My view of what makes a place work is different now I have an architectural education and understanding. On holiday, I’ll always be looking through the eyes of how this city is designed, how does it work or not work, how do people interact with the spaces they are in?
My ethos is to be sustainability conscious. We all react to the spaces around us, and I’ve worked in practices that didn’t have the same beliefs as me, so I found it hard to do that job. I was less passionate. Now I’ve found a company that strives for the same thing I do, it’s bringing out the best in me. I’ve reached a point in my career, and in my life, where I am very proud of my work.
I returned to do a Masters in Sustainable Architecture at the Centre For Alternative Technology in Wales and now I’m a Part 1 Architectural Assistant, which means I’m in the early stages of qualifying to be an architect, assisting across a number of projects in the office, including visualisations, technical drawings and generally supporting the qualified architects.
Since joining Architype, a company that focuses on sustainable projects around the UK, I have also learnt so much about sustainable design and I’ve had the chance to work on some major Passivhaus and zero carbon schemes. There are over 50 architects here, and at some point, I’ve worked with everyone. Each project has a core team of 3-5 people, depending on the scale and scope. An architect can never produce a building on their own, it’s not a single-player sport. Instead, it requires lots of different skills, opinions, and time and energy to get something produced.
After my A-Levels, I spent my gap year working on volunteer projects, mostly in construction, around the world. I’m now doing two years’ work experience after completing my degree.
I knew from the age of 16 I was thinking of architecture as a career. I come from quite an artistic background and this seemed the most creative way of helping people.
Architecture is an art form with function, so you can see what works well and what doesn’t, whereas art is so subjective. You do need to be artistic and have a good mathematical and engineering mind, but you don’t have to be brilliant at all three. That’s the great part of being in a team, you all work together as a collective. Architects, engineers, and every specialist in the construction industry brings something to the process.
Architecture affects the homes, cities, towns – and the world – we live in. It has the power to shape communities and to divide them. Small choices can have a big impact. I’m fascinated by materials, for instance, how using a renewable and non-toxic material like timber can have such a positive effect on the wellbeing of the people who use the building, and on the environment.
Now that I’m working in the field, I’ve liaised with construction industry experts, mechanical engineers, project managers and people on-site. While I was studying, I felt quite separate from the industry. It was more the concept of design or architecture and less of reality. You’re not working in a vacuum, there’s an entire team of professionals that brings a project to life.
There are very few women, and even fewer black and brown women in our industry, and the percentages get even smaller when you look at women who are black and brown and sustainability-conscious. It’s a responsibility to be present and to be the best I can be. I’d like to inspire the next generation of black and brown female environmentalists.
Studying is a long process, and it has its peaks and troughs. I found networks and communities and companies with passions like mine. I now want to pass on my advice to people who are about to embark on the same journey and tell them it’s absolutely worth it. I’m on the other side, smiling.
Architecture is more of a lifestyle than a career. Even though I’ll spend my paid hours producing work, a lot of the time I spend my free time going to galleries and always finding resources wherever I can, visiting interesting buildings, or even just the cities that I walk around. And I’m lucky enough to travel through architecture – in bizarre ways. I love camping and hiking, and I got some funding to do a big hiking trip, studying the use of tents and portable structures and how connecting with nature can help us connect with architecture.
In the future, I’d like to live in another country, to see how other places are tackling sustainable design, like the tropical areas of New Zealand and Central America. And I plan to return to my ancestral home in St Lucia where my family has designs to build our own home. But I have bigger plans too, as I want it to be a testbed for alternative building materials.
Architects design the spaces around us for all kinds of people, but we’ll only have our viewpoint or perspective, so our industry should be as diverse as the people we’re designing for. We should push to become more empathetic, and to do better. There’s an awareness now that we need to do more for our environment and secure its future, I’m proud to play a positive part in this as an architect.
Funded through the investment of the CITB levy.