30th Jul 2021 — Access to Architecture 2021

Access to Architecture 2021

My two years of studying architecture at Kingston School of Art has enhanced my architectural thinking through the various projects I undertook. The school’s ethos of ‘thinking through making’ enabled me to gain and improve my creative skills through model making and orthographic drawing. The past two years has given me a better understanding of architecture, however, there are aspects of the profession which can’t be learnt through architectural school such as, the dynamics of a practice.

When Kingston informed us of the Access to Architecture scheme, I wanted to take part in this opportunity as I knew it would help with my professional development. I took part in the internship hoping to gain an insight into how the professional world of architecture works, including how a practice is structured and how each project is approached and brought to life.

Mellor Primary School - habitat wall designed from engagement sessions.

From a list of available practices, I chose Sarah Wigglesworth Architects as their design principles resonated with me most – their commitment to sustainability and their human-centric approach to design was what drew me to this practice. As I read through the many projects listed on their website, I was interested in their use of sustainable materials as well as their commitment to designing spaces with its users at the heart of each design.

Through the various resource meetings and project shares I attended, I was able to quickly see how a practice stays organised, and information is relayed. The resource meeting which is held each week on a Monday morning outlined everyone’s tasks and meetings for the week. This gave me a few pointers on how I could stay organised with my university projects! The project shares allowed all members of the practice to understand ongoing projects which they weren’t part of and provided an opportunity to brainstorm ideas and work collaboratively. I enjoyed other aspects of the office experience, such as the lunch times sat outside under the gabion columns. Despite the interruption from the trains every few minutes, I got to know my colleagues and gained a lot of useful information – not only architecture but also recipe books!

Berto - office lunch

The retrofit of a listed community centre was the first project of my internship, for which I was tasked on analysing the context, gathering material research and creating a report. I was able to visit the site which helped me understand the estate and its surroundings better.

During the week I sat in on a meeting with a heritage consultant which was interesting as I got to hear the conversations about the constraints when working on listed buildings – I had never realised how much effect it had on design. I think my awareness of these constraints will help me to design more thought through projects in my final year.

The project for my second week was a housing scheme. For the week I was tasked with creating a sketch up model of a specific housing type. I hadn’t used sketch up during my time at university as I thought trying to learn a new software would be too much. However, it was much easier than I had initially thought and proved super useful to test out sketch models and materials. I also spent the week reading a Stage 2 report for this housing scheme, which clarified the importance of site and material research and how they can be used to inform a design.

Sketch Up model of a housing type
Overlooking diagram

Continuing with the housing scheme, I created diagrams looking at overshadowing + overlooking, site constraints/opportunities and historic site development for the DAS report. These diagrams allowed me to look more into the site and the design opportunities – something I had not done before for my own projects. My final task for the week was to create a collage for a section of the project to communicate the proposed atmosphere.

Proposal collage

For my last week at SWA, I worked on a retrofit of a primary school for which I was tasked with doing research on hempcrete – a sustainable and innovative material. Using this research and information from the engagement sessions with the school, I worked on ideas for the new staircase. During the week I also got the opportunity to go on site which allowed for me to see how design ideas are brought to life through the discussions between the wider design team and the contractors.

Sketch collage

It has been a great month – I have really enjoyed the internship and loved being part of the team! I would like to thank SWA for giving me this opportunity!


Written by Ruth Asfaw