Brian Williams and Beth Wheeler have just completed their RIBA Part III qualification towards becoming an Architect. We have just interviewed them both about their journey this far.
You can read more about Brian’s experience below and Beth will be talking about her journey in the Spring when both our “Part III’s” will have registered with the ARB and will officially become Architects…..
Brian, can you recall what first sparked your interest in becoming an Architect?
I don’t think there was any standout moment that sparked my interest in Architecture but instead a variety of interests and influences which have consolidated over time. I do think these interests and influences started at an early age; helping my dad with DIY, drawing over his A0 CAD drawings from work – as well as the cliched love of Lego and Meccano!
I wanted to become an Architect since primary school but my perception of what that means has definitely changed over time.
Becoming an Architect is a real commitment……How would you describe the journey?
Definitely challenging. A massive commitment. The hours I put in were much more than I expected. Initially a lot of “All-nighters” and a lot of stress. It’s been such a learning process in itself.. You learn how to manage time better and work efficiently.
I joined Quattro after completing my Part I at Plymouth University (and have spent all my working career here since). Working at Quattro and keeping a routine helped me when I went back to uni for Part II- I was more organised – but also more confident and this enabled me to engage more within studio. Self-development really….learning to plan ahead was key……
What support have you had along the way?
My tutors of course offered great support through uni but the programme was quite “artsy” and conceptual – which was great in allowing freedom to explore new designs but I was really lacking technical knowledge when exposed to working in practice. This was my main struggle initially and Quattro have been brilliant in enabling me to learn how to translate my concepts into real, technically strong designs. My day-to-day mentor at Quattro spent a lot of time with me. He would use a trace overlay on my drawings as a correction tool, taking time to explain the reasons behind corrections – and his patience and willingness to make time for these sessions definitely supported me in my learning.
Mike Court, Quattro’s Director of Education Architecture has also been my PEDR Mentor all the way through – he was great and mentored me closely throughout the 4+ years – we had a good chat every 3 months – 2-hour conversations much of the time! Alongside the technical learning and foundation, these conversations helped me to realise and express my strong interest in Design. Quattro also financed my Part III – a massive help.
Any tips to our Part I and II who are currently on that journey?
Don’t be overly influenced by what other students are doing; create your own style. When I first started uni I was very aware that my sketching wasn’t as good as others and I felt put down. I only grew in to myself when I was brave enough to develop my own style. I explored Photoshop, model making and other artistic platforms and developed a hybrid style using different mediums to express design ideas. I’ve continued to do this this here at Quattro; initially within “The Design Party” and more recently in project bids and feasibilities… sessions. We were asked by Mike to produce a design for a theatre in Gloucester and I used my hybrid design technique to convey my concept – it was received really well. I’m currently supporting one of our Part 1 students in the evening – I’ve shared with him my own experience on first starting uni and I’m encouraging him to create his own way of conveying design concepts via software workshops and mini ‘design reviews’.
What aspects of your work do you most enjoy?
Part of the reason I was drawn to architecture is the variety of work; beyond the technical and conceptual aspects already mentioned I’ve recently been given more opportunity to experience Leading projects (under shadow from my mentor). This gives a great sense of project involvement and exposure to new aspects, new people and it’s rewarding to be handed greater responsibility. The more experienced and qualified I’ve become, the more responsibility I’ve been given. I have to give Quattro credit in recognising my needs and providing opportunities when appropriate….
Asides the client brief…what is it that informs and drives your design?
There are of course so many influences beyond the initial brief but if I was to pick one key driver that stands out at the moment it would be Sustainability. Several of my colleagues have completed the Passivhaus Accredited course and I’d like to do that. The climate agenda is such a big issue in the world, and Architects need to play their role in promoting positive change. I’m willing to study further to learn more about how I can help do my bit…
If I asked you to name two of your favourite Architectural structures/buildings what would they be (and Why)?
Prior to Architecture school I would have definitely answered with an iconic building such as the Gherkin or the Shard but my perception and interests in architecture has definitely shifted over time…I am now more interested in comparatively ‘small’ ad-hoc projects which seem much more responsive to local needs than stylistic skyscrapers – although the variety within the field further contributes to its appeal.
I would by no means turn down an opportunity to work on the next Olympic Stadium! – but my reasons are much more considered; I have learnt what good design can offer rather than just how impressive it can look.
Any particular Quattro Designs that you admire?
One that stands out to me but unfortunately never went ahead was Beaufort Lab we didn’t win the bid…. but I thought the design was really effective and it’s a shame it was never built.
The Chamwell Centre is another. I worked with the Healthcare team at early design stage where we assessed real community needs to ensure our design was responsive …I remember one of our CPD sessions at the time, on accessible design, which highlighted the importance of seemingly ‘minor’ design considerations and how they can enhance the day-to-day user experience …
Another is Christ Church Primary School. I’m currently leading the Design Team meetings with clients, consultants and contractors. I got gifted wine from the builder at Christmas…..that was great!
You will register and be “allowed” to call yourself an Architect later in the Spring, what will be your aspirations for the future?
To positively influence places within our built environment – to know that my designs have positively impacted an individual’s life or a community…it’s so important…
Getting positive feedback from the end users and hearing how our designs have helped improve their day to day experience, however small is always rewarding and motivating …
Coursework graphics copyright Brian Williams.