APM Mentor: Na’eemah Mehta

Despite the vast array of information available to a student, there is no substitute for the wisdom gained through experience. Often the conception of a design relies on your ability to pull together intangible ideas and theories and attempt to create something substantial from them. I believe that this is where the true strength of the Academic Peer Mentoring system is demonstrated, often I find that even 20 minutes talking to my mentor yields more beneficial points of reference than a whole day searching through the internet in an attempt to find relevant information.

As a second year student I find myself more informed and aware on what to look for and how to talk about architecture, allowing sessions with my mentor to be enlightening and productive as I gain the value of an additional perspective. Likewise, I find myself able to inform and help guide my own mentees by providing my own experience and sharing knowledge with them. The process of being involved in another architects’ design process allows a flow of ideas and the chance to inform and cultivate the way we think of architectural values and principles.

Of course the importance of cooperation and a need for commitment is imperative to ensure that the sessions are productive and useful. My role as a mentor means that I need to be able to organise meetings, evaluate what will be beneficial to my mentees and keep a handle on time management, skills that I have no doubt will be beneficial to me in the future. Moreover, the ability to create an environment and conversation where my mentees feel capable to entrust me with even their most farfetched ideas and opinions is an invaluable skill that enhances my own ability to communicate with others. The creation of a space that allows such conversation is also invaluable to me as a mentee, it is much less intimidating to present ideas that you yourself aren’t sure of to a mentor before your tutor and gaining their advice on how to present it, often their encouragement helps bolster confidence in my own ideas and my own instinct as an architect.

By Na’eemah Mehta
Stage 2, BA (Hons) Architecture

APM Student Profile: Bahnnisikha Misra

As a mature international student in my first year, I was keen to accept help in any form to ease the transition into life as a student at Kent School of Architecture, and my peer mentor, a Stage 3 student was the most valuable point of contact at the time. From him I learned about the myriad resources that have since helped my design process, efficient work habits, how to make the best of the School’s workshop and IT labs, and which skills to develop to increase employability. Apart from helping me get the most out of life at University, he inspired me to tap into my creativity and be unafraid of experimenting in my projects.

Subsequently in Stages 2 and 3, I have continued to engage in the Academic Peer Mentoring Scheme, both as a mentee and a mentor. While my mentors continue to open my eyes to the world of possibilities in architecture, I have had great satisfaction in passing it on to my mentees.

Being a mentor involves time, investment and the will to expend energy on another student’s project, sometimes in the midst of one’s own tight deadlines. However, through the exchange of views and in understanding the design process of each of my mentees, I believe that I have learned as much from them as they have from me. It is exciting to be part of another designer’s progression of ideas, and to appreciate first-hand how concepts emerge and progress in somebody else’s mind.

Through the mentoring experience, I have developed the ability to critically analyse each scheme t and find creative solutions to various problems; to provide my views in a way that compels and inspires my mentees to find efficient solutions without handing them a definitive answer. I have learned to create a comfortable environment in which someone initially unfamiliar to me can feel comfortable discussing their academic uncertainties. I have also learned to communicate constructive feedback in a way that stimulates thought rather than ridicule.

Despite the Academic Peer Mentoring being a professional programme, I have been fortunate enough to form friendships that go beyond the scheme, and grown to care for my mentees on a more personal level.

I am confident that the skills I have acquired will prove valuable in my career after university and help me get the best out of life at practice.

By Bahnnisikha Misra
Stage 3, BA (Hons) Architecture

APM Student Profile: Jameela Ahmed

Having been a part of the mentoring scheme as a mentor for two years and a mentee for three, I have been able to appreciate first-hand how valuable mentoring sessions can be. These sessions, whether one-on-one or in the form of group discussions, are a great way to bounce ideas off each other outside a classroom environment and get exposed to a wider range of viewpoints and perspectives. It was very interesting for me to see through the eyes of my mentees and uncover radically different concepts and responses to the same design brief. At the same time, discovering their personal aspirations and visions for their projects led me to find different ways of expressing myself while giving advice. It pushed me to present my suggestions and opinions to them in a way that they identified with rather than sticking to one standard method of communication. I can now convey my thoughts with greater clarity, whether through sketches and drawings, in conversation or while providing explanations to questions over email.

