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Insights into the Part 1 Placement

This month’s journal entry seeks to provide an insight into the Part 1 Placement and is written by Part 1 Architectural Assistant and Leicester School of Architecture Graduate, David Gladstone.

In August last year, I graduated from the Leicester School of Architecture with a First Class Honours degree in Architecture. During my three years at university, I’d also come to really enjoy living in Leicester and the events and opportunities that came with living here. Before applying for graduate jobs in architecture, I did a lot of research to try to build up a profile for the type of practice I wanted to work for and I attended a ‘what next?’ lecture where a series of industry professionals and MArch students presented their experiences after completing their part 1. One of the speakers at this lecture was David Hickman, one of the Director’s at Hickman and Smith Architects. Hickman and Smith Architects is a small practice based in Leicester that specialise in domestic projects as well as commercial and residential architecture. This, combined with the fact that the company’s two directors were active within the local community, suggested that it would be an ideal place for me to gain professional experience and develop my own skill set.

My first day at Hickman and Smith consisted of making some minor amendments to planning drawings and learning general office procedures like timesheets, project filing systems and getting used to Vectorworks (a CAD software I hadn’t used before). On my second day I was thrown into the deep end, doing a set of building regulations drawings for an above garage extension. Despite the weeks of revisions that it took me to finish these drawings, and the Spanish Inquisition tier amount of questions I had to ask my co-workers, everyone was very patient and seemed to be happy with the work I’d done. This was a huge relief as one of my biggest fears before starting was that I wouldn’t be able to make the transition into practice smoothly enough. After this, my confidence grew; I didn’t have to ask as many questions and I had gotten used to the systems that the company used.

At the time of writing this blog, I have now been at Hickman and Smith Architects for 6 months and I have settled into the practice very comfortably. In recent weeks I have been involved in many meetings with clients, contractors and engineers. This has given me an insight into the roles of other parties in the construction process, as well as having a better idea of what the clients are looking for and how I can help to achieve this. I have also learnt how to better liaise with structural engineers during the technical drawing process to achieve a result that will be to the desired aesthetic and function without compromising on the structural integrity. Another exciting event is that one of the projects that I have worked on has now just started construction, which gives me a better awareness of the progression and the timeframes involved with a construction project. I am especially looking forward to seeing how the finished project compares to the drawings that I worked on.

I have particularly enjoyed our monthly CPD visits to architecturally significant buildings within the East Midlands as it is a more relaxed afternoon than usual where we can analyse good architecture first-hand. The best experience that I have had at Hickman and Smith was a competition entry that we worked on as an office for a Visitor’s Centre at a nature reserve. This was a fun, challenging project on a nice site and we ended up with a really strong concept design.

To conclude, adapting to working in an Architectural practice has a steep learning curve and it seemed as if once I was comfortable doing one aspect of a project, I was introduced to another, more difficult one that I would need to adjust to. This, however, has increased the range of tasks I am able to perform confidently and made me a more competent Architectural Assistant.