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What is it like to work here?

Back in 2019, Allister mentored two third-year students from Oxford Brookes as part of RIBA’s Student Mentoring scheme. The aim of the scheme is to help undergraduates transition from architectural education into professional placements. Both students impressed us with their enthusiasm and curiosity.

After graduation, we invited Mair to join the team for her first year of professional practice. As there can be considerable shifts in working methodologies we thought it would be interesting to let Mair reflect on her placement so far …

“Since graduating from architecture as a part of the Oxford Brookes class of Covid-19, I have been lucky enough to progress onto the next stage of my professional architectural qualification, which means working as an Architectural Assistant in practice. Once I had moved out of Oxford and into a house nearby, I started work with Allister Godfrey Architects in Wantage.

During my university career, I designed projects of different scales, from train stations and a civic healthcare building to a pop-up homeless shelter and playgrounds. Towards the end of my degree, I had a greater focus on nature. My dissertation studied how natural atmospheres have previously been and could be, incorporated into buildings through installation art and buildings that acted as frameworks for natural scenes. This heavily influenced my third-year project and made me question how a natural calming environment could be created using natural elements in the centre of the concrete jungle that is Milton Keynes. During the first three months, I learnt a huge amount about the realities of practice and the process and responsibilities of an architect. This highlighted the rigorous process of every project. The reality is different to university, there is a more practical level of dialogue in practice, such as planning and budget. Enforcing these parameters within a design brings a new level of sophistication to the scheme and challenges creativity. To maintain excitement within the proposal, ideas must be multifaceted and flexible to work around Planning and Building Regulations; this kind of creative problem solving is stimulating.

Mair’s first ‘live’ design project

I have been involved in multiple projects at different stages from the very beginning of my time here, for which I am very grateful. On my first day, I was drawing and modelling using software that was new to me, challenging my existing knowledge in a practical way. After a few days, we surveyed a property which meant meeting the client for the first time and experiencing the site first hand. This helped when drawing up the survey and I have been lucky enough to do the design work for the remodelling and extension work. One of the biggest challenges is learning the endless options for construction methods and why they are chosen for each specific project. I find it fascinating seeing 2D drawings becoming liveable structures on-site, and the developments between stages. This has accelerated my learning and understanding hugely, as well as developing my design process in a practical way.

Mair’s concept images for a live project

During my second month, I was responsible for comprehensive drawings at a more advanced level, including my own designs. As well as adapting my representation skills to communicate different information through drawings. I was pleased to be able to submit my first planning application during October, which was a satisfying moment after having drawn an interesting scheme which I presented to the client with sketches and visuals of the proposal. November was taken over by lockdown 2.0, which meant adapting to working from home, and proved to be more challenging than any of us in the practice anticipated. The lack of instant communication one gets used to in an office took some getting used to but was made easier with Google Chat and Zoom calls, where sharing screen was the easiest way to communicate something visually.

Mair’s exploded axonometric drawing of a live project,
submitted as part of a planning application

I look forward to developing more exciting projects throughout 2021, and getting out to see some of the completed work we haven’t been able to see during lockdown”.

We’ve been extremely impressed with Mair’s can-do attitude during the first part of her placement and we are looking forward to getting one of her projects on-site during the year.

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