Mentoring has affected how I view my own ideas and projects as well. Showing my previous work to the mentees has not only been a method of providing them with an overview of their upcoming project, but also an opportunity to look back at my own work. Revisiting past work at a later date has allowed me reflect more maturely on what worked and didn’t work in my projects. In helping them tackle similar difficulties, it has offered me a chance to find out which methods worked best for me and apply what I learned to my current work.

Although mentoring offers many additional advantages and opportunities for both the mentor and the mentee, at its core, I find that the scheme has always been about encouraging students to support and learn from each other as they make their way through this challenging course.

By Jameela Ahmed
Stage 3, BA (Hons) Architecture

Academic Peer Mentor Student Profile: Mary Villaluz

I was first introduced to the Academic Peer Mentoring scheme in my first year at the Kent School of Architecture, and was assigned a third year student to be my mentor. As a first year student, new to the school, my mentor helped me gain confidence in design by going through his own techniques and by talking to me about his own experiences as a student.

After learning so much from my mentor in my first year, I then decided to pass on what I had learned to the next year’s intake, so I applied to become a mentor myself. As a mentor, I would arrange to meet up with my mentees to discuss any issues and problems they would have regarding the course. The mentee-mentor relationship works well as mentors can advise and guide the lower years on their projects since they studied the modules previously.

Mentors are on hand to offer assistance throughout the entire design process from initial conception to final presentation and help with project management techniques like time management, computer program literacy and presentation techniques. Being able to explain the whole project and design to an external person not involved in the module can be very helpful to bounce ideas off and to see the project and design with a fresh set of eyes which can lead to the discovery of a flaw in their design or areas of potential improvement.

Being both a ‘mentee’ and a ‘mentor’ for the past two years has allowed me to build connections in the studio with students from years above and below, as well as enabling me to improve my own critical analysis skills which I subsequently use on my own designs to further improve them.

The mentoring program is an invaluable resource that shouldn’t be underestimated by students in all years and should be fully utilised as a resource that the Kent School of Architecture offers.

Mary Villaluz
Stage 3, BA (Hons) Architecture

PhD Seminar: Ben Tosland

Today’s PhD Seminar will be hosted by PhD student Ben Tosland entitled, ‘Regional Development: The relationship of Western designed architecture with geopolitics in the Persian Gulf, 1925 – 1990’.

The focus of this presentation will largely be on the methodologies of proving the intrinsic link between architecture and geopolitics within the years 1925-1990 in the Persian Gulf. These events have caused a development in architectural aesthetic towards a more refined ‘critically regional’ style representative of the Persian Gulf, rather than individual nation states or global hegemony as is the historiography might suggest. The presentation shall show a brief outline of the thesis depicting the overarching structure covering important projects by several globally renowned architects as well as depicting projects that are either underappreciated, under-researched or unknown. Research for this presentation carried out in libraries and archives in the United Kingdom and across Europe utilises primary material from the offices of architects and planners coupled with contemporary journal articles causing numerous methodological issues. The aim of this presentation is to tackle these issues of method and selection criteria to ensure the overall argument of the thesis is water-tight while still contributing original thought and insight to a variety of case studies.

Ben has been a PhD student and Graduate Teaching Assistant in the School of Architecture since September 2016. He has an Undergraduate degree from the University of East Anglia (UEA) in History (2014) and a Master’s degree in Conservation and Regeneration from the University of Sheffield’s School of Architecture (2015). He is a recipient of the Vice-Chancellor’s Scholarship at the University of Kent enabling him to research and study for his PhD. Ben works externally as a consultant for historic buildings, aiding planning applications and writing Conservation Area Appraisals. He is an affiliate member of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC), a member of the Twentieth Century Society and has worked with the SPAB.

