How I became President of the Birmingham Architectural Association

Find out how studying BA and MA Architecture at BCU aided Marina’s career.

Why did you choose to study Architecture?

From an early age, I always knew I wanted to become an architect. I was initially inspired by my grandparents - my grandfather detailed machine components for a living using a large drawing board, I loved watching him work. Both my grandparents saved tirelessly to build and design their own modest home which has been the heart of the family for over 60 years.

What attracted you to choose Architecture at BCU and how has it helped you prepare for your career?

I loved the city and was intrigued by the more experimental and theoretical undergraduate experience BCU offered at the time. For part II, I wanted to study part-time and to continue working. The part-time course for Architecture at BCU seemed unparalleled. Studying and working helped me gain experience, become a more efficient designer, and provided an educational balance between the more explorative and experimental aspects, along with the realities, of architecture in practice.

What aspects of the course did you particularly enjoy?

I enjoyed the diverse studios, and the varied interests of tutors helped me to explore different approaches to architecture. I also loved that we had the opportunity to work with and learn from other studios and year groups.

What did you think of the support available?

I found the tutors always made themselves available to assist with studio work, provide additional tutorials and were accommodating with any personal issues we faced too.

What has been your highlight at BCU?

I enjoyed spending time in the workshop and experimenting with different materials, including glass, plaster and wood. It was a great contrast to working on a computer at work and it is amazing to see drawings and details come to life as well as exploring the versatility of materials. My favourite project was completing a large 1:5 tectonic model.

Did you undertake a placement or any kind of work experience?

Every summer during my undergraduate course, I undertook work experience at a practice near home, in Peterborough, which helped me to understand the workflow of an architecture business. To become an architect you have to do at least a year of work experience or a placement year between the undergraduate part I course and the postgraduate part II course. I worked at D5 Architects, a local Birmingham practice, during my year out and I enjoyed it so much that I decided to continue working there while studying for my Master’s degree.

Could you tell us about the awards you won?

I won the Green Book award for my undergraduate thesis project. The award was for clarity and communication of ideas for a tea factory and farm in Stoke-on-Trent called 'Bartlem Brews'.

What advice would you give to future aspiring Architects?

The course is so versatile and varied in subject, scale and style. Discover what you enjoy and learn about it - don't be afraid to find your presentation style, be creative and explore ideas at university. Lastly, enjoy the journey and process at university, not necessarily the output.

Can you tell us about your current role or any projects that you are involved in?

I am a project Architect at an award-winning practice Intervention Architecture. We are a young boutique studio, with a rigorous design approach from development of sketches to material details, to the making of space and collective involvement is essential to the realisation of our projects. Current most notable projects I am working on are the construction drawings for two new build houses in Shropshire, which I have submitted a planning application for a drive-thru service. I am also leading an exciting domestic project through construction.

I am also the President of the Birmingham Architectural Association (BAA). The BAA is a chapter of the RIBA, founded in 1874 and represents the local architectural committee. The BAA is run by a community of 30 people from a selection of practices based in the city including architects, office managers, designers and interior designers. The BAA holds several events throughout the year. This year the focus of the BAA has been to collaborate with different professions in the built environment, to celebrate the city and its designers and climate change.

The most important project that we are currently working on is focused on the architectural community’s mental health during these difficult times. We are supporting the community by donating our event funds monthly, thanks to our sponsors, to ABS - the Architects Benevolent Society to help those that need it the most. With economic impacts widely predicted to be worse than the 2008 crash, our new 'Resilience' series will also help architects and designers to navigate this global pandemic. Co-CEO of Gensler (Word’s largest architectural firm) Diane Hoskins will be opening the series at the end of June.

As we are spending more time at home, this year we have taken our competition 'Calling On All Creatives' online and have made an open call to students, professionals and families to submit artwork related to the home. This competition is open until mid-July - find out how to enter about by visiting our social media or website.

What would your advice be on securing a job after finishing university?

Put in the hours to work on a good, well set-out portfolio. Display your hard work at a range of scales from concept to detailing, and include initial sketches to finished visuals. You should tailor each application to the practices you want to work with and ensure you accompany this with a cover letter.

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Birmingham Architectural Association (BAA):
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