This July I graduated from Part 1 in Architecture and I am well aware that times are tough, see (Tough Times for Architecture Students). Even with a decent mark from a respected architecture school I have had little luck with getting responses from the many CVs I have sent out let along interviews.
To combat the architectural stalemate I have found myself in I joined ArchiGRAD. ArchiGRAD is a scheme run by the two universities in Newcastle, Northern Architecture and plus three architects.
Everyone who is part of the scheme is an underemployed architecture student at some level. ArchiGRAD uses this pool of unutilised architectural knowledge to run various projects in the local area. As part of the ArchiGRAD rules they do not take paid projects which would take work from regular practices. They also don’t charge fees and none of the GRADs get paid for their work, so have to hold down part-time jobs as well.
The projects taken on tend to be for parts of the community that area in need of help. I am currently involved in a project to design a sensory garden at a residential home for people with learning difficulties. Another project coming up is working with children in a disadvantaged area of Newcastle to engage them with thinking about the community.
I’ve been part of ArchiGRAD for about a month and a half now and it’s allowed me a whole range of experiences I would otherwise not have had. I’ve taken part in meetings, been on site visits to carry out surveys, held meetings with clients to understand what they want. It’s given me a real world experience I wouldn’t be getting with my lack of employment in a practice and certainly didn’t get from studying architecture at university, what’s more someone else is benefiting from my architectural input which they otherwise would have access to.
ArchiGRAD helps us build our portfolios with projects which are based in the real world, not the hypothetical world all the university projects work with. One GRAD recently has an interview for a placement, which she got, and the interviewer showed little interest in her uni work once seeing as ArchiGRAD work as it showed she knew how things worked in the real world.
With practices being so impressed by our real world experience and disregarding of uni work, it raises the question as the why universities don’t follow the ArchiGRAD lead. There are plenty of deserving and willing clients out there, at ArchiGRAD we’re working at almost full capacity. A year group of almost 80 students when split into groups could realise around 14 projects in a term based on ArchiGRAD productivity levels. They could even devote more time than most GRADs as they won’t have to maintain a part-time job in order to survive. With all three years of Part 1 involved that’s nearly 42 needy projects which could be completed in just one term.
It’s also 240 architecture students who have gained skills from live projects which they would have otherwise never gained, giving them much more value in the competitive market for graduate architectural students.
So if you a motivated architecture tutor with hopes to change lives and make an impact on your students’ education, give a live voluntary project a go. And if you’re an architecture student worried about find a job once you graduate, hassle your nearest tutor into giving it a go. And if you’re neither of the above, thank you for reading anyway.
As for me, the search for a placement continues whilst I serve coffees and think up sensory garden design simultaneously…