Erlend C. L. Birkeland Student Profile






Full name: Erlend C. L. Birkeland
Degree subject and level: Architecture BA, undergraduate stage 1
Home country/Nationality: Norway/Norwegian

1. Can you give us a bit of background to why you chose a UK qualification (E.g. national/global reach, career prospects, skills and experience gained…)
I chose to study in the UK partly because I wanted an education that was a bit different from the Norwegian architectural courses. In that way, I am hoping to bring some other perspectives and views on the subject when I begin practising as an architect in Norway.

2. What do you find most inspiring about your degree and institution?
The most inspiring thing about my degree is the fact that we get time and space to test different ideas and develop ourselves whilst learning a lot about a wide range of topics. That is the fantastic thing about architecture: when learning it, you can’t simply learn how a wall should be built or why structures don’t fall down. You have to learn a bit about history, psychology, sociology, art, composition, physics – and at Kent School of Architecture and I feel we get the opportunity to do that.

3. How did your perception of your subject change as a result of your course and studies? (E.g. What did you think of ‘design’ before and what do you think now?)
Before I began at Kent, I thought architecture was quite a bit more technical and full of memorising details than what it actually is. Yes, you have to understand quite a bit about how a building stands up, but you will learn that naturally as the course proceeds. The hard bit is to come up with the design you like.

4. What advice would you give students hoping to apply to your degree/course?
If you choose architecture, you have to be really interested in it. This isn’t a subject you study at the university a bit each day before you go home and have the rest of the evening off. The design process will be your life, so put some effort into learning good and effective time management.

5. Is there a memory of a trip, a workshop, a course or a speech that you attended that really stands out in your memory? Why?
In December, after all the work for the first semester has been finished, the year 1 students at Kent go to Barcelona to sketch and have a great time off and become even better friends. Working in the studio is the way we mostly make friends on this course, which is fantastic. Then after all the hard work at the end of our final project, we go into the beautiful city of Barcelona together with the enthusiastic teachers and that binds us together even more. It’s a wonderful dynamic.

6. What are your ambitions for the future?
I want to become an architect developing public buildings and public spaces for others to enjoy. To create spaces where people can meet each other and create memorable moments is what I really want to do.

MA Architectural Visualisation Student Profile – Joseph Ling Chuan Sheng

What attracted you to studying at Kent?
Coming to the University of Kent was an easy decision for me as the course was exactly what I was looking for. I previously studied Architecture at undergraduate level in Malaysia but I wanted to go in a more digital direction so the MA in Architectural Visualisation was the perfect choice.

What were your first impressions of Canterbury?
Coming to the UK to study was actually my first visit here. I spent some time in London before heading to Canterbury to start my studies and have found that there is not as many distractions in Canterbury as there is in London making it a great place to study! Canterbury is only a 15 minute walk away and there are lots of nice places to eat and drink. There are a lot of transport links in the city which take you out to the coast and there is also the high speed to London.

Have you enjoyed studying at a campus university?
The Canterbury Campus is full of green spaces making it a great place to be in sunny weather. I live in Woolf College which has a good mix of students from all around the world, the accommodation is quiet, making it a good place to study. There are plenty of food outlets and bars on campus, a campus shop, doctor’s surgery and all the other facilities that you will need.

What are your plans after you have finished studying?
I plan to look for a job in London after I have finished my studies. I would like to ideally get a job in the gaming or film industry in the future.

What have you enjoyed most about the course so far?
I really enjoyed doing the ‘month project’ as it gave me the freedom to choose an area which interested me. My project focused on film animation, the film I used in my project was called Howl’s Moving Castle directed by Hayao Miyazaki. I have found the course quite demanding in terms of workload however I have learned an awful lot already. There is a nice mix of modules on the course and I have made some very good friends on the course.

