would enjoy something like a big sports day… I’m not sure how keen any others would be though!

 

What words of advice would you offer anyone starting out to study architecture today?

Be very, very determined and keep at it. Sometimes studying Architecture is amazing and sometimes it’s awful when you haven’t eaten or slept for a day…

Just be sure it’s what you want to do before committing wholly and make sure to look after yourself.

A bad crit is NOT the end of the world!

 

What’s next for you, what are your future plans?

After I finish my year out I intend to continue to a Masters, whether that be in Belfast or London – I am not sure yet. Post accreditation I plan to work somewhere which allows me to grow a fantastic knowledge base and then go off into the world and design with thought.

 

Students in Architecture Q&A: Adam Moore

What’s it like for students studying Architecture today?
What do students look for when approaching practice placements?

As University terms start back in September, TODD Architects are celebrating our vital student team members, asking about the challenges and highlights and how we rate as a practice- from their perspective. Our first Q&A is with Part 1 Architectural Assistant Adam Moore. He shares his insights and experiences, his inspirations, dream projects, and how he looks forward to the next stepping stone of his career.

 

What inspired you to study architecture Adam?

I’ve always been interested in the built environment and how it affects people. Throughout school I was pushed towards engineering professions with architecture being a risky option following the financial crisis in 2008. However, I’m glad I persevered and it’s great to see the industry doing well.

What projects are you currently working on? 

I’m currently working on The Gate in Sheffield – a large student housing development. I have previously worked on Royal Wharf in London. I have also worked on a number of exciting local projects.

What are the biggest challenges and the most rewarding elements of your work to date?

Beside all the rewarding design work, I suppose the biggest challenge would be working in a much larger design team with external consultants. This is not something that I would have been exposed to in university, and with the scale of the projects I have been working on I can see that coordination/QA is key for their success, so it has been rewarding to watch projects develop on site as planned.

Are there any specific architects that you would like to point out whose work has inspired you or your work?

Carmody Groarke and David Chipperfield Architects have inspired a lot of my work. As for a specific architect I would say Erik L’Heuruex would be my biggest influence. He works a lot in warmer climates and puts a lot of thought into façade depth, detailing and its veiling quality as a boundary between public and private.

If you had the opportunity (and freedom of a limitless budget!) to create a radical and visionary structure what would you design and where?

A large Crystal Palace-like structure built from recycled waste. The limitless budget would go into research into reusing waste in the built environment. The structure would stand as a representation of the struggles of our times and our ability to overcome them. It would become a large public garden and exhibition/event space with the ability to change function if required.

Apart from project work and client and colleague relationships, its important to have a supportive practice team culture and this can sway students to work for certain practices. Would this be your experience, and would you agree with this?

Part 1 is the first introduction for most students to the industry and practice of architecture in a professional setting, so I agree that it is critical to have a supportive practice team culture in place. I have been lucky to be able to work within a supportive, challenging and exciting practice with talented and passionate individuals that have allowed me to develop my ability in a multitude of architectural skills.

Reflecting on your time at TODD Architects, you got involved and contributed greatly with the Working Groups initiative (voluntary groups who organise events and activities), instigating the TED Talks series, which the team eagerly appreciated and attended! Was this something you enjoyed?

Yes, it was great being part of the working groups – it was a great way to get a break from work and meet people around the office I hadn’t worked with. I really enjoyed organising the TED Talks as it was great to use this platform to spread ideas and learn about the exciting discoveries and inventions happening globally throughout the office.

Did your time at TODD Architects fulfil your ambitions for the role and was it what you expected?

I’ve been in TODD Architects for nearly two years now leaving in September to return to university. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into a Part 1 placement but in retrospect it has exceeded any ambitions I had imagined.

What’s next, what are your future plans?

My immediate plan is to return to Queen’s University to begin MArch at the end of September. I look forward to going back to the explorative university studio environment. I hope to complete Part 3 shortly after University. After that who knows!

What words of advice would you offer anyone wishing to study architecture today?

I suppose to ignore the negative stigma around studying architecture – if you are passionate about it – go for it! (maybe I’ve not been in the industry long enough). Another word of advice would be to express your ideas as much as possible. An idea evolves when open to collaboration.