BETTER BY DESIGN
If you are besotted by buildings, are highly creative, and care about people and the environment, then architecture could be your ideal career choice. Read on to see if you could be someone who could make a real mark on the world.
David Gloster is the Director of Education at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). He says: ‘The reason the built environment is so important is because it has many knock-on effects to our quality of life. Both urban and natural landscapes are so dictated by the quality of the buildings that we use around us that it can’t not be an issue. It goes beyond aesthetic factors to management of the environment, infrastructure, the convenience and conviviality of cities, and the other places where we live. Ethical and environmental issues are both incredibly important, also issues of housekeeping and protocols for industry, which go hand-in-hand with this.’
The UK has a great reputation for producing outstanding architectural design and Gloster is convinced this is because our educational system is so good. ‘We’ve had fantastic success at producing really extraordinary architects who are at the top of their game and profession, so there’s obviously something in the water in UK architecture education,’ he states. ‘There is a very strong accent on design education in the architectural universities and schools; 50 per cent of the curriculum has to be related to design which translates as students spending 75 to 80 per cent of their time designing. Architectural courses in British schools and universities are not analogues of building construction courses, because they are intellectually different pursuits.’
This distinction has led to some stunning buildings in the UK, but also to British architects being much in demand abroad. Although many people think of architects in terms of mega-stars such as Sir Norman Foster and Sir Richard Rogers, Gloster explains one of the beauties of the sector is the variety of levels available. ‘It’s a profession that does allow people to operate on lots of different scales. While practises have certainly got a lot bigger over the last 15 to 20 years, the majority of the profession is still fairly small scale, so people can opt into different areas. Some may be happy doing very sensitively observed conversions of barns in the Pennines, but equally others will want to work on these massive global projects that are extremely exciting. Also, architecture as a series of qualifications does furnish people with a lot of transferable skills, so having your architectural qualifications can take you into practise, or it can take you into academia, journalism, criticism, and writing.’
The skills that architects possess are relevant to all aspects of the built environment, from constructing new buildings to conserving old ones and finding green solutions to problems, and if you really want to succeed in this sector, Gloster says you have to have the following strengths. ‘You must have the capability to listen and to absorb things quickly. You need to be flexible. You need lots of baseline competencies and skills; the ability to draw, to conceptualise, to work as an individual and in teams, an understanding of possibilities in technical construction, and the alternatives you can develop. You need to have a grasp of structure, of geometry, of form. It is an extraordinarily complex subject and there’s an awful lot in it, and it is never the same two days in a row. Finally, it really helps if you can write because as a practitioner you have to write a lot – everything from contractual letters, to feasibility reports. You can make a very good living from it (newly qualified architects with RIBA Part 3 can expect to earn £25,000, but many partners earn over £100,000) although I think that’s never been a reason for the majority of people getting into architecture at first degree level.’
Still think you’ve got what it takes? Then read our case studies with people already working in this sector.
There are around 6,000 private architectural practices in the UK,
and in 2008 there were 28,000 architects in full-time employment.
Private practices earn 90% of the earnings in the entire market,
the remaining 10% is earned by other organisations which provide
architectural services, such as local authorities.
Other areas of income for practices are feasibility studies, planning
consultancy and interior design, and other activities that use the work of
architects include landscape architecture, and lecturing.
A growing number of architects are also involved in a range of
consultancy services in fields such as conservation.