Academic Peer Mentor – Matthew Bullock

Stage 5 – MArch

The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.William Arthur Ward

During my Part 1 year in industry I was shown this quote and I could immediately relate to it from throughout my education, in both a positive and negative manner. Finding, or having the luck of having, educators who go beyond the curriculum and their pay grade to truly aid in the growth of one’s education seems like a rarity. Yet as a first year student I had some of the fifth years as my design tutors, all of which I found amongst the most understanding, interesting and inspiring educators I have ever had.

From that moment I knew I wanted to teach at some point later on in my career. Mentoring whilst I was a 4th year student seemed like a great opportunity to begin this process and try to replicate what my student tutors had achieved with me.

As a mentor, I believed my role to be important in encouraging students to challenge themselves rather than conforming to the normality, experimenting with a wide variety of mediums and directing them to sources of information which I myself constantly use to develop my own work and process. Because of my own experience, I was able to share my own knowledge of similar challenges. With this openness, I believe that ‘my mentees’ felt very comfortable and relaxed discussing their projects with me. Through these discussions I was able to help them find their own way towards their final schemes, which they believed in, had confidence in, and ultimately enjoyed.

This connection with the undergraduates provided an ability to integrate myself further within the school which I really valued. Mentoring additionally provided me with a rare opportunity to develop my own critical analysis and design process, whilst also strengthening my communication skills by challenging and developing ideas through a variety of processes.

On reflection, I am very proud and impressed with all the mentees I worked with and I look forward to hearing how they are doing now they are beginning their year in professional practice or third year of studies. As long as I inspire in whatever scale, volume or manner, I shall feel like I have succeeded as a mentor.

I would thoroughly recommend becoming a mentor if you like helping others, wish to understand the benefits critical analysis can have to your own work, and also want to develop personally as a student and a mentor.

Mentee: Linda Malaeb

Being a mentee gives you the opportunity to talk to someone who has been in your position about anything regarding your architecture degree. This can be regarding anything from your modules to the way you manage your time with the considerable workload.

I found having a mentor very helpful since you have another person to talk to regarding your design projects other than your tutor. In architecture opinions are very important and hearing another opinion about your design is very useful; your mentor can give lots of advice on how to tackle certain issues with your plans and point you in the right direction.

If I was confused about my tutor’s comments from the previous tutorial, my mentor would help me understand what was really the problem in my design scheme.

It is useful to talk to a student rather than a member of staff, since it is not as formal and a mentor is there to just make you feel more comfortable with the work and the stress that architecture can give.

I found it better to manage my time this year since I used to do all my work for the tutorial for my meeting with my mentor, and then from there I would change a few things and go to the tutorial with all my work done and checked already by someone else higher up in the school.

My mentor helped also check my CV since I was looking at applying for an internship and he gave me lots of advice on how to make a portfolio. Knowing people who are higher up in the school is also important as you can learn a lot from them: my mentor always showed me his work and I went to watch his crits which helped me to have an idea of what is expected in the future regarding the quality of work and presentation.

I found having a mentor very useful in general with my architecture education and I would really recommend it to everyone.

Mentee: Miles Heath

My experience of being mentored through my 3rd year was very much a positive one. It is not only just an educational activity but a social one. Taking part in this scheme has taught me to think about design in a more mature way, helped me develop new techniques in which to communicate my ideas and urged me to deliver a much higher standard of work. This has been achieved by having the fresh and critical guidance outside of a standard tutorial. This also exposed me to a high level of master’s work and gave me an insight into the process that my mentor went through to accomplish his own design ideas. As mentioned, developing myself as a designer was not the only perk. Mentoring is a much more relaxed and informal event which becomes more of a friendly talk rather than a coordinated meeting with a tutor. I have, as a result, made friends as well as progressing myself.

MSc Architecture and the Sustainable Environment – Student Profile – Adebukola Adepeju

What attracted you to studying at Kent?
The University of Kent consistently ranks highly in the UK and its young and vibrant School of Architecture is one of the UK’s top ten.

Before taking a place on the programme, what was your previous area of study?
I studied Architecture for my first degree back home before coming to Kent.

