BA Architecture – Student Profile – Jade Simm

What attracted you to studying at Kent?
Fundamental to my choice of university was my determination to study at an institution that would allow me to maximise my creative talents to achieve the very highest standards.  Having taken the opportunity to visit many universities, I knew that I preferred a campus lifestyle and Kent truly is a very pleasant learning environment with its careful balance between open green space and learning facilities.  The warm welcome I received on the open days from both staff and students made me feel at home from the very first moment I stepped on campus.  Kent’s reputation and standing in the university league tables highlighted the fact that whilst the university felt like home it was indeed a well run and well organised centre of learning that strives to ensure that all students achieve their very best.  The huge choice of sports clubs and societies was also very attractive as I was keen to fully immerse myself in university life.

Why did you choose to study architecture?
Nothing in life touches people’s lives as much as architecture.  Walk down any street or sit in any environment and you cannot help to form a view of the architectural environment that has been created.  Good architecture can lift the spirit and impact positively on how people live and work.  Architecture can enrich lives, create mood and alter people’s state of mind.  My passion is clear and my determination to make a meaningful difference is resolute.  For me architecture as a profession was the only natural choice where I would be able to have such an impact.

What skills have you already learnt whilst studying architecture?
First year in particular allowed me to develop technical skills as well as conceptual and creative skills. During Stage 1 allocated sessions were used to explore creativity through a variety of techniques including life drawing, model making and sketching. The subject matter was not always architectural but this allowed me to broaden my skills and then apply it to my architectural designs. I also began to develop some very subtle skills in speaking the language of architecture and being able to describe a physical environment to demonstrate its form and the space that was created.
Second year we were introduced to 3Ds Max, weekly tasks were set to gain knowledge of the software so that we could produce a final piece. Up until this point of the year I had only used SketchUp for 3D design purposes, but the involvement of this software on the course has made me much more confident in producing photorealistic models.
During the course it is made clear that it is not just conceptual design that is important. You need to know how a building stands up and its environmental factors. Along with this you need to be able to present clearly your own ideas visually and verbally. Lectures are given on presentation, but the best way for these skills to develop is by looking at the work of others and taking part in Inter-Crits to understand the most successful techniques.

What are you enjoying most about university?
The Architecture course at the University of Kent is well run and the combination of lectures seminars and tutorials allows a varied study approach that keeps you in contact with a variety of staff and students. Many of the staff specalise in different areas so it is almost certain that there will be a member of staff you have common interest with and can aid your design. The Architecture studio is always buzzing and everyone is willing to help each other out.
Joining the Kent Architectural Student associated allowed me to become part of team of students organising activities for architecture students. I personally took the role of Merchandise Rep where I created a hoodie for all students to purchase and was part of the social team organising social events that weren’t architecture related.
As a member of the Rowing Team, I find it a good way to keep active as well as a friendship group outside of rowing. Sport gives you time to get away from your work and relax, something that is needed when studying architecture.

What do you think about the level of support in your studies?
Tutors are the best form of support in architecture, they encourage you to achieve your goals and give you both positive and negative feedback in order for you to develop your project as well as your own personal style. Tutors are there to help you; they are willing to meet with you outside tutorial hours or to discuss minor issues via email.  Tutors have a range of expertise and all are happy for you to tap into their knowledge and offer advice.
There are staff within the department of architecture that are there to provide general help and guidance throughout the course as well as the University providing a support service, available to anyone who requires it.

MArch – Student Profiles – Jennifer Bull

What attracted you to studying at Kent?
After completing my undergraduate degree at Kingston University and working in professional practice for two years in London and Kent, the University’s Part II course offered a new and exciting challenge. My initial interest grew from recommendations that past students had given me, in that they saw the school quite uniquely as a supportive community. After visiting the end of year show and seeing the high standards set by the MArch course, the decision to apply was easy.

How do you feel that the learning environment has changed between the BA and the MArch?
The major shift between the two programmes is in the level of individuality that is encouraged at MArch; writing your own brief and perusing your own interests allows you to develop a unique architectural personality. Having all had some professional experience and years of architectural education, the everyday studio environment with peers is invaluable to the course as are the teaching staff, who together make the entire year intriguing, hectic and enjoyable.

