Architect

What do you do for a living?
 

I am an architect, and work as Consultancy Manager for Highland Council. The team are about 45 strong and work on new schools, housing, offices, and other buildings.

How did you get interested in what you do? What advice was available to you when you chose this career direction?
 

When I was at High School I had no idea that you could be an architect, or even what they did. No quality advice available from the school I attended.

My big brother is an engineer, and I had planned to follow in his footsteps as he was successful (he had a car), but he suggested that I put architect on my UCCA form as a rogue last option, advising that they make all the money and take all the credit. Not entirely true and there are far easier ways to make a stack. At university open day I was charmed by the students and their enthusiasm for the subject so decided to give it a go.

What subjects did you choose at high school - were they the right choices for your future career?
 

English , Maths, Physics, Chemistry, French at Higher, Geography and Arithmetic at standard. Back in my day good grades in these 'difficult' subjects showed you were clever enough for further education, but the subjects were not so relevant.

What was your journey to reach the role you are in today? (talk perhaps about education/choices/university, college, training or apprenticeships/ CPD or professional exams/job progression)
 

Four year Bachelor of Science degree in Architectural Study, one year Bachelor of Architecture, two years of work maintaining a logbook to allow sitting professional exams to become a chartered architect.

Even after seven year so of training I was still a novice, and worked as part of teams on larger projects until I was able and confident to lead a big project on my own. As my career progressed, I took on more responsibility, leading teams on multiple projects, and I now lead multiple teams. I have been lucky as I have been able to work abroad during my career, mainly due to membership of Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) which is very useful.

Talk me through a day in your life... what sorts of things would it involve?
 

Today!! Check emails to see what has been going on in the last few days, respond to challenges arising.

Reviewed designs for a new Gaelic Primary School in Fort William with the project architect, and sketched out development options. The design is coming along well with a very strong central idea which we and our client really like, but we need to be careful with costs.

Reviewed engineer drawings for a Museum Store building to be sure the project is properly coordinated.

Met with management team to discuss content for a forthcoming Team Day which will be an opportunity for all of our staff, who are spread out over a wide geography, to meet and celebrate the work we are doing.

Met with IT team to discuss progress on installation and configuration of major contracts database upgrade.

Was it your planned career when you were 18?
 

I had no grand plan when I was at school. At 18 I was already at University and had the architecture bug. I had no plan or idea then how life may unfold.

What did your mum and dad want you to do?
 

Their big idea was stick in at school, get good grades, and go to university and things would take care of themselves after that. In a sense they were absolutely right, but I have no doubt that I was extremely lucky. With no planning and little careers advice I could easily have ended up on the wrong course pursuing the wrong career... I would not have been a terrific accountant.

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?
 

Architecture is a very satisfying career. I can point at school buildings and take satisfaction that my designs have resulted in a better learning environment for coming generations of kids.

The profession is going down a route where design and technical architects are being trained, which is an acknowledgement of how the profession actually operates now. If you are artistic, the design route will allow you to explore your creativity, if you are interested in how projects are run, how contracts work, and how teams work together to develop and construct designs, you may enjoy the technical side. Both are equally valued.

It is hard work, and you need to be hooked to get the most out of it, and out of yourself. Not really a hobby career!

What other directions could you go in /work in within your field other than the job you have chosen?
 

The training offers a broad educational base, with Art and Design complemented by History, Environmental Study, Construction Science, Sociology, Computer Aided Design, etc...

There are potential avenues into development, planning, contract law, product research, politics, Interior Design, Theatre Design, among others.

Is there anything else you can tell us about your career?
 

I was asked to read two books before my course started.

History of Western Architecture by Furneaux Jordan

Modern Architecture, A Critical History by Frampton (Both Thames and Hudson if you are interested). .

The first was dull but gave a good idea of historical development. The second was about the modern era, totally compelling but hard to understand. I turned up on day one terrified.

There are cool style magazines and books on modern houses in the big bookshops.

Better to start reading early to see if the subject rocks your boat.

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