A Presentation to 'Architecture Practice' Students at UC

Recently, Sarah gave a lecture to the Masters of Architecture students at the University of Canberra as part of the ‘Architecture Practice’ course. We asked Sarah a few questions to find out what this subject and lecture involves:

What is the Architecture Practice subject about? A lot of architectural studies at University are focused on design skills, sustainability, history, structures, etc. This course is really different because it introduces students to the regulatory environment of architecture - planning legislation, Australian Standards, building codes, contracts and legal obligations - as well as the ‘business side’ of architecture.

Why is a presentation from Light House useful to the students? We do this lecture annually to give some insight into the running of a medium-sized local firm, and to increase awareness of non-conventional modes of practice by discussing our history of working with an in-house construction team, and showing how we collaborate across all stages of design and construction with our in-house science team.

What type of projects do students in this class do? In addition to presentations on relevant topics, and an exam, students do a teamwork project where they are asked to provide a business plan for a hypothetical business that they would start straight out of University. We’re really open and transparent when giving the lecture, so we show students the way we manage projects, what kind of skillsets we have on the team, how many hours we spend performing different tasks (many are shocked at how little time we actually spend ‘designing’!). The students also ask really great questions about our fees, overheads (often they haven’t considered big costs like insurances and software), managing overtime, calculating billable rates, etc.

Were there any questions you couldn’t answer? Hmmm… there was one really interesting question that asked how they should plan to get their required experience for registration if they were hypothetically running their own business as graduates. (Before registration, architects are required to log 3,300 hours working under a registered architect.) I encouraged them to think outside the box of conventional practice and consider ways they might collaborate with local architects and builders in a mentoring sense. In some ways, we do this in our own practice – we are all fairly young and keen to keep learning so we invite a guest architect/builder/consultant/trade for lunch, once a month, to pick their brain and discuss ideas.

What do you hope for in the next generation of architects? I’ve always felt that our industry was fairly old fashioned… it has gender equity issues, an embarrassing lack of diversity, a poor relationship with the broader public, and is really behind the times in regards to work-life-balance. I’m passionate about coming in and showing students our own attempts to challenge this mold and I hold really high hopes that, as an entrepreneurial generation, they will reinvent our profession in a way we can’t yet imagine.