In the previous post, Robin introduced how he had started to follow a traditional schooling route on his quest to become an Architect. In this post he tells how his perspective changed and what actions he took

Unhappy and uncomfortable with the education route I was pursuing and specifically the practical worth and value associated with it, I looked into what options and other routes might exist as access into Higher Education. Why do something I really didn’t want to do? Were A-levels the only route to do Architecture at University? I discovered that there was an alternative. Many of what were classed as the tertiary University/Institutions of Higher Education such as the Polytechnics accepted applicants with BTEC (Business and Technology Education Council) qualifications in relevant Building Construction courses, and I found that my local College of Further Education offered a course which met with these requirements. A few days before my mock A-levels, I left – this being before the school year end, I had an extended holiday and subsequently enrolled at the local College, to undertake a BTEC in Building Construction. To this day, this was the best educational move I had made, and one I was to enjoy and value to this day. I had thought for myself, and broken away from the stereotypical educational system which so many were following to get to University.

At the local College, the immediate noticeable difference was the regime. It was totally different from school, being less formal and ‘stuffy’, more relaxed, and minus a school uniform. I was in a class or group size of about 10. I had been used to much bigger sizes throughout my schooling. This reduced size allowed for practical interaction not only between staff and students but also between students themselves. There were still timetables, but the subjects and methods of assessment themselves were also not what I had been use to.

There was a mix between traditional style classroom lessons or lectures with assignments and exams, subjects including Construction Design & Technology (building methods including Building Regulations), Materials, Structural Engineering, Planning & Construction Management, Environmental Science, Building & land Surveying, Quantity Surveying, Draughting etc… as well as being interspersed with practical elements and exercises, such as undertaking measured building surveys, horizontal and vertical surveying in the field with Chain, Triangulation and Contour work, Levelling, using Tape Measures, Dumpy and Tilting Levels, Theodolites, Benchmarks etc… And even designing, producing technical schematic and layout drawings and building models of houses. One afternoon a week, would even involve the learning of actual building trades, Concreting including Structural Testing, Brickwork, Carpentry and Joinery, Plumbing etc… This was a about as practical as it could get. There was a sense of getting a ‘feeling’ of how buildings came about and how they were made, actually working with materials, getting an understanding, appreciation and sense of their properties and distinctive physical composition: shapes, and appearance, including actual feel, workability, strength etc… and use, with tools and equipment, as opposed just looking at photographs and pictures in magazines, books etc… And then there were field trips, ranging from building site visits to housing estates of different decade construction to understanding issues such as planning and social relationship.

There were so many multi-disciplinary aspects to this course, encompassing different aspects and professions of the Built Environment. And so much of it has remained with me as knowledge to this day. And it was a course whereby we could ask questions, discuss points, issues and matters, and problem solve individually or amongst ourselves. For the first time I really encountered and been involved in free thinking.

I was able to go on with the qualifications from this course to Higher Education and study for a Degree in Architecture.

This will be a topic in the next post