Tell us about the unit system and the benefits of vertical learning (Stage 4 and 5 working together)
The unit system supports the MArch course in that it encourages students to take control of the direction of their studies from the beginning of the academic year. Each of the four units proposes an individual architectural premise, offering a wide range of choice and opportunity for every single student. Within each unit, stage 4 and 5 students are taught in parallel with one another which destructs any division between the years, allowing for further learning and encouragement from peers.

What are you enjoying most about university?
KSA as a whole is an exciting school to be part of at the moment as it is constantly expanding and producing an incredibly high standard of work year after year.

What do you think about the level of support in your studies?
The dedication and drive that all the teaching and support staff have for both the course and the school generates a friendly and lively environment all year round. Whether a design tutor, a technician or an administrator, if you are prepared to work hard, they will most certainly match it.

BA Architecture – Student Profile – Vasileios Iliopoulos

What attracted you to studying at Kent?
I first heard about Kent when I was in my first year of the IB Diploma. At that time I had already decided that architecture was what I wanted to devote my life to, so I started viewing schools of architecture in the UK. After finding some information on Kent, I asked my counselor about the University, and more specifically about the School of Architecture. I was then sure that KSA was the right combination of “artistic” and “technical” aspects of the trade for me.

Why did you choose to study architecture?
Whenever anyone asks me this question, I like to rephrase it a bit: “How did you realise you wanted to be an architect”.
Architecture being the creation of order out of chaos and a building being an integrated unit offers an architect the potential to define lives, through aesthetics and functionality. An architect has the power to decide most of our moves. For example, an architect decided that when you wake up, you take five steps straight and then some more to the left to get to the bathroom, and then decided exactly how many steps you have to take to get to the bathtub etc. An architect decided that you live in a home where the living room and the kitchen are separated by walls. An architect looked for the best possible interaction between the structure and the urban or rural environment.
All this creates a fascinating process. My wish to be part of it made me choose architecture -and not just the fact that “I used to draw pictures of buildings” or “build them out of lego when I was little”.

What skills have you already learnt whilst studying architecture?
We have been taught how to produce aesthetically pleasing drawings, how to use sophisticated computer software, how to make beautiful models and how to properly present our schemes. We have been taught how buildings work and stand but most importantly, we have been taught how to think critically, process ideas, interact and work with other people and also to be a team and help each other in the studios.

What do you think about the level of support in your studies?
I think that the level of support from all University staff is excellent. As far as the academic staff are concerned, I believe that the diversity of personalities and opinions is helpful to students, for it guarantees a very wide spectrum of feedback and advice.
Last but not least, the fact that many of our tutors are practicing architects gives us a better understanding of the trade, industry and reality of architecture.

What are you enjoying most about university?
Being independent, meeting new people from all around the world, living away from home, training to do what you have always dreamt of, working really hard, and, occasionally, partying just as hard!

BA Hons Architecture – Student Profile – Emmanuel Owusu

What attracted you to studying architecture at Kent?
Aside from the great location and the lively city of Canterbury, I found the university campus appealing as all the colleges and schools where close together. This was beneficial as I could take inspiration from the School of Digital Arts and Engineering and the School of Art which were within walking distance from the Architecture Building. Furthermore, Kent also has high employment rate with the architecture graduates. I understood that the school of architecture was relatively young, this was also a good quality of the school as there was greater freedom to explore and experiment.

Why did you choose to study architecture?

I chose to study architecture because architect care! Architects care about the welfare of society, about infrastructure, about nature, about nurturing about the past, present and future.

What skills did you acquire whilst studying architecture?
I acquired a myriad of skills during my time at Kent, from drawing to visualising, organisation to public speaking and presentation. Most importantly perhaps, I grew in tremendous confidence as a person.

Do you believe these skills have assisted you in your career so far and if so, how?
I do yes, it has lead to me finding employment and in particular learning how to present and organise my time effectively has been useful in my career.

What did you enjoy most about your time at university?
Aside from architecture, I enjoyed the array of social activities and the academic facilities on offer. The discussions and debates with people from many nations that are welcomed at the university was also enlightening.

What are you plans for the future?
Completing my architectural studies,continuing enjoying life and appreciating the little things that make it all worth while.

