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Road to architecture

As a creative student with an interest in art and design while at sixth form, Toby Barlow identified several subjects that were candidates for further study at university. 

To help inform his decision, Toby took the opportunity to take on work experience at a range of businesses.

“At school I was interested in mechanical engineering, product design, civil engineering and architecture. I was able to get some work experience in these while at sixth form, and from this realised that I enjoyed architecture the most. This wasn’t something I’d been set on for ages, but after getting the experience I enjoyed how creative and how open the subject was.” 

Toby’s work experience came about through persistence in calling and emailing companies. The work experience was often just a day or two, but proved enormously valuable in helping to reach a decision and subsequently receive offers – to study BSc Architecture at university. 

“I was able to talk about my work experience in my portfolio, as well as cover letters when applying to university.” 

Set on architecture, Toby explored a range of universities before setting upon the University of Reading. 

“It was a gut-feeling at an Open Day, supported by a number of reasons. I really liked the lecturers, and it was clear the quality they have. I liked that Reading is a campus-based university but in walking distance of town - as I had originally been looking at city-based campuses.” 


Interview advice

Students applying for BSc Architecture at Reading may be invited to an interview and asked to present a portfolio showing evidence of creative ability. Here, Toby showcased items from his work experience, as well as A level artwork. 

Toby notes that every university interview he had was different and shares his experience when applying to Reading. 

“My interview was as part of a group. For this I prepared questions that I thought may be asked such as my favourite architect, and/or buildings. In the interview we went round, and each person took turns to answer questions.” 
Toby has some advice to students preparing for interviews. 
“Be yourself and be prepared. Have your portfolio up-to-date and available and know how you’re going to describe it. Go through potential questions with a friend/family member.” 


Working together

Toby notes the collaboration with staff and students as being one of his favourite aspects of the course.

“A lot of time as an architecture student is being in the studio working on different projects either as a team or an individual.

"I really enjoyed working with people – I don’t think you can do architecture without working together and asking each other questions.”

By the end of the course, Toby feels the teaching and community prepared for his next step into practice. 

“I think Reading simulated practice well in lots of ways, particularly the studio work. The attention to detail and constant feedback on projects is something I was prepared for when starting my new role. 

"The Industry and Practice module really brought this to life. I remember someone from Ayre Chamberlain Gaunt, as well as Visiting Lecturers, talking to us and really giving great insight.”  


Part 1 Architectural Assistant 

Toby now works for Spratley & Partners, an architectural partnership working across commercial, residential, education, hospitality and public sectors, as a Part 1 Architectural Assistant. 
“At Spratley & Partners I work on a mix of high-end residential sites around Berkshire and Oxfordshire, as well as commercial sites. There’s a real mix of projects which I find to be amazing.
"Working as an Architectural Assistant you are generally assisting others in their project work, so at the moment I’m moving around a lot. There’s a lot of marking-up drawings, 3D modelling, visualisations, and also helping put together bid proposals.” 


Architectural journey 

Looking ahead, Toby has his sights set on becoming a fully qualified architect, by completing his part 2 and 3 qualifications. 

For those unsure about architecture and whether it’s the right subject, Toby has some words of advice. 

“You have to be passionate and enjoy it. It is hard work but you get a lot out of it. The skills you get from studying architecture are really broad; and leave you open for a range of careers.

"I’ve got friends going into all sorts and you don’t just have to be an architect at the end. That’s something that appeals massively to me. I’ve considered quantity surveying, project management, graphic design at different points – there’s all sorts and it leaves you really open. 

"I think Reading really pushed us to realise this, it was clear from our first lecture. The visualisation, teamwork and communication skills are ones you can use in any career.” 


Learn more about our BSc Architecture course

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