Being an architect…for one week

I might have mentioned that Grand Designs is my favourite show on TV. Kevin (for the uninitiated, he’s the presenter) is that mix of sneering critique and awe struck observer. It’s all about the journey from conception to completion and Kev has me on cloud nine every time. It is one reason why I so enjoy architecture, and why I spent a while considering it as a career. Who doesn’t want to design incredible buildings? Yet why do so many people aspire to the profession and comparably few take up the mantle?

So this is the moment of confession where I say that I decided not to pursue architecture. It’s no critique on the profession, instead a realisation that property development (the career that I want) ticks all the right boxes for me. What was great about being in an architect’s practice was both watching them at work and seeing the other side of the table from where I hope to sit – namely how an architect puts into action a client’s wishes. To that end they gave me a perfect project: design a two story retail unit for a development by Barratt homes (a big London developer).

Before you get to have a look at what I designed I thought that I would briefly lay out what I took away from the project and from working inside an architects practice

  1.  Designing what a building ‘looks like’ is a fraction of an architect’s role
  2.  How can we squeeze more rooms in here? How to deal with fire regulations?  Where do ventilators go? Go back and re-draw the plans…These are the real day-to-day concerns of architects
  3.  Architecture is where the world of ideas meets real life construction. While architects are designers they also have to make buildings stand up, efficiently and cheaply. That’s design, engineering and construction knowledge. FYI my designs fall very short in most of these categories
  4. Architects hardly spend any time sketching. It’s nearly all done on the computer, on programmes like SketchUp and Revit. Having tried to learn how to use them, it’s a real skill but also a lot of staring at a screen…not a very big group activity

In short, Grand Designs makes architecture look easy. The clue is in the name…it’s all about ‘design’, the fiddly unglamorous bits are hidden out of shot. Yes, I knew this but there’s nothing like actually experiencing some of the reality of the profession. How hard can it be? Really hard!

W Haldane RIBA – Initial design proposals….

Alright, first excuse is that I designed the buildings in SketchUp, a tool that I had never used before! Only the buildings which are coloured are mine and the rest are done by actual architects and will be built. The designs are in reverse order of when I made them, with building 1 being the first one I attempted. I hope you will see that in the 3rd building I have made some nods to engineering and even tried to make some stairs. I am uncertain if the structure would stand up but it certainly stands more chance than the first one.

Building No. 3

Building No. 2



Building No. 1

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