19th Aug 2022 — Access to Architecture Internship 2022

Access to Architecture Internship 2022

After two years of studying architecture at Kingston School of Art, I was given the opportunity to further enhance my skills and learn more about what it’s like to work in a professional environment through the Access to Architecture Scheme. This is an opportunity for students that are interested to be able to attend work experience for four weeks at an architecture practice. I decided to take the opportunity and apply for a chance to learn more about architecture and working in a professional environment, specifically at Sarah Wigglesworth Architects.

I chose SWA from a large list of available practices because after viewing some of the work they showcased on their website, I understood that their interests when designing their buildings is ensuring it is sustainable and environmentally friendly, which is what I have an interest in and believe that everyone will have to consider these things in the future of architecture and building design. I also liked the work they did on housing projects such as Haycroft Gardens, for which they have been shortlisted for a British Homes Award. While working at SWA I took part in some projects as well as other events in the practice.


Housing Project – RIBA Stage 3

The first project I worked on was a housing project for a housing association and aims to create 38 new homes that accommodate a variety of lifestyles. There are homes with wheelchair access, apartments, and homes with 2 and 3 bedrooms. The terrain on the site is sloped, which means the homes are split into 3 levels.


During this project I was able to sit in with the design team during the meetings held every fortnight, which helped me understand how different people with different roles work alongside one another to ensure the project goes as smoothly as possible. I also worked on the Design and Access Statement, looking at the local area finding key architectural details which are interesting and were used as inspiration when designing the new homes.


Pilot Retrofit Housing Project – RIBA Stage 3

The next project I worked on was another housing project. Unlike the previous one this was a retrofit project. This means the building already exists and the work will be done to the building to improve its environmental performance which will in turn review its elevation design. The aim of this project is to reduce the carbon emissions produced by the homes and also to improve the living standards. This will be achieved by installing external wall insulation and improving the airtightness of the building to reduce the amount of heat lost. The front entrance will also be redesigned to have a more modern look.



My work on this project was creating the 3D model of the homes in SketchUp. The model was created using the elevation and floor plans of the buildings, adding details such as windows, doors, porticos, chimneys, rainwater pipes, and flues. After that I found examples of modern porticos and used them as inspiration for creating a new design in SketchUp. Working on this project helped me to improve my SketchUp skills and gain a better understanding of the software. I also learned about retrofit projects, about different renders and claddings used such as brick slips and what it means to design with a ‘fabric first’ approach.

3D models showing existing and proposed design as well as close up of proposed entrance.


One-off home refurbishment – RIBA Stage 1

This is a conversion project for a three storey house with a loft in South London, with the aim to increase space for one of the daughters. This project is in Stage 1, whereas the previous projects are in Stage 3 (at the time of writing) so it has not got a final design yet. Three options were provided to the homeowners which would increase space for the daughter and meet the other requirements.



The first is to build an ensuite bedroom on the first floor and allow the daughter to move into the parents’ old bedroom. The second option is to convert the loft into a bedroom and build a study in the garden. The final option is to convert the loft with a dormer for added space, and a shed in the garden for storage. Based on those options provided, I worked on finding precedent images to show the client as examples of the options and give them a clearer understanding on what each option might look like.


William Ellis and Parliament Hill Schools – completed.

This project is already complete, and the work I did was for the SWA website to showcase the project, which was a conversion for two school in north London. For Parliament Hill School, the area which used to have space for the temporary lunch hall and music rooms was converted into a library with bespoke fittings for furniture, and the music rooms converted into reading spaces and a desk for the librarian.



William Ellis School had a lot more work done. All windows in the building were replaced for better glazed windows with aluminium frames for better insulation. A new food technology room that opens into an internal courtyard as well as a new maths classroom were built on the ground floor. The first floor has a new Modern Foreign Languages area as well as two external corridors. I worked on creating diagrams to show these changes based off floor plans of the buildings, and then a site plan showing the schools in relation to other buildings in the area and highlighting the areas where SWA worked.

Diagrams showing the areas changed/built in Parliament Hill School (left) and William Ellis School (right).


Nubia Way Screening

One lunch we watched a short film called Nubia Way. It shows the struggles of living in London as a black person in the early 2000s and how a group of black people banded together to create their own homes from scratch. They got plans and assistance from contractors and built their own homes with their own hands. They faced racism and many difficulties while building their homes but stayed strong and now have a close knit community and live in the homes they built themselves.


Soup Club

Every month two people from the practice bring soup for everyone to enjoy together. This month I got to enjoy a carrot, orange and coconut soup brought in by Tringa and a broccoli and blue cheese soup brought in by Clare. Both were delicious but the broccoli and blue cheese soup stood out the most since it was my first time trying blue cheese. I had fun trying new foods and engaging in conversations with other members of the practice.

Nubia Way screening (left) Soup Club (right).


EDI Coffee Break

Another monthly event at SWA where everyone gets together to discuss an aspect of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at SWA. This month the theme was ‘Caring for Dependants’ and we looked into the one-off home refurbishment project and discussed how we could consider those who are dependant while working on the project. We look at the children being dependant on the parents and also the idea of the parents becoming dependant on the children as they grow old and the design then accommodates for ‘ageing in place’.


BHA Testimonial Video

SWA was shortlisted for an award by the British Homes Awards for the work on Haycroft Gardens which is a housing project that looks at multi-generational living and finding ways to design homes so that life for older people can be made easier. I worked on editing the video in preparation for submission.

EDI Coffee Break (left) and still from BHA video (right).

Photography of Stock Orchard Street

Photography is a hobby I enjoy in my free time, especially urban and architecture photography. The building where I worked has such a unique and outstanding design that it was even displayed on an episode of Grand Designs.


I was fascinated by the building and wanted to spend some time taking photos of some of the interesting aspects of the design, and I was given a chance to do so. Here are some of my favourite photos I took.

Concrete pillars (left) and small balcony (right).
Close up of outside corner (left) and window on staircase (right).
Sandbag cladding (left) and gabion pillars in in front of entrance (right).
Kitchen window (left) and roof to ceiling window in office (right).
Wooden pillar (left) and spring atop gabion pillars to absorb vibrations from passing trains (right).
Sandbag wall atop gabion pillar and spring (left) and upper corner of the sandbag wall (right).
Sarah's garden (left) and tree stump pillar (right).
Tower (left) and gaboin pillar holding up the building (right).
Window in the office.
Straw bale wall.
Director's chairs.


After four weeks of working in a professional environment, I have learned a lot of skills and gained an understanding of the ways in which the practice ensures that the projects are going smoothly. Resource meetings are held every week to catch up on ongoing projects and to look at possible projects for the future. Events and talks that are taking place that week are also brought up for everyone to attend if they want. I found this to be the best aspect of the professional setting aside from the friendly atmosphere because it ensures that work is progressing properly and everyone can be made aware of other projects’ status so that if another project needs help they can offer their assistance.


I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to work with qualified architects in a friendly and welcoming environment. I learned many things that I can take away and use in my own life and projects to help me produce better work. I was able to sit in and observe meetings which helped me to get a sample of professional, real life work, and see the different people working together on a project. I was able to improve my skills with software such as SketchUp and InDesign, both of which I will use in the future. I chose to pursue architecture as a career because I want to have a positive impact on the lives of other people, whether by providing homes or creating sustainable designs that will result in reduced carbon emissions and thus improving living standards. I feel that with this experience I am closer to my goal.

Written by Ismail Ahmed.