Architecture Study in the UK: It is not only about sketching buildings
This month on Indonesia Mengglobal, I talked to my good friend, Brandan Magie, about his experience studying in one of the best architecture schools in the UK. He is currently working in an architectural firm in Bali and here is Brandan sharing some of his stories and advice on preparing for a university degree in Architecture, dedicated to all young, budding architects out there!
As with all interviews, please tell us a little bit about yourself and why you chose to study Architecture.
My name is Brandan Magie and I graduated from the School of Architecture, Oxford Brookes University, also known as the Oxford School of Architecture and it is one of the largest Architecture schools in the UK. I chose to study Architecture simply because it has always been my passion, and I’ve been interested in Architecture since I was about fifteen years old.
Before you went to university, what did you do to prepare yourself for applying to Architecture school?
Well, most importantly I had to submit a portfolio, which consists of mainly paintings, architectural drawings, and perspectives. Usually the university will specify a certain set of requirements for your portfolio. For example, they might ask for drawings in black and white, charcoal, and pencil. So, you would have to prepare maybe about 10 drawings in total. Although, it does differ between universities.
How long in advance would you advice future architects to prepare themselves before applying to Architecture school?
I would say, if you have no background in arts or whatsoever, give yourself at least one year to learn the required skills in sketching, drawing and model-making. You may not necessarily master these skills, but it would definitely help you. Plus, there is a lot of places where you can take courses to learn these skills.
I personally learned in Villa Merah, which is based in Bandung and Jakarta. They train prospective students who wants to study arts or Architecture. In addition, there are more similar places that offer such courses.
So, what was your first week in university like? Was it as you imagined it, or did anything shock you? Aside from cultural shock associated with studying abroad, of course!
I suppose in the first week, I was surprised that we performed a lot of tasks that were not specifically “architectural”. Instead, our tutors would tend to let us experiment. So, they don’t exactly teach us directly how to draw a proper door and how to fix two designs together. Instead, our professors and tutors let us challenge and explore our creativity.
It was not really something I expected to do in Architecture school! I was incredibly excited to learn to draw buildings and architectural structures, but I did not expect to be asked to paint! Plus, I did not have experiences in painting with acrylic and stuff like that. So, really, I had to get myself used to doing a lot of tasks that were not exactly in my comfort zone.
Oh, also, I had to buy a lot of materials. So, be ready to spend an amount of money for these materials, guys!
What was the best experience for you in three years of studying Architecture?
I think the best experience I had during my study is meeting a lot of people with different ideas, opinions and interests. Some people can be interested in colonial and heritage buildings or futuristic architecture, for example. And in the Architecture school, there are various units, where your mentor will guide you to build up your skills and expertise based on your particular interests. Basically, it was just very interesting to meeting and working together with a lot of people with various interests.
How did you deal with working with classmates who have different interests when you have to do a project together?
So, in the beginning of a project you would have to sit down and build a concept together, based on your assigned brief. If, for example, the brief is about building a psychiatric hospital, then we would have to come up with the best design concept that ensures the patients well-being. Like every projects in other fields, ideas and design would always develop and change. As ideas change, everyone’s tastes and interests get incorporated into the design. At the end of the day, every group member had a say and we would compromise to decide what fits best for the design.
I think that it is really amazing that you learn a lot about project management too when you study Architecture.. That is definitely a crucial skill to have in a workplace!
But, here is one question I’m dying to ask. One of the things everyone from other degrees envy Architecture students is that they get to go on really cool field trips at least once a year. So, what was your favourite field trip destination?
Wow, this is a tough one! I think my most favourite destination is… Italy! We went to an island off Sardinia called Asinara. It was formerly a prison island for about 100 years, and now it turned into a national park. It was definitely an interesting place.
We also went to Nicosia, Cyprus; Berlin, Germany and London.
Well, the field trips should be enough reason for someone to pursue this degree! But, what was the biggest challenge for you?
I think the biggest challenge of all is time management. You would have to time everything wisely, otherwise you would overwhelm yourself and not make the deadline!
Lastly, do you have more advices for someone who is considering to study Architecture in the university?
Mainly, I would advise them to experiment and continue exploring their ideas and creative side. There is a saying that, “not all architects can sketch, but everyone can sketch”. I mean, as I have said it before, it is worth the investment to learn how to sketch properly. But, the main skill an architect must have is the ability to imagine 3-dimensional (3D) space. It is important to be able to translate a 2-dimensional drawing and imagine what it looks like in 3D. So, this skill is something that future architects would want to start developing on.
Another information I can share about applying to an Architecture school, specifically in the UK, is there are two different kinds of Architecture degree: Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Bachelor of Science (BSc.). These differences do really matter. B.A. in Architecture would focus more on design, while BSc. will teach you more of the engineering side. Sometimes, the latter would be named BSc. Architectural Engineering, but sometimes it is not. So, do your research well and make sure you pick the right degree for you!
A big thank you to Brandan for sharing his experience of studying Architecture! We hope this article offers great insights for all of you who aspires to be an architect.
Photo credit: Brandan Magie’s personal collection
Nandra graduated from Cardiff University, UK with a BA degree in Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies. After university, she decided that she's still too young to be tied down to a job she might not enjoy, so she went off to China to study Mandarin at Zhejiang University for one year. Now, she is rekindling her love-hate relationship with her hometown, Jakarta. An aspiring writer, she loves to travel, find new places to eat and curl up with a good novel.
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