Are you enjoying life on campus? Also, what would you recommend about the city of Canterbury to those that have never visited the area before.
I’m thankful for the campus environment- physical, academic and social. Everyone seems always ready to help. The campus is beautiful and safe and its vantage location within Canterbury makes everywhere I want to go easily accessible. Also, living in Woolf with all the facilities makes life easy. There are lots of international students here hence lots of activities from the different nationalities. It’s always good to learn a thing or two from other backgrounds.
Although Canterbury is relatively small, I love that it is such as historic city with one of the most beautiful Cathedrals in the world. I love that it is not noisy or overcrowded which perfectly suits me! It has a number of historic places like the Heritage museum and Marlowe Theatre. Movie and Film/Play enthusiasts like me can always catch the latest at the Gulbenkian on campus. There is also lots of lush green parks and gardens for lovers of nature and outdoors and the buildings around here are also very interesting and each one is uniquely different from the other especially the ones here on campus!

What has been the highlight of the course so far?
The learning environment here is so different from where I come from especially in terms of course structure and the feedback process but its nothing I couldn’t adapt to quickly. The staff have been very supportive so that has helped me a lot. Also, there are a variety of nationalities on my programme so it’s interesting to learn a thing or two about their respective backgrounds.

After you finish your studies, what would you like to do next?
After school, I definitely want to go back to practice, I had worked back home before commencing my studies last September.

MA Architecture and Urban Design (Paris) – Student Profile – Tamilore Oni

What made you choose to study the MAUD with a term in Paris?
During my bachelor’s degree, I became especially interested in the urban design (the design of cities) aspect of Architecture. As a result, I tailored my search for a Masters programme to finding one that would specifically address that topic. I came across the MAUD (Paris option) programme online, and was immediately taken with the idea of studying about urbanism in a city rich in architectural and urban history.

Can you describe the Paris campus for those who have not been before?
The Paris campus is in Reid Hall which is located in Montparnasse which is a very nice, busy part of Paris with lots of cafés, cinemas, theatres and shopping. Montparnasse is home to the famous Le Bon Marché, the Tour Montparnasse (at the top of which you can get one of the best view of Paris), and the tunnels of the Paris Catacombs run beneath it. Reid Hall is on a street off the major Boulevard du Montparnasse. It is a three-storey group of buildings. The premises are shared with the students and staff Columbia University. It has a little courtyard which is nice for seating to chat or have lunch. Seminars and classes are held in a well-equipped room, and it is has constant internet supply. There a couple of vending machines for snacks and coffee on the ground floor. There loads of cafés, and “sandwicheries” around, so you won’t go hungry! Staff from the University of Kent are always available to help in any way.

Tamilore with Prof Gerry Adler in Paris
Tamilore with Prof Gerry Adler in Paris

What module have you enjoyed the most and why?
I can’t say I have a distinct favourite. The Paris modules are really great because you talk about something in class, and then literally just walk out to see it – either during a trip organised by the school, or on your own.

The MAUD gives you the freedom to study modules from other departments; what did you decide to study and how did this benefit you?
I chose the Paris: Reality and Representation module, and I think it was a great choice. It is essentially a literature module where you examine the urban, social, economic, and political representations of Paris in selected works, bearing in my mind the actual conditions of the time. It is interesting to see the various impressions that individuals had about the city.

Are you enjoying exploring the city of Paris?
Yes, very much. There is so much to see and do. It’s been a great experience; well worth it, I would say.

What is the support like on your programme?
Prof Gordana Fontana-Giusti, and Miss Friedman helped me with my move from Canterbury to Paris. I also got help with my visa application and the programme coordinators assisted me in every way they could, and that was extremely helpful. The staff in the office over here are friendly and approachable.

After the programme, what are you planning to do?
I am looking to see if I can get any work experience, or research opportunities. I am very interested on furthering my studies in urban design. I am considering going further with a PhD.

For advice on finding accommodation in Paris, please visit our blog.