See! I told you I didn’t need my RIBA Part III to be ‘successful’ – and I’m not the only one. Some of us just aren’t meant to be ‘architects’, some of us went to architecture school, picked up a million and one useful skills and have found our own unique way to manifest them; making surfboards, curating exhibitions, writing for journals, presenting TV shows, having no. 1 records or owning fashion labels.
“Don’t for a moment think I am bad-mouthing the education system, I have been teaching since I graduated. That’s right – shock horror – without being legally allowed to call myself an ‘architect’ I am let loose on the young minds of today’s architecture students, and I do a bloody good job of it too if you ask me. Those students get a fair ol’ ear bashing but they enjoy themselves, learn a bunch of stuff AND get good degrees at the end of it. I have taught at Nottingham, Manchester, Leicester, Salford, Brighton and the Open University, all before I hit 30. I always wanted to be an ‘architect’ but half way through my undergrad degree I thought I was only fit for the rubbish tip – I worked hard and I turned it around and that is one thing I will never forget. If architecture school taught me anything it was the benefits of determination (and always being nice to the technicians.) I qualified Part I and Part II and got just a few months away from taking my Part III exams when redundancy was thrust upon me. Once again my determination set in, I quickly realised that life doesn’t offer up opportunities, you have to create them, so some years later I now fill my time teaching, writing, curating and designing and I love every moment.”
I am not the only one who went to architecture school and took a different path in life. Famous names include Janet Street-Porter the TV presenter, Tom Ford the fashion designer, Ice Cube the rapper, Courtney Cox the actress, Justine Frischmann the lead singer of Elastica.
I put a call out to find other like minded individuals and here’s just a short list of people using their architectural training in creative ways:
Katy Beinart graduated with a BSc in Architecture from UCL/Oxford Brookes in 2004 and is now an artist currently doing a practice-based PhD.
“(My architectural training) influenced my mode of practice and the specific areas of interest I tend to work on, I mainly work in the public realm. My experience of architectural practice was not a positive one, and I also worked for some time in the voluntary sector developing community tools for participation which propelled me into seeking different opportunities.”
Chirag H Patel graduated with a degree in Interior Architecture, Design & Practice at Middlesex University in 2008 he is now a freelance Branding designer, primarily within Fashion/Retail. He also turns his hand to Art Direction, styling & set design for photo shoots, graphic design, space planning, visual rendering and conceptual design.
“I’m able to think in terms of 3D as opposed to most graphic/branding designers who rely on 2D for their work. The fundamentals of the lessons learned within the Interior Architecture course helped in successfully and realistically translating an idea from its conceptual stage to the finished product, whether it be set design, signage or an installation for a press event. I still use Vectorworks (cad) for visuals, space plans, details and to even to help plan out & build photo shoot sets. Knowledge of materials, locations and art history has been vital to my work and began with the skills and information I learned from this course.”
Jennifer Taylor graduated with a PG Dip Arch from UEL in 1999 and now designs patterns and prints for her children’s clothing label.
“Being an architect is like being able to multi-task at a professional level. Architects skills are so transportable and versatile…..I found architects are often bogged down and stressed out by bureaucracy and politics and not having the respect and appreciation for their effort and hard work. A lot of the time people just do not understand how architects work and do not value our professional opinion. I also found myself doing a lot of management and administrative work rather than being creative. Being a woman with a toddler definitely didn’t help either!”
Jim Stephenson graduated with a BSc Architectural Technology from Brighton University in 2004 he is now a successful professional architectural photographer.
“I’d worked in the industry for a number of years after spending my whole life wanting to design buildings, but I had become frustrated with some of the processes – particularly when dealing with Local Authorities, where it seemed like a fight to build anything most of the time. I think a lot of trust in architects has been eroded in the last 20 or 30 years and now we’re at a point where there’s more and more prescriptive rules dictating how a building should work and look than ever (social housing for instance – where the amount, size and proximity of every piece of furniture can be dictated to the architect by the house builder – there’s no trust that the architect might be able to do this on their own?). I still draw occasionally for my Dad, but photography allows me to work creatively with much less constraints.”
Dan Walters graduated his Part III in Architecture from Cambridge in 2011 and is now an independent games producer. Micro Macro Games
“It is a design based course – every architecture project is a new set of complex factors that you need to find a creative solution for – that is what I do every day. Communication skills, creating presentations, working with others, whole project process including concept to final delivery, thinking about how something is built as well as the final product, are all things you deal with as a student. In the professional world you deal with planning bureaucracy, design and technical consultants, clients, products, competition entries and anything else that gets thrown at you. Which of these skills are not used in other jobs?”
“A lot of people assume architecture school turns you into a walking architecture product catalogue and design history textbook. This couldn’t be further from the truth – the skills you gain are how to learn and how to approach a project, with plenty of experience of the above.”
Thank you to all the above for getting in touch and sharing your stories with me.