Interview with a Part 1 Architectural Assistant


The typical route to qualifying as an architect in the UK is a combination of academic studies and practical experience. It involves training for five years at university and a minimum of two years experience before final qualification (more info on RIBA's website). The Yelo team is made up of staff at various stages of their architectural careers; James joined us in July 2015 as one of our Part 1 architectural assistants. We've asked him a few things about his experience.

First and foremost, what does "Part 1" mean?

Part 1 is the first stage of 3 to becoming a qualified architect through RIBA, the Royal Institute of British Architects. Once you've passed all 3 stages you can register with the ARB (Architects Registration Board) as an architect. So being a "Part 1" means you're currently within that stage of qualification.

What is needed to get into a Part 1 qualification and complete it?

Well, starting from college you would preferably obtain your A levels in science and art based subjects - for me I studied maths, physics and graphics. Then the actual start of Part 1 is taking the traditional route of applying to university for a BA honours in Architecture, and doing 3 years of full time study. The last stage would be doing a year or 6 months of paid work experience in an architectural practice - technically that last stage isn’t actually mandatory but if you chose to skip it it’ll make getting into places later on a lot harder and the experience is invaluable. Once all that is under your belt it's off to Part 2! 

How did you end up at Yelo for your work experience - what was your process of finding and applying to companies?

It was less of finding a place than a place finding me actually, through a series of fortunate events. I won the Degree Prize within the RIBA South East Student Prizes for which Andy (Director at Yelo) was one of the judges. I then saw a presentation from him about Yelo Architects, and he got another look at my work at my third year BA exhibition. Our first interaction was at a university event where we had mock interviews with a number of architects from East Sussex, and after we had a lengthy talk he ended up offering me a spot in the team then and there - having previously seen his presentation on Yelo I gladly accepted! It goes to show that it pays to make yourself desirable. I think that’s particularly pertinent in the architecture industry as companies are always actively trying to find graduates.

What are you expected to have at the end of Part 1?

With 3 years of university education and ideally a year of experience you should by now have a good working knowledge of how an architecture practice operates and the roles and skills that are required, good design skills across a variety of types of projects, and good interpersonal skills if you haven’t already developed them! And then there's the massive checklist that RIBA have...

What work do you mainly do as a Part 1?

I don’t have a specific repeating task at Yelo - I work on a wide scope of projects from small extensions to major residential developments. Producing CAD drawings, design and access statements, liaising with clients, going to site meetings. A lot of work and it's all exciting, and is also immensely useful in getting ahead as I gain a lot of experience.

Was there anything you found particularly hard starting your experience period?

Initially I found the prospect of meeting with clients was incredibly daunting. In fact I was apprehensive about the whole job as it was obviously out of my comfort zone. You quickly get a handle on things though, and looking back now most of my concerns were due to a lack of confidence.

Any parting advice for any Part 1s heading into uni or finding experience?

I think everyone says this but it's worth reiterating - college to university is big jump and you have to be self motivated and independent to be successful. And when applying for experience they definitely want you to have good CAD skills - a lot of universities focus on hand drawing but companies will want a variety of skills including both hand drawing and CAD experience.