From Bachelor of Design to architecture industry

Thomas began working in industry whilst finishing his undergraduate degree. Now working at an architecture firm, he’s opted to take on the Master of Architecture as well.

Internal render
Image: Excerpt from Thomas' Design Studio Epsilon final project

How would you describe your overall experience in the Bachelor of Design?

The Bachelor of Design proved to be a challenging yet rewarding experience, setting us up with a diverse range of skills to take on the industry and further studies. With 12 majors to choose from I was able to delve into a diverse range of subjects within the realm of architecture, building, and planning. This opened me up to experiences and areas of interest not solely within the architecture major as I had initially chosen.

Being the first cohort to graduate from the new degree, we were definitely put through our paces and challenged! Now having begun my Master of Architecture, looking back over the past 3 years I can see how it has been such a rewarding degree and how we now stand out with an even stronger skill set than students who graduated before us.

When did you decide what you wanted to major in?

I was always interested in majoring in architecture as I was not really aware of all of the other potential career paths and study options. However, after the first few weeks, I began to rethink my options and took subjects which allowed me the flexibility to change my major to construction if I wanted to. After seeking advice from Faculty staff and industry professionals (who I was introduced to through my subjects), I was able to determine that the architecture major was the best path forward for me.

What was your favourite subject or experience in the course?

Design Studio Delta would definitely have to be the standout subject of the degree. It challenged me to think in different ways about architecture and reconsider the preconceived notions of why things are as they are. Led by Dennis Prior, the studio journey guided us to our final project through unconventional ways of designing and thinking about architecture through mapping tasks. We also were encouraged again to look at architecture through other mediums such as film and art in our weekly journal tasks.

Studio Delta work
Image: Excerpt from Thomas' Design Studio Delta library cube project

What’s the most useful skill that carried over from the Bachelor of Design to your work?

Despite all the cool VR tricks and software we explored throughout the degree, I think the most valuable skill I learned is diagramming and being able to communicate an idea with a quick sketch. When you are working collaboratively in an office or even in a university environment, being able to quickly and clearly convey what your ideas are is such an invaluable skill.

I never thought much of diagramming or concept sketches at the start of the degree but by the end, and now more so than ever, I have developed a love and admiration for a good diagram! They enable someone to quickly understand the reasoning behind your design decisions in such a clear and simple way.

You are currently working with architecture firm Fender Katsilidis, how did you hear about this employment opportunity?

I have been working at FK for over a year now. Experience is something that is invaluable in Architecture (as well as many other professions), and it was my aim to obtain a job in industry whilst I was still completing my undergraduate degree. I have been able to learn so much whilst studying which has been an amazing opportunity for me.

Having moved from Canberra to complete my degree, I didn’t have many industry connections (which make such a difference - so get your LinkedIn set up now!). So, in my second year, I set up a long spreadsheet, wrote out all the firms I was interested in, and started calling and emailing my portfolio asking if they had any student positions. I was that annoying student who would call again following up every odd month and it was so embarrassing, but it paid off! Eventually, I was fortunate enough to get an interview with FK and the rest is history as they say...

How did you find the transition from the Bachelor of Design to working in industry?

The Bachelor of Design set me up really well for starting work within the industry - taking construction subjects such as Understanding the Built Environment meant I was well acquainted with site conditions and familiar with the processes and activities of a construction site. Core subjects within the Architecture Major such as Construction Analysis and Construction Design gave me plenty of technical and construction knowledge helping me to not be overwhelmed when looking at technical drawings.

Foundations of Design: Representation gave me a solid foundation for all of my design skills from being able to quickly complete hand sketches for a client meeting through to photoshopping renders for town planning submissions. The list goes on really, but I found that the transition has been very seamless and complimentary, with the degree having provided me with a great starting point.

Portfolio architectural section
Image: Architectural section from Thomas' Design Studio Epsilon final project

2020 has been a very difficult year with Covid-19 impacting lives profoundly – are you still working throughout the pandemic?

Working for a larger firm I have been exposed to some amazing and diverse projects, ranging from commercial office buildings to apartment towers and through to master planning for new precincts. This year has definitely been unexpected and the whole practice has undertaken a rapid shift to working remotely due to Covid. I have been working from home since mid-March so Microsoft Teams meetings and multiple phone call catch-ups throughout the day are the new norm! It has been a challenge at times and I have really come to value the importance of a good internet connection (!!) but everyone has taken to it really well in the office and we are still as productive as ever.

Why did you decide to go straight into your Master of Architecture after the Bachelor of Design?

That question is one I debated for a very long time and I still am not sure if I really have a proper answer! I was really enjoying working full time and taking on more responsibility within projects, however I decided that it would be beneficial to continue with my studies and keep the momentum I had built up from undergrad going.

I did decide to take a reduced load during the first semester so that I could still maintain working 4 days a week in the office. It has definitely been the right decision for me, with work enabling me to learn and develop my technical skills and Uni being an outlet for me to explore speculative and more adventurous design ideas.

Do you have any advice for anyone thinking about studying the Bachelor of Design or going straight into their Masters?

For anyone looking to study the Bachelor of Design, my advice would be to go for it! You will not regret it as there are so many pathways that you can take from the degree and you have time to figure that out when you start. The degree will also provide you with incredible staff and amazing facilities which will help you find where your passion lies.

To those already studying, if you can, getting any kind of experience in industry whilst you are still studying is invaluable and you engage with the content at Uni so much more as you can see it put into practice.

If you’re considering if you should go straight into masters or not, I would say go for it - but I would also highly recommend trying to reduce your subject load so that you can work alongside studying. Professional work has really complimented my University work and vice versa. It also gives you a little bit of a break and diversity in your week!

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