MArch – Student Profile – Jessica Ringrose

What made you want to return to Kent?
Having thoroughly enjoyed my time at KSA during my undergraduate degree, securing a year out architectural assistant position locally allowed me to maintain ties within the school. Being involved in employment days and acting as a guest critic for BA during this time made returning to Kent part of a natural progression.

How do you feel that the learning environment has changed between the BA and the MArch?
The M(Arch) allows a much more personal approach, each student can identify an area of interest to them and investigate it thoroughly. This process is guided by a more intimate support network of teaching and resources. The M(Arch) is smaller in numbers than the BA, this coupled with the fact we have a great new studio space, encourages a vibrant studio environment.

Tell us about the unit system and the benefits of vertical learning (Stage 4 and 5 working together)
As the M(Arch) continues to expand in numbers the Unit system allows students to choose an individual approach and brief that interests them. This facilitates a more diverse and creative learning environment as the projects developed cover a wide variety of topics important in architectural discourse. Vertical learning means there is limited distinction between 4th and 5th years, as a 4th year this motivated me to compete with the more advanced 5th years, and as a 5th year, I try to ensure I am not being shown up by a 4th year!

What are you enjoying most about university?
KSA is constantly challenging. Each time a small goal is reached, the satisfaction is immense!

What do you think about the level of support in your studies?
The Unit systems means you have one primary tutor, but with this you also have a second design tutor and technical tutors in the second term. The school has a friendly environment, with many specialist research, teaching and support staff. I have always found these people to be approachable and willing to assist. On top of this, we also have an extremely dedicated M(Arch) director who is invaluable.

BA Architecture – Student Profile – Hsien Jing Lee

Formally a Taylors College student in Subang Jaya, Malaysia.

What attracted you to studying at Kent?
Choosing the right university was a challenge for me. In my home country of Malaysia, there are a limited number of universities that offer architecture courses and this made me choose to study in the UK. I liked the look of the campus lifestyle with its peaceful environment and lots of greenery and for this reason Kent seemed to be the right one for me. I knew it was right when I reached the university, everyone was very kind and helpful around the campus and it made me feel instantly at home.

Why did you choose to study architecture?
When I was 15, I found it hard to choose between science and art, since I loved both subjects. Considering that architecture is a combination of the two and at the same time a challenging course, it seemed the right path for me to take and I have not looked back since.

What skills have you already learnt whilst studying architecture?
I’ve learnt a lot over my past two years of study, from hand drawing, model making and technical drawing to BIM work. I have enjoyed spending time discovering how things work to give me the best result in my project. My presentation skills have improved over the past two years, providing me with the skills needed for stepping into the working environment.

What are you enjoying most about university?
Coming to university was very exciting for me. Being away from home is hard but I am glad that I have got to know so many people around the university and it now feels like a second home to me. There are always people hanging out in the studio, working hard and striving for the best. Even though we are always flooded with all kinds of projects, the sense achievement after putting in a lot of effort leaves me with no regrets. Apart from that, I have joined the Malaysian society and have got involved with their activities. This has helped me to connect with fellow Malaysian students and has allowed us to help one another when we are in need, especially being quite far from home.

Do you have any advice to other international students wishing to study at Kent?
As an international student, being able to experience and spend time with other students regardless of where they come from is priceless. I have been able to get to know the different cultures and traditions of my friends and at the same time, share my own customs to let them know about Malaysia. Everyone is very friendly here and you blend in with other students easily.

How would you describe the feel of the campus?
The location of the campus is great with a spectacular view of Canterbury Cathedral from the top of the hill. Woods and green areas are scattered across the campus providing peaceful and calm surroundings, which makes it an ideal place to study.

BA Architecture – Student Profile – Nic Stamford

After finishing my final critique for the last project of my Bachelors at Kent School of Architecture in May 2013 I began to pull together my full portfolio of work. I spent about a month getting my work to a level I was happy with before I started to send out applications. This is usually very late to get this ready as many positions in the UK are already being filled earlier in the year, however I had my sights set further abroad in Japan. This worked out well for me since the educational scheduling in Japan differs from the UK meaning that my applications were well-timed.

Working abroad, particularly in Japan, was something that I had been preparing for in my last two years at University. I had always had a great interest in Japanese culture and decided that my Part 1 year out would be the perfect opportunity to both gain experience towards my career and explore this cultural interest of mine. At the start of my second year I began language classes at the University, which I then went on to continue right up until I finished my degree.

