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What do Architectural Assistants actually do?

On a very basic level, we know that architecture is the practice of designing and ordering space and buildings. But what do Architects actually do?  We caught up with BA (Hons) Architecture graduate Olivia Elsey. Olivia works in Norwich at Hudson Architects as an Architectural Assistant. Read on to find out what she gets up to in her role.

How long have you been working as an Architectural Assistant?

I graduated from NUA in July 2019, and have been working at Hudson Architects ever since. So as I’m writing this it’s been just over 18 months in practice.

What projects have you worked on?

I’ve been fortunate enough to work on a variety of projects that vary from quirky house renovations to state-of-the-art new build educational facilities.

However, the most exciting has been the Duke Street Riverside project, a new lecture theatre and student accommodation for NUA.

What does a typical week look like for you?

A typical week starts with a team meeting. It’s a chance to touch base with everyone in the practice. This helps us to get an understanding of what the week ahead has in store.

I then work alongside architects and designers on a variety of projects at a variety of different stages. My responsibilities vary greatly from preparing drawings and producing CAD models, to researching products and materials, creating studies and reports, and developing design solutions.

At the moment, our week is rounded up with a virtual coffee morning. It’s a more relaxed opportunity to learn about what everyone else has been up to. We also discuss any interesting problems that we may have encountered, and share resources to help our continued learning. 

“Architecture is something so natural to us, that we encounter and engage with all of the time, and yet it is something that we have created.”

What’s the best part of being an Architectural Assistant?

Being able to get involved with every kind of project that comes through the door.

As an architectural assistant, I get involved with projects in all kinds of specialties and sectors. It gives me the opportunity to find out what I want to pursue in my career.

And what’s the most challenging part?

The transition from studying to working in practice is a steep learning curve, which almost feels like studying a new language.

The role of an Architectural Assistant is to work alongside and support senior architects and designers.

In order to provide appropriate support, you must simultaneously do what’s required of you, whilst learning to understand the role of an Architect and the industry as a whole.

What makes a good Architect?

Creativity, in many ways. A great eye for design and strong drawings skills are only part of it.

Creativity means solving problems, translating thoughts and ideas, and asking the questions that no one else would.

What do you love about Architecture?

I love how architecture is so prominently yet so subtly a part of our everyday lives. It’s something so natural to us, that we encounter and engage with all of the time, and yet it is something that we have created.

Why is Architecture important?

Architecture is shelter – a basic human need. It is everywhere, and it sets the context for our entire lives.

What does the future of Architecture look like?

Architecture should look exactly as it does right now, from the outside anyway. Existing buildings have huge levels of embodied carbon. With the current climate crisis we cannot afford to be demolishing and re-building, and instead we must turn to retrofitting what’s already there.

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