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.

Academic Peer Mentor – Robert Allcoat

Stage 4 – MArch

Last year I mentored a number of Stage 3 students. The first point that struck me about the Academic Peer Mentoring scheme was the objectivity required; architecture, however, is a very subjective course, especially when it comes to design projects. Striking a balance between the two was quite a challenge.

From the offset most of the mentees had many questions, both about the year ahead and the Part I year out. To me this demonstrated the mentees’ curiosity and their desire to find out more. I had been through the same course and had had similar projects to them, so I appreciated the type of questions they might have and the value of extra help.

Throughout the year we covered a variety of topics and, from presentation techniques and styles to specific project questions, advice with CVs and portfolios for their coming year out to the fundamentals of line-weights. Quite often a question would put me on the spot, to which I would not know the answer; in that situation you simply have to be honest and say you do not know, or try to help them find the answer later on.

It is the first year the School of Architecture has been part of the mentoring scheme and I think it has worked very well. It not only provides the mentees with another outlet to discuss project work and ideas, and to put forward specific questions; it gives them support from someone on the same level with them — albeit with a little more experience – to hopefully guide them without the pressure of a student-tutor relationship.

From the perspective as a mentor it has helped me to think of different ways to explain something that might – at first glance – seem evident to me, reinforcing the importance of clear communication. I appreciate how important and valuable it can be to discuss ideas and topics with someone who perhaps is not so familiar with your project work, and that they may offer a completely different perspective on it. The mentoring scheme is certainly something I would like to participate in again next year.

Mentee: Charlotte Middleton

The mentoring scheme set up by the university was invaluable during my third year in the school. With the uncertainty about life after university, the mentor was there to answer questions and reassure from first-hand experience. I received help in improving my CV and portfolio, strengthening my application for Part 1 placements. During the year, it was useful to talk to a student who had already been through the projects and was able to advise on time-keeping, organisation and aid with the designs themselves. The scheme has been extremely helpful for me and I shall definitely be signing up as a mentor to give back to it.

MArch Student Profile – Rosie Seaman

What made you want to return to Kent?
Prior to undergraduate I always sought to study at a school that allowed the opportunity to continue from BA to March and experience the progression from first year to fifth year in once place. The connection between place and people, and support of the staff to enable MArch to be as enjoyable and fulfilled as possible was extremely important, thus meaning Kent was always the obvious choice for me.

How do you feel that the learning environment has changed between the BA and the MArch?
MArch is an experience where you can grow as an individual. Your ideas and beliefs about architecture and architectural context are nurtured and it is encouraged that you follow a path that you are interested in to create rich and interesting work; plus the wide resources of teaching staff give valuable input which in turn allows your knowledge to grow even more. There is no doubt that you will come out the other side of this course with a better understanding of yourself in an architectural position and knowing something you didn’t know before.

Tell us about the unit system and the benefits of vertical learning (Stage 4 and 5 working together)
In MArch you are at a level where no matter whether you are 4th or 5th year you have something to learn from everybody. This may be within the course or it may be from the vast range of experience everyone has gathered during their time in practice, however it is all invaluable and vertical learning allows this to be dispersed across both the years. This is a time where we should be enjoying trying to soak up as much knowledge as possible before leaving education. The unit system works well in that sense as it allows different projects to be developed, and although the units work independently from each other, there is always an opportunity to learn from what another unit is doing.

What are you enjoying most about university?
You are always pushing yourself to the extremes and attempting to achieve work with exciting outcomes. Most of all, although we are sitting in the studio every day working hard, we are doing it with our friends and we are doing something we love – I definitely appreciate that.

What do you think about the level of support in your studies?
The support at Kent has always been of a very high standard, from BA through to MArch, and over the years you learn that the staff will always be there to help and ensure that you reach your highest potential.