I sent out around 20 applications to practices in Japan and within one week had only received three replies. Two of these replies were in full Japanese, which meant that it took me a while to decipher these messages only to find out that they were not accepting interns. The final reply I received was from a small but fairly successful practice based in Hiroshima – Suppose Design Office. I was presented with a 6 month offer to work as an intern, with one catch – interns are not paid. I was extremely excited to receive the offer and they even reassured me that my very basic language capabilities were sufficient which was perfect. The money situation however was something which was a huge decision for me. I had saved money working in a restaurant during my degree but I knew that the costs of living in Japan with no income would take its toll on my savings. In the end, I decided that this was a rare opportunity that would hopefully pay off in the future and took the job.

I began my work in Japan on September 23rd 2013. On my first day I was briefed about the job and it wasn’t until then that I really grasped just how different their culture is. My working hours, which I had neglected to ask before, were 8.45am – 10pm Monday to Saturday. I could not believe this, however before long I realised that in Japanese working culture, the first person to leave the office is essentially deemed the worst worker so I actually ended up working from 8.45am to around 1am, even working Sunday’s every now and then. I resolved to push through it with the mind-set that if I could survive these hours for six months I could survive anything in the UK.

The language was a great struggle at first as it was much faster than I had ever experience in the classes back home, but I knew that I would pick it up as I went along, which I did. I had always been told by others that working in large practices meant you have very little design input and effectively become a CAD-monkey. Pushed by this, when it came down to applying for practices, I approached mainly small to medium sized companies. Suppose Design Office had around 25 staff, so a fairly small office. The claims about working in small practices providing more design input were not true. I was effectively a dogsbody for 6 months. I started off making lots of physical models and then when they found out that I could 3D model and render well, I became the modelling and visualisation minion. All the skills I had learnt in University were definitely put to good use and the hours spent in Japan developing these skills were absolutely not a waste. I had to really push to be involved in a wider range of the design process, such as conceptual work, development and construction-related tasks. In Japan they are not aware of the requirements of the PEDR forms so in a way it made sense that it was down to me to make sure I was covering the range of experience I needed.

In the end I was put on a team with one of the more experienced members of staff on a new project based in Tokyo. My software capabilities meant that I was able to model and develop the complex scheme which no-one else in the office could do. This was great for me and meant that I was forced into a position where I had design input and great amounts of responsibility. I followed this project right up until I left and it gave me a huge amount of experience. The project is now being constructed which I am updated on every now and then by my colleagues.

Approaching the end of my time in Japan, I decided that it would be wise to start looking for jobs before I left, so that I didn’t have much wasted time between working. Working crazy hours for such a long time had really made me proactive about work, so about a month before my last day at Suppose on 25th March I sent 15 applications to English practices. I received only two replies, both of which led to interviews for when I returned. This time I had applied for a range of practices, from large to small, however I targeted ones that were involved in public and cultural projects which I am particularly interested in. I arrived back in England on the 5th April and had my first interview at Make Architects on the 14th. I started work at Make the next day.

Having now been at Make for a month and a half I can see just how contrasting practices can be. My hours are much more regular, which seem a breeze in comparison, I’m being paid and I actually have much more design input and responsibility. My experience working abroad cannot be knocked however because it made me stand out from other applicants and also gave me some interesting things to talk about in my interview. Aside from the career benefits gained from my time in Japan, I had an incredible time in a fascinating and beautiful culture which I will remember forever. It has expanded my understanding of the vastness of the world, which I feel has pushed me as a designer and greatly prepared me for my future in architecture.

I am now looking to either start my Masters course this year, or stay working at Make Architects until September 2015 before going back to my studies.

Academic Peer Mentor – Rebekah Tien

Stage 3 – BA (Hons) Architecture

I signed up for the mentoring scheme mainly out of curiosity, and did not expect to gain a lot from the experience. However, I did learn a lot from it, and really enjoyed the whole process. For me, being a mentor not only allowed me to help my mentees, but also to learn from the process and to learn from the mentees. It is very interesting to me to see how other people cope with the same problems I have experienced when I was in first or second year; and very rewarding to see my advice being taken on board and to learn from the solution finding process. I am very happy and very proud to see my mentees enjoying the course and I am very thankful for this amazing experience that helped me grow so much. Overall I think the mentoring scheme is a perfect opportunity for students in KSA to connect, to support, and to learn from each other.

