In the last post, Robin spoke about his transition from traditional schooling route to a mixed syllabus College approach. In this post Robin moves on to University.

Training to be an Architect comprises 3 stages – The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. An academic education, i.e. Through a University with accredited courses gives exemption from Part 1 & Part 2, and Part 3 is achieved by practical experience and professional examination: Thus, typically comprising a Degree programme lasting three or four years (Part 1), a year working in an Architect’s office (counting towards Part 3), a further two years University Diploma or higher Degree (Part 2) and a further year’s work experience followed by the Professional Practice Examination (Part 3).

It is therefore a lengthy process, typically comprising 7 years of training.

Further Education had been a useful intermediary transition between school and University. Schooling up to A-levels had been a period of lessons, starting at the same time and typically lasting all day. And Homework was something that typically had to be handed in the next day. At A-level, timetabling had less of the day filled up with continual lessons, and assigned work hand-in periods became longer. At Further Education, at the local College, timetabling was even less demanding in terms of didactic and scholastic in nature, with often greater period, assignment hand-in times and not too far removed and dissimilar to the University model which made the move to University less of a regime shock. Though at University, there was a greater emphasis on taking responsibility for one’s own learning, managing workloads and completing coursework to the strictest of deadlines, requiring emphasis on self-motivation and time management.

The first thing noticeable at University was ‘class’ or ‘year’ size, being about 40 in number. It was back to the larger numbers I had been used at School. The Degree course had a 50/50 mix between lecture based ‘classroom’ / ‘Lecture Theatre’ subject learning with assignments and exams, and Studio based learning, working on various Design projects, assessed at different stages including the use of critiques, commonly termed ‘crits’, being a review or jury with debate of presented work before staff and peers / fellow students in an exhibition, studio, meeting or similar type space.

Lecture subjects comprised some which I had undertaken at Further Education – in some ways they repeated, overlapped or followed on from what I had learnt before; they were named similarly, just slightly differently: Building/Construction Technology, Structures and Environmental Services, and I had a head start with many of the topics, which had previously caused me difficulties in grasping and now which others were coming to terms with, an example being topics involving calculations – relating to say, structural, thermal properties etc… (a benefit of doing what I did by switching school to a Further Education, BTEC course). Additional subjects which I was unfamiliar with and new to, related more towards Architecture, such as Theory, History, Landscape Architecture and Planning & Management. The lecturer, student contact and connections with lectures, in particular, interaction I had experienced at my previous college was something now somewhat diminished, even at times removed, being similar to that at school, and with class sizes being comparable and much greater than during Further Education at the local College, this was considered (and even to this day) to be a factor with such disengagement. However, the Studio based learning with its approach, manner and style did allow for good flexible levels of tuition, ranging from 1 to 1 to various size groups thus affording varying degrees of useful interaction.

Practical work, beyond actual Studio design projects including drawing and model making was varied, and very different to what I had undertaken during Further Education at the local College. Some was attached to lecture subjects. For example; structural work – making beams and columns out of using Balsa wood and glue, laminating or adding material to form different shapes and profiles and observing their different behaviours under loading when ‘hanging’ from them different weights, and comparing this to theoretical and mathematical formula and calculations. Or Environmental work, making models and placing them on a Heliodon (orientated lighting apparatus), to observe the effects of light and shadows for different times of the day, and for different latitudes on models of buildings. In the studio, models or CAD (Computer Aided Design) and even photography including work with actual developing and printing photographs of buildings was used to get a feeling and understanding for forms and spaces, materials, and textures and thus aesthetics of design.

Where practical work during Further education had been ‘hands-on’ in the field at ‘ground level’ often ‘manual’ working with materials, tools and equipment, University was more ‘studio/workshop’ ‘hand-on’ more arts and craft, such as with drawing, painting, and model making.

Additionally there were some trips out and away from University, but unlike during Further Education where they were mostly associated to building sites or town and city developments, those at Higher Education related more to examining, analysing and assessing sites being used, or for precedence such as to visit existing similar buildings and their users for assigned design projects, the occasional cultural ‘learning’ visit to Art Galleries, Exhibitions and a major week long trip abroad to Venice in Italy. A future Post-Graduate Diploma course would match this with similar trips including a week long trip to Paris.

Proceeding through architectural training, little was I to know that with fate it would all come to a halt…