Ceren: my work experience week at Plan A
I am a year 12 student studying BTEC art and design at Highbury Grove Sixth Form who is very interested in the process of design and architecture. I came to Plan A for work experience to understand the world of architects, and their design process.
Why Plan A?
Plan A is a small independent consultancy and is the right environment for people to grow and flourish in their work. Plan A offers a variety of opportunities and experience, and is a very diverse work environment.
On my first day at Plan A I learned from Zena how to upload pictures onto LinkedIn. I also learned about marketing, and the importance of marketing in a business/working area.
Insight on projects
I got to attend meetings and sessions and also gained some insight on projects and how they work and the process of a project.
Gail talked to me about one of their many projects, this was an interesting project to see because of the process of it. I learnt that there was a certain set of stages that you had to follow and, in those stages, (the RIBA stages) there were a certain set of tasks to complete like checking emails, follow ups with the client and architects. And every week you would have to complete a progress report to the architect and the client. You also had to consider things like the risk factors of the building location. Is it safe for people to stay there? The cost and the accessibility of the location, how will people get there?
I went into a meeting with Lucy about a new upcoming project that was really exciting. It seems to be inspired by futuristic/sci-fi designs located between mountains. I found out how collaborative the architecture sector really is. I witnessed how in meetings everyone from different sectors would come together to collaboratively work over one project. The meeting I was in was a mix of architects, landscape architects, interior designers etc.
The first half of the meeting consisted of the interior designer talking about materials that could potentially be used. It caught my interest the most when they talked about how sustainability could be incorporated into certain materials, like reusing materials to make something new, to use as another material. I learnt how spaces could interrelate with each other, and how you can use or manipulate a space to fit a certain concept of a building. And making material packs by following a sequence of spaces within a building, and also looking at how materials could change over time - how they can create certain effects within a building.
Then the landscape architect discussed some of the risk factors within the location (as it is planned to be located between mountains and rocks). He talked about how they could adapt the area to make the travel and mobility more comfortable for people. He also talked about the coastal plan, mountain coast and the overall masterplan. One thing he said was very interesting "looking at certain outside spaces as opportunities”. This was interesting because it demonstrates a sustainable way of working in the built environment - finding a natural asset for example, trails to connect footpaths for the pedestrians. Instead of knocking things over to rebuild something that was already naturally there, therefore saving up on energy. This made me realise just how much of a huge impact architects have on climate change.
I found out how similar the works of landscape architects and interior designers could be. Because the interior designer was looking into materials what surprised me, was when the landscape architect mentioned he also looked at materials too and in fact, created his own material pack. where he was specifically focusing on creating texture with materials and how that could change a landscape to fit to a set theme.
Understanding the role of architects
I was then briefly taught about the RIBA work stages by Jonathan. I learnt that these stages could be more or less depending on the county. However, in the UK, there are 0-7 stages.
Stage 0 - Strategic definition
Discussions are open to as to what the building might look like. The following or analysis of the brief, and also, the client.
Stage 1 - Preparation and briefing
The client discusses what they want and discussion about the fees is also mentioned.
Stage 2 - The concept design
During this stage the brief will be outlined, and the development of the design is discussed.
A meeting is set with the engineers and project workers as input is needed from them to see if this project could carry out or to just discuss what's possible and what's not within the project.
Playing advice is given and the cost plan is also mentioned.
Stage 3 - Spatial coordination
The designs are studied. Information is exchanged and 3D models are studied. This stage is quite collaborative.
Sustainability is discussed within the project.
Stage 4 - Technical design
How you can manufacture and construct a building. How to deliver a building
Stage 5 - Manufacturing and construction.
The construction process (on site).
Stage 6 - Handover
Usually spent with telling the client how to use the building, explaining the qualities of the building
Stage 7- Use
This is what the functions and qualities of the building were made for.
These RIBA stages don't always stay the same and are constantly updated as the architecture sector constantly changes and evolves.
On my second day I went into another meeting with Ryan and Mamta about a new project in which the architects, the clients and consultants were discussing the masterplan updates of the project. The main points discussed in this meeting were mobility, transportation and overall accessibility for people, as well as the population and how this could affect the project.
In another meeting, I was introduced to a stadium arena project. Rachel and Sophie showed me some videos in which the different building design models were placed onto the area where they were planning to build, to show how those designs look in that area. This was probably one of my most favourite activities throughout the week as seeing all these amazing designs visually was a great experience.
Natalie talked to me about writing reports. Zoe helped me on a task for Ned to put tasks and dates onto the project programme (making a Gantt chart). This was a whole new experience for me. With the help of the meetings I've had with him and also Ellie how to on how to use and make a Gantt chart, and Monica, who showed me how to use Excel and Project, it relatively went smoother than expected.
Progress over the week
Over the week I saw how much progress I made compared to the first day. I think this was mainly because of Plan A's welcoming attitude towards me, they always helped whenever I needed it and have also been very informative throughout the week. Overall, my week at Plan A was amazing and very nurturing on the work environment.
Plan A is a very strong team of people with various diverse backgrounds. Everyone's journey is different, and I think that's what connects everyone together, building a comforting and safe environment within their workspace.
I joined Plan A for work experience to gain some information and insight on architecture; however, I've learned not only about architecture but much more about the different work sectors within the built environment. My work experience week has been filled with a lot of useful information that I will most likely take with me in the future.
I definitely have been a little sceptical to try out new things (like the specialist programs such as Excel and Project) but with the sessions and assistance I've had from the employees I have become more confident.
Advice for future students
One thing that I would like to mention to future work experience students is that there will be a lot of sitting down in the office. Personally, I think this might have been the only thing I found challenging - sitting down for long periods of time, so I would encourage the future students to use their break times walking outside a little bit.
Another suggestion I have for future students is to always carry a notebook and pen to jot down notes because most (if not all!) the meetings and sessions are worth taking notes for as each one is very different and new, and you can learn so many new skills that could be useful for you in the future.
And my last point for the future students is to enjoy their week here at Plan A, which I'm sure you will, as it is quite hard not to!