MArch Student Profile – Virginia Tech Study Abroad – Jamie Hissey

Virginia Tech Study Abroad

If a university education is not only to achieve a qualification but to broaden your life experience then an opportunity to study abroad must be one of the best ways of helping to attain both of these goals. Having been a loyal architecture student at the University of Kent for both undergraduate and postgraduate, I wanted the opportunity to experience new teaching styles that would help me build on the solid educational foundation that Kent had already provided. When I heard about the possibility of studying abroad at the Washington Alexandria Architecture School (WAAC), Virginia Tech, I jumped at this opportunity. I submitted my portfolio to the department and was fortunate enough to be selected to represent Kent at the Virginia Tech Architecture School. I was also successful in gaining a Study Abroad Scholarship from Santander.

On arriving in Washington DC I was welcomed into the school with open arms. Since 1985, the WAAC has served to house a consortium of architecture schools from all over the globe. Currently, 13 universities are part of the consortium. This structure provides exposure to a diverse student and faculty perspectives and promotes and encourages a unique design dialogue. Once I had enrolled, I was met with many other students from all corners of the world under one roof. This was an amazing chance to live and work with other students from all across the world and learn from their experiences, design methods and teaching.

Virginia Tech’s classes are chosen on a credit system with further opportunities to audit other classes that interest you. With the variety of classes taught at the school I chose to study ‘The Theory of Urban Form’ and ‘Advanced Computer Aided Design’ alongside my thesis project entitled ‘The Embassy for Tea; A Didactic Landscape’. This final year project was started at the WAAC with the aim of returning to Kent to further develop the proposal using a combination of skills acquired both at Virginia Tech and Kent. I selected 3 tutors to serve as my committee members who each specialised in different fields of Architecture to tutor me throughout the term. The newly refurbished studio space and individual work station further encouraged me to make full use of my tutors and time at the school.

jamievirginia2The university accommodation was a complex of apartments in a converted church that made it easy to meet new people and socialise. During the time abroad I had the opportunity to visit many of the architecturally significant cities on the east coast including New York, Philadelphia, and of course Washington DC. As a school we also had the amazing opportunity to visit Frank Lloyd Wrights ‘Falling Water’ and ‘Kentuck Knob’ in Virginia. Other highlights for me included playing a season of rugby for Washington DC, experiencing a real American family thanksgiving and making a number of friends for life.

I really feel as though my time studying aboard has greatly benefited me as an architecture student. Being granted the opportunity to study abroad for the first term but return to Kent for the remainder of the year has enabled me, with the help of my tutors, to take what skills I gained at the WAAC, refine and combine them within the Kent program which will hopefully mould me into a better architect.

BA Architecture – Student Profile – Aut Angpanitcharoen

What attracted you to studying at Kent?
Choosing the right university was a stressful point of my life. After eliminating the idea of studying in the US, the UK seemed a straight forward choice, as I was already studying here for quite some time. Kent was recommended to me by a family friend because of great student satisfaction reviews. After some persuading, one Thursday evening after rowing, I set off on a five hours train ride from Shrewsbury. The next morning I visited the campus in its woodland settings overlooking Canterbury Cathedral. A walk around the city centre followed and I almost missed my train back to school. When it came to UCAS Kent was my first choice.

Why did you choose to study architecture?
I guess, I have always wanted to become an architect. It has always been at the back of my mind as I have always loved drawing. Yet when it came to university, I was lost. I knew I wanted to do something to do with Art and Design but I wasn’t sure what. What truly helped me was applying for work experience, as many as I could managed. So I did one in yacht design, two in architecture and talked to my Art teacher about his practical experience. After that very busy year, I decided that architecture was probably it. Thankfully I am truly enjoying it at the moment. And the prospect of becoming an architect truly excites me.

What skills have you already learnt whilst studying architecture?
I have learnt a great deal in stage one. We were encouraged to develop our visual communication skills, free hand sketches and orthographic drawings. We were later introduced to computer programs such as 3Ds Max and Photoshop to help aid our presentations. The brief introduction during the summer term of stage one proved a great setup for the transit into the more digitally dependant stage two.

