AJ100: Advice for new architecture students

16 September, 2020


September marks the start of another academic year, and another cohort of students embarking on their architectural studies. While teaching for the start of the 2020/21 academic year will largely be carried out virtually thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Jonny Edwards, who joined us as an architectural assistant last year following his graduation from De Montfort University, shares the things he would have liked to know before embarking on his studies.

Learn the architectural thought process

Architects are ultimately problem solvers, and at university the tutors want to see how students can design a building to solve an important societal or scientific issue. A project without any underlying principles or concept will not warrant a good grade – every design decision should have a reason behind it, and this is brilliant preparation for entering architectural roles after graduation.

The first task is to identify an issue that is apparent on your site, or a wider issue that affects the wider population. Site analysis is hugely important as a building can shape itself from its location and you can ask yourself questions at the outset to come up with potential design concepts. For example, when working on a site that is divided by a canal, could the building create a connection across the canal by forming a bridge? Or could the building refer to the industry the area used to be known for?

Present your ideas clearly

Clear concept communication is arguably one of the most valuable skills for any architectural student to develop. You can have the greatest design, but if you cannot make this clear to the tutor – or in real life, the client – they will not choose to invest in your idea.

When I first started out, I struggled to communicate any of my ideas effectively, which led to the need for redesigns. I quickly realised I was not presenting drawings like sections, plans and elevations, and most importantly I was not producing models. Models can portray your whole building in 3D, meaning that your tutor can instantly see what you are proposing – so I’d definitely advise to be using them.

It’s important to remember that your drawings should show off the ‘big idea’, so it’s useful to plan out what your key drawings will be. Remember to take a step back and question whether your idea is clear. For example, if your building is a place of worship, atmospheric perspective views and sections that show the lighting should form a key part of your drawings.


Computer software

Architects make use of a wide range of technologies and computer software in day-to-day work, so learning these skills makes up a core part of architectural training.

Working at Pick Everard over the last year has enabled me to use a host of software programmes to further my abilities over practical project delivery. Working at all stages of project work has expanded my knowledge of the scheme development and the relevance of using software to demonstrate our proposal.

When I started architecture school, I felt at a disadvantage not having any knowledge of programmes like Google Sketchup, AutoCAD or Photoshop and I had to learn these quickly alongside my other work. Make sure you learn the different software as quickly as you can, but also make sure you know what tools are best for the task at hand. For example, Google SketchUp is a really useful basic modelling software, but if you need to do more complex computer modelling tools like Rhino 3D and Revit will be much more suited.

Since joining Pick Everard, I’ve gained experience in large, multi-use masterplans, providing massing images, renders and layouts, through to competition design work involving lots of concept development work. I’ve also had great exposure to technical delivery preparing work packager for tender and construction in Revit.

Nothing can quite beat the quick ideas generated using a pen and sketchbook, so use of computer software isn’t the be all and end all in your studies, but it will be an important part of your architectural career.

Managing your time

In any role, architects will be working on multiple projects at once – something that is emulated throughout architecture school with multiple modules being taught simultaneously. Overseeing different projects at different stages requires effective time management and is a skill that will be central to any role throughout an architect’s career – and has never been more important than during the COVID-19 lockdown.

It’s important that you consider how to plan your time efficiently because having to stay up all night will cause unnecessary stress and is likely to reduce the quality of your work. Make sure you know exactly what drawings you need to produce and how you are going to do them. Putting an effective plan in place can be a life saver and is brilliant preparation for architectural roles after you graduate.

Make sure you’re building your portfolio as you go as well. Employers are always looking for talented graduates and this will be your ticket into interviews. It’s great to see employers throughout the industry investing more in graduates these days. Pick Everard is no different, and the team has been fantastic throughout lockdown, making sure I have the support I need both professionally and personally. Adapting to working from home during lockdown will stand me in good stead for the next stage of my career, and I’m really pleased that I will be continuing to work at the practice alongside my Master’s degree, continuing to build up valuable real-life experience as I gain further qualifications.

Here at Pick Everard, we are wishing those students embarking on their studies this year the best of luck. We are also always keen to hear from architect graduates and offer apprenticeship routes as well. For more information, please get in touch with Steve Cummings via SteveCummings@PickEverard.co.uk.


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