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My working day: Nightingale's Stuart Ward

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The newly qualified architect works on a converted pig farm at Nightingale Associates

I am a 28-year-old newly qualified architect working for Nightingale Associates. I live in Oxford and every day I make the 12 mile journey to the head office in the rural village of Harwell, famed for its science campus and international research. I work in a stunning converted pig barn which sits within a working farm, a very surreal space for a design studio and far removed from the hustle and bustle of our ‘glamorous’ profession.

I joined Nightingale in 2007 for my RIBA Part One year out and whilst working for the practice, continued my studies at Oxford Brookes University, gaining my Part Two and Part Three qualifications. Managing my time between work and study was challenging, but I feel this was invaluable experience, which has served me well ever since.

As the sun rises over the barn, I’m usually one of the first in the office, 8am every morning. While the sheep go about their daily graze outside, I take full advantage of the quiet period in the office to prepare for the day ahead; responding to emails, preparing for meetings and checking drawings

The University’s School of Architecture excels in conceptual and theoretical design and research, which plays not only to my professional strengths but also to my personal interests. During my sixth year I took the opportunity to research the condition of Agoraphobia in an architectural context. Last year, I passed my RIBA Part Three exams and gained my ARB registration certificate, proving that seven years of hard work and increasing student debt was worth it.

As the sun rises over the barn, I’m usually one of the first in the office, 8am every morning. While the sheep go about their daily graze outside, I take full advantage of the quiet period in the office to prepare for the day ahead; responding to emails, preparing for meetings and checking drawings.

I split my time between various projects. Prior to my qualification, I juggled my studying with designing and running a school project; a new creative arts and sixth form block. The best part of my job is engaging with the client and the end users. The projects I’m involved with continue to reinforce my understanding of the role of an architect, my job is to strike a healthy balance between what the client wants and what they need, so long as it is achievable - this is a skill I am still learning. I continue on this learning curve as I carry these projects forward to site and through the construction process.

Whilst coordinating the school project, I am also involved in competitions. The bid process is very creative, highly pressured and with varying fixed parameters within which to work. It can be difficult to deal with contrasting scales across numerous projects; one minute I could be reviewing a masterplan on one site, the next a technical detail of a wall fixing in a completely separate project; both of which require my full attention.

My ‘typical day’ can be very fluid in nature. Sometimes it will be quiet, giving me the chance to sort out all the small admin tasks I’ve been putting off or to focus on research, and sometimes it will be hectic with meetings across the country and tight deadlines. Often I will work late and at weekends I will be reviewing design information in preparation for the week ahead.

I find many architects to be cynical about the world of BIM, my personal opinion being that we, as a profession, must not be afraid of BIM. Instead we should seek to celebrate our contribution and lead the way for others to follow

I am an avid sportsman, and play seven-a-side football with other architects from Oxfordshire in a weekly fixture against a group of engineers. The best part of the game is the social aspect, and this inspired me to organise an annual charity football tournament for construction professionals.

Architecture is an ancient profession that is continuously evolving - you have to move with the times. Nightingale is currently working on BIM projects, which are providing us with an insight into the future dynamics of the industry.

At university I took great interest in the BIM process, researching the practical and conceptual parameters of the evolutionary design process and this is an interest I intend to carry through to my professional life as I seek to take on my own BIM project. I find many architects to be cynical about the world of BIM, my personal opinion being that we, as a profession, must not be afraid of BIM. Instead we should seek to celebrate our contribution and lead the way for others to follow.

Architecture is a rewarding profession, seeing the work you do make a real difference to people’s daily lives. It starts with a few ideas, evolves over several months through pen and paper supported by digital means, and ends with a physical product which lasts a lifetime.I see architecture as a hobby rather than a career, for which I am lucky enough to be paid to practice every day of my life.


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