Mentee: Gugulethu Moyo

Having a mentor is something I would encourage students to do, especially architecture students. Often it is hard to strike the right balance between school life and social life and having the guidance from someone who has been through it, makes a massive difference. Rebekah has been an awesome influence to be around. She has always encouraged reading ahead and also ran some CAD classes to help us to stay on track with this fast paced course. Having a mentor is something I would encourage but also something that shouldn’t be taken for granted!

Academic Peer Mentor – Daniel Atkinson

Stage 2 – BA (Hons) Architecture

Just feeling gratitude for the advice you’re giving and seeing that you are impacting someone else’s work is very rewarding. It was also refreshing to get away from my own work for a small amount of time to look at a completely different project and to take my personal experience from when I was in the exact same position to help them.

I would advise everyone to get involved in the scheme, especially in the first year, as you are put in the deep end and it’s always good to have someone that has already made the mistakes that you can avoid. It’s also good to get a bit of advice from a student rather than a tutor as sometimes the advice is about pleasing the tutors as best as possible. This has given me first-hand experience of tutoring, and has made me really consider this as a career option following my degree.

Mentee: Tilisha Franklin

I found the whole experience beneficial, the knowledge that there was someone that had experienced the same things as me and completed the same modules reassured me and I found it was a great support system. Also the fact that I could email them any questions or ask for advice and know that they might offer an alternative solution from the tutors was very helpful. Because this course is a design course and everyone has different options on architecture it was nice to know that option was available, especially when preparing for crits as feedback during that time is especially important.

One of the reasons I want to be a mentor next year is because I’ve really appreciated having a mentor this year.

Academic Peer Mentor – Srimathi Aiyer

Stage 5 – MArch

After having had some experience delivering lectures and becoming a Teaching Assistant to First Years, as well as being on the panel for design crits, I wanted to develop my leadership and communication skills up a notch via academic peer mentoring and actually giving one-to-one feedback on students’ work, from design projects to essay writing and presentation skills. A lot of knowledge and guidance had been passed to me from tutors, but then I felt that it would be most rewarding to then help younger students in return and give them motivation that if I can get through a course as challenging as architecture, then others can too. Plus, mentoring has been a plus in terms of employability; during some of my recent job interviews for Part 2 roles, the mentoring has come up as a highlight that has impressed employers.

I mentored both second and third year undergraduates, with occasional sessions being in pairs or groups. The common topic that came up was how to go about presenting CVs and portfolios for jobs, as well as the procedures for applying. Often, the students approached me with questions on design work: what would be the best way to visually represent work, which work communicates the project best and how to explain the development process effectively during a crit. Carlota Susino, who will be going into third year in September 2015, only started mentoring sessions with me about a month before her final second year design crit, but during that time I gave her guidance on how to pan out her tasks before the crit without leaving them to the last minute, and how to tie in her conceptual ideas to her final outcome. I always reminded Carlota and all my other mentees that I could only give suggestions, as do tutors too, but they are responsible for making their own decisions as long as they are able to fully justify their intentions, and architecture is a chance to be expressive and create a style that works for them. After all, employers want to see individuality, creativity and confidence in trying new techniques and ideas that students understand and are comfortable with.

Having said that, mentoring has helped me become critical in my own design work and giving everything a second glance over, before I am sure that I am ready to present my ideas to my own crit panel. I would say to anyone reading this, who is keen on the idea of peer-to-peer learning and teaching, academic peer mentoring is a fantastic scheme that the Kent School of Architecture has engaged with and it has its rewards to both mentors and mentees alike. Likewise, I recommend mentees to seek out an older, experienced student to help you along the way, as you’ll get a whole new perspective and a second opinion to keep you on track.

Mentee: Carlota Susino

I have only got good words to describe my mentor, Srimathi. In spite of starting with her almost at the end of the spring term she has helped me a lot, and I believe that because of her I have changed my attitude towards work. Most importantly she has taught me: don’t do things for others but for myself. And with that in mind, I think I have improved my presentation skills and my time management.