From Portrait Artist to Architecture Student

Originally from Turkey, Emre Süner worked as a portrait artist for a decade before embarking on a move to the UK to study on BCU’s BA (Hons) Architecture course. In his time at university, Emre has overcome personal and creative challenges, learned a whole host of new skills, and has grown in confidence as a designer. 

In high school, when other students were discussing their university options, I never took any interest in the matter. I knew what I wanted to do and it wasn’t education; I was going to continue my part time job as an artist at Souq Waqif Art Center in Qatar and save money to follow my heart. Just a few months later, I had quit this job and completed an acting course at the Doha Film Institution but still felt unfulfilled.

I wanted to take risks and broaden my horizons, so my father suggested channelling my drawing skills into architecture. I was a Turkish citizen and had already studied in Qatar so if there was a step forward, it would be to move to an entirely different country for the next stage of my life. A friend of my brother had been accepted to BCU so, knowing there would be one familiar face, I decided to give it a go.

I only knew that architecture was about buildings and when I first started, I wasn’t sure if the course was for me. I could draw and had transferable skills but there are no rules to what a portrait of a face should look like whereas creating a façade or a building required accuracy. That’s where the challenge stood for me and I was ready to break down everything I had learned, and rebuild my knowledge.

I almost failed one of the early projects on the course because I was merely attempting to replicate what everyone else was doing, I wasn’t thinking for myself. On the next project, I went back to basics and started with the traditional drawing skills that felt comfortable. I drew my precedents, my inspirations and my ideas, and this started to give my work more depth and truth. I hand-drew all the panels for the project and was delighted to receive a first. I learned that I didn’t need to abandon my existing artistic skills, that I could combine them with the disciplines of architecture to create something great.

The facilities on campus have been incredible for my architectural projects and I’ve had access to lots of new technologies I hadn’t used before. As a traditional artist, I struggled with creating art digitally. This is a required skill for an architecture graduate, and I’ve become highly skilled using Photoshop, in which I create all my archi-visuals from scratch.

I’ve learned to use an array of industry-standard software packages including Rhino, Sketchup, Vectorworks and Revit to build digital models, Twinmotion and Keyshot to render, Adobe Indesign to create portfolios and presentation panels; Illustrator for line drawings, Adobe Premier Pro and Rush for video-production. There are so many practical skills to learn too: during my Foundation year I got to grips with the wood workshops and, later, the laser-cutting and 3D-printing machines.

One thing that has constantly impressed me is how BCU keeps up-to-date with the times, whether it’s incorporating new technologies into their courses, being accepting of different types of students and encouraging openness around different sexualities or cultures, or even how the university responded to the Covid-19 pandemic with safety measures and testing facilities. BCU campuses always feel like a safe space to be.

For me, BCU has been a place of learning, I have developed a passion for the process of architecture. I’ve become an efficient and independent learner, and the course has been a calm transition into my professional life, giving me the confidence to progress into life after graduation.

I have not transformed completely as a person, but rather I’ve become a truer version of myself in terms of expression. I have learned that I never want to give up my personal work, and that architecture has become a part of my skillset as a whole.

I am now using my architecture and art skills to design installations for galleries in Doha, Qatar. During my time at BCU, I have designed merchandise for Turkey’s Hatay Archaeology Museum and created hand-drawn merchandise for Justin Timberlake’s Man of The Woods world tour. I now feel comfortable in my designer skin, and am ready to show it off to the world!

Find out more about our BA (Hons) Architecture course