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Interview with a Part 3 Architectural Assistant

01.06.16

Previously we interviewed our architectural assistant, James, who gave us a look into his journey up to his current stage as a Part 1. Michael is our Part 3 architectural assistant, and is on track to qualifying as a full architect later this year. Having been with us for nearly 2 years we asked him about his experiences so far and for any nuggets of wisdom:

Part 3 is the last hurdle before fully qualifying as an architect, what have you got to do in order to graduate and get qualified?

I'm currently taking a part time Part 3 post graduate diploma course through Brighton University, and once I graduate that and register with the ARB I will be a fully qualified architect. The course itself consists of three modules: records of experience, a case study, and then an exam, all while completing the necessary amount of experience working at an architectural practice!

Can you detail what happens in each module?

Records of experience include PEDRs (Personal Experience and Development Records) that are three month logs at the practice you work at. They detail what you've been working on for how long, and these are evaluated to ensure you have done the required work. You also have to submit a CV and a 2,000 personal appraisal of your experience.

The case study is 10,000 words on a project you are working on in your practice, ideally from inception to completion, from RIBA stages 0 to 7. I've split mine between two projects, Clermont and Montefiore, as I haven't worked on all stages for one project. You record everything that goes on and be quite critical of it, where things went wrong, where things went right, showing your knowledge and how you've handled different situations.

The exam part is 5 weeks long, open book where you are given a theoretical project and 26 questions altogether on various scenarios that pop up and how you would set things up and solve any problems that arise. Overall it's 20,000 words.

After all this the final stage is a viva¹ with 2 RIBA qualified professionals who pick at any weak areas and holes to make sure you're capable in those areas. Then once you've passed all that and register with the ARB you can call yourself an architect!

The exam part seems is quite different from the norm, is this the standard for this type of course?

It is quite unique, most universities that do the same course have a different format where the written exam takes place over one or two days. There aren't many universities in the UK that have a RIBA accredited Part 3 course, I think around 30?² The marking methods may differ between them but all the content is the same.

What are the changes from Part 1/2, in terms of responsibility, expectations, workload?

Responsibility is the biggest thing that has changed I think, in Part 1 I was told what to do more or less - I was involved in everything and involved in all the stages but I obviously never had a project to myself that I ran. Part 2 and 3 overlapped for me. When I first started Part 2 I had more responsibility but it was still similar to Part 1; I was still being directed what to do though I did have more autonomy because they didn't need to check my work and sit over me. A bigger change was during my Part 2 when our previous senior project manager left and I had to take on more work to fill the void until Chris joined us, it felt as if I'd transitioned to Part 3 then really as I was given projects to handle myself. In Part 3 in addition to managing projects and having more control I was also mentoring the Part 1 newcomers as they came in and giving them work. Client facing as well; previously I always went around with my Director whereas now I interact with them a lot more on an individual basis.

How did you find yourself at Yelo?

I worked at the Hampshire City Council in Winchester and wanted to have a change and switch to working in a private practice. I searched around in London and Brighton, as Brighton was fairly near my hometown of Southampton and more interesting, and I liked the appeal of working and living here. After finding a job listing and coming down for an interview I was impressed with what I saw and heard, and joined as a Part 2 in October 2014.

Having been working at an architects for quite a few years have you found yourself specialising in certain areas?

I tend to do more front end stuff on the design side of work, I have more experience with that and am a lot more comfortable with it but I am working now a lot in the construction stages as I need more experience in that area for my Part 3. Right now it's about trying to get as much experience across the board as possible to show my competence in all areas.

What is the least enjoyable part of your work at the moment? Best?

Work can consume time from your personal life, especially as a Part 3 as I have to study a lot and spend a lot of time doing mock exams. The best parts would be that everything is varied and interesting - every day there are different things going on, there are never the same details or problems from project to project and so you are never doing the same thing day in day out. Every project is unique, every site is unique and as much as I don't enjoy doing mock exams I do like the learning aspect of the job, having to find out about specific details and procedures and produce solutions. And seeing your work go from paper to fully built is always pretty cool.

And advice for budding architects soon to enter the world of architecture or some who are later on and coming to their Part 3?

Organisation is key, if you don't manage your time well it's very easy to get carried away with your work and get overwhelmed very quickly. And while it is important to plan ahead don't get so carried away you don't focus on the job at hand which needs to be done. Take charge of now. It also pays to be experimental when you're starting out, find out what the areas are that you enjoy and what clicks as you may not have those opportunities later on.

1 29 universities based on RIBA Part 3 awarding bodies updated September 2015
2 "viva" shortened from "viva voce': an oral examination, typically for an academic qualification