In terms of the history of art and architecture, I found that starting with the Modern movement was the best way to begin as it is the most relatable. Then in the summer term, we moved on to the other end of the spectrum, ancient and medieval Architecture, focusing on the Greeks, Romans and their influence on European Romanesque architecture and eventually the English Anglo-Saxons, Norman and Gothic architecture.— I particularly enjoyed this module and the final seminar held inside Canterbury Cathedral was the perfect way to conclude. This year, in stage two, we are moving chronologically to the Renaissance and Neoclassicism.
The history modules have proved to be a great source of inspiration and precedence for the design modules, which is to me the most demanding, and perhaps that is why it is the most enjoyable. We are always encouraged to design responsibly. To create buildings and landscape that responds to its surroundings, creative designs that are functional to use, pleasant to experience and responsible to our environment.

What are you most enjoying about university?
I consider myself lucky, in that, what I enjoy most is the course. Spending sleepless nights working on models and orthographic drawings is strangely delightful. I suppose when you are working on something that is, often frustrating, but ultimately exciting and that you are proud of, there is never a dull moment. Many of these nights served as bonding sessions of sorts, which the morning after gains you the friendship of other passionate ambitious aspiring architects. Outside of the architecture circle, I am a member of the university boat club and goes for a scull around twice a week on the Stour, usually before lectures. I am also part of the Thai society which helps me to connect with other Thai students studying here at Kent and others throughout the UK.

Do you have any advice to other international students wishing to study at Kent?
Studying abroad is a great opportunity. Try as many new and exciting things as you can. Be open minded, embrace changes and make the most of your experience.

How would you describe the feel of the campus?
The campus is a unique setting, surrounded by woodlands on top of the hill with a view of Canterbury city centre. In the spring bluebells bloom, bunny rabbits emerge from the bushes of Park Wood and ducklings fills up Keynes duck pond. The sylvan layout creates a relaxing, friendly, country atmosphere, very pleasant.

BA Architecture – Student Profile – Charles Hope

What attracted you to studying at Kent?
I grew up in a remote Hertfordshire village; the leafy open space and extended views over Canterbury Cathedral won me over with a sense of home from home. The symbolic presence of the hill top campus proves to be good morning exercise if nothing else. The wide range of facilities on campus seemed to cater for long durations of stay during busy exam and presentation periods, which would help with time efficiency, respectively. Having proximity to the coast attracted me with the possibility of visiting Whitstable, Margate and more remotely the Isle of Grain and Dungeness for the more adventurous students.

Why did you choose to study architecture?
At secondary school I was torn paradoxically between art and science based subjects – both of which interested me. I eventually found that architecture was the marriage of the two through the practical application of playful visual planning. In 2008, I shadowed a family friend at Sheppard Robson Architects as part of a work experience scheme in year 8. Subsequently, I arranged a number of other Architecture placements whilst spending my summer holidays working for my father, a builder. The welcoming open days at Kent School of Architecture, vowed that there I would find a proper training towards my Part 1 architectural qualification.

What skills have you already learnt whilst studying architecture?
During my time at Kent I have explored architecture through a developing skill set of essay writing, hand drawing, sculptural modelling and computer visualisation. In addition, through regular interim and final crit presentations I have gained confidence in public speech and improvising under the stresses of closing questions. The workshop provides all the necessary tools and advice to make great looking physical models. Modelling I have come to realise as a physical process enables wider thinking and unconscious moves towards your design ideas where drawing and computer generation failed – and they look great in ‘show and tell’ demonstrations.

What are you enjoying most about university?
I really enjoy the studio culture that you find at the Kent School of Architecture, it functions as modern family and peer advice is crucial when the nights get long. In the third year I formed a subset of peers through the university chapter Article 25. Made predominantly of architects we arrange tutorials, film nights and socials – all good fun in aid of development and disaster relief. I also love the independence made available in the move to university, it has been an invaluable experience.

What do you think about the level of support in your studies?
The level of support is brilliant, with one of the highest student to tutor ratios on campus. The support comes from a wide range of backgrounds too, with guest tutors from local and London practices and academic staff with specialities in particular periods of architectural past. The support materialises in a number of ways through group and individual discussions, presentation feedback and impromptu conversation with passing members of staff. The diversity really helps to shape well rounded viewpoints and skill sets.