Learning the ropes
Architecture courses vary quite a bit, with some that lean more to the artistic side and others that are very technically based with much more of a hard-core maths and engineering emphasis. Those that are very heavily artistic can mean you have no idea how buildings are put together by the end of it. There’s a big private one in London, The Architectural Association, which is known for producing students who’ve got incredible creative ideas, but are tricky to employ because they know little about business or engineering. At Newcastle, we were smack bang in the middle of these two extremes and that really appealed. We still had life drawing classes and shadow workshops and all sorts of things that sound bit airy fairy, but they were fantastic for developing your creative side, and then you had hard-core engineering, maths and physics projects as well. It was well-balanced.
I used to really enjoy the group projects where you would be given a challenge to, say, build a bridge with a certain span, using certain materials in the workshop.
I used to really enjoy the group projects where you would be given a challenge to, say, build a bridge with a certain span, using certain materials in the workshop. That kind of studio work was really hands-on and a lot of fun. We had some great lecturers too. One that stands out is Steve Dudek, who had a particularly good sense of humour and was very entertaining and could teach the dryer side of the subject in a very engaging way.
The big what-if: what does an Architecture Degree prepare you for (if you don’t become an architect)?
The architecture course is known for being really tough. There were ridiculously long hours with unpleasant deadlines for projects that meant you’d be going in to the studio on a Sunday evening at nine o’clock to pin all your work up – there were some pretty unsociable hours! But, because you get used to working at that high level of intensity, and the varied projects force you to turn your hand to a wide range of skills, you pop out the other end not really fazed by anything any more. This is especially true if you go through and complete the full 7 years’ of training.
Because you get used to working at that high level of intensity, and the varied projects force you to turn your hand to a wide range of skills, you pop out the other end not really fazed by anything any more. If students complete the degree but realise architecture is not for them, they’re armed with some pretty good skills which they can go and apply to pretty much any situation, especially from such a well-balanced course like the one at Newcastle. The course equips you for anything, so maybe that’s why Newcastle produces graduates that end up pursuing other interesting careers and not just architecture. That’s one of the great advantages of studying architecture.
When you look at some of my peers, you can really see that come into play. Paddy O’Malley is an entrepreneur in the restaurant business, Kaylene Potts is working at Sky TV and I’m distilling gin and whisky. A real range of careers but all really interesting!