Tag Archive: Architecture



Interviewing for an architecture job

Last week I took part in some mock interviews with third year students at Portsmouth University. Having studied at Portsmouth it was really nice to get involved with their work again having not had much contact for a while. We conducted a mock interview via Teams instead of meeting in person and was a good way of giving some feedback and preparing for the real thing hopefully. I thought I’d write this down to collate some of the tips I have for students and how I’d normally approach an interview both as interviewer and interviewee. I’m hoping to get some feedback via Twitter about what people do and how they approach them – I’ll update the post with anything useful.

Updated: I posted this Tweet and the replies are interesting and have updated the post with the feedback.

Firstly we started with a bit of a general chat about the world and how they were coping with lock down. The idea was to settle them in a bit and not make it too formal. This would normally take place in an office and then shown into the conference room obviously. Often the best place to start is to ask a bit more about them and explain their background and interest in Architecture.

Alex had a good way to start an interview…

I start telling them about us, so they can listen & compose themselves. Then ask them to tell me about their journey so far; where they’re from, a bit of backstory. Then we’ll do portfolio…

After that I asked them to talk me through their portfolio. They were allowed 20 mins but some went over as there was a lot to talk about.

Presentation is key here and both in terms of the layouts, graphics and work presented but also in terms of how you approach speaking about your work. Top tips include using cover pages to allow a suitable pause between work, especially if you are a fast talker – even more important if the presentation is screen based. Remembering that the person you’re presenting to may not know anything about your site or project is also really important – context please! It’s always really interesting to see how you respond if we ask a question about your work. This can vary from which software or workflow you used to make that beautiful section to have you seen this other thing that’s related or just teasing out a bit more info about the project generally.

One common comment I always have on work presented is that there should be a mix of work. It can be a bit boring to see endless Revit drawings (even if they’re really well presented). I always love to see models, sketches, collages, even a CGI. It also shows far more creativity and broader range of skills.

I have two stock questions that I ask and they’re both massive cliches, the first being… “so what do you do when you’re not architecting?” and it’s always interesting to see what the response is. By far the most frustrating response is to say how much they enjoy sketching / travelling / photography / making pots / carpentry and so on and to not have any evidence of it in the portfolio. I think every portfolio should have what I would call a ‘below the line’ section. A bit that’s after the architectural bit and if it’s gone well you can keep going with some broader chat.

The second one is so cliched it hurts. “Who’s your favourite architect?” … “and has that changed over time”. Whilst it’s cliched it’s always revealing about what people say and again another chance to start a discussion with people and see how they engage.

And then CVs… There seems to be a trend in CVs at present to show a series of icons of software packages used and also sometimes a 1 – 5 grade of where they sit with the skills – very tech industry. They also seem to look the same and suspect some form of template has been given (I think the RIBA do one). The point I tried to make to a few people was that if their work was good it would be really obvious that their skills were excellent and that these big icons of Revit and so on could have been used as thumbnails of their work. Ultimately training will be given on software but would prefer to see the skill described in the work and way in which it was presented. I’m probably in the minority but couldn’t care less about software skills. We can buy CGIs if we need them.

Am I way off with this? Would be interested in other peoples thoughts.

Owen also had some good feedback:

Interesting. I’m a bit removed form this now, but I would definitely lean towards attitude/interest/enthusiasm over technical ability too. Some stuff is less easy to teach, and bottom line, you’ve got to share a room with them.

And in a similar way Toby also suggested these pertinent thoughts:

+1 regarding stuff ‘below the line.’ As a candidate you should feel valued as a human being. All parties are going to share time, space, and ideas. How you think and what you value is so important.



Why two men are walking every block in NYC

This video is one of the most heart warming things I’ve watched in a long time and was really glad I clicked through to it this morning.

Read a bit more of the story behind it over at Kottke.org.



Hawksmoor x 8

I love receiving Keir Alexander’s Morning Visual Treat (MVT) each morning when I’m settling in to another day at work. There’s always something interesting and thought provoking to see. I’ve no idea where he finds it all from but I’m happy to receive it. You can sign up here for this amazing email digest.

The one this morning was really nice with a series of eight Hawksmoor churches all drawn out in this really nice graphic.


The graphic is taken from an article on the AR about a new book which looks well worth getting and will contain photographs by Hélène Binet.

Much of the material was first exhibited at the 2012 Venice Biennale, where I thought at the time it would make an excellent book. This is indeed the case – each of the eight churches is presented in the same way, with finely drawn plans and elevations, counterpoised by the stark and compelling monochrome photographs of Hélène Binet. This establishes a powerful relationship between on the one hand architectural precision and, on the other, the sober, sombre reality of the churches.

One for payday perhaps.



Tattinger and the RIBA

Now the RIBA has often been accused of being an elitist organisation with too many middle class males forming an old boys club. Fortunately the RIBA are doing all they can to dispel that myth.


Architecture Web

Tumblr love from Architizer

I got a tweet last night from Petra van der Ree letting me know that Architizer had featured the Architecture Pastebook as one of their 20 best Tumblr blogs to follow.

It’s great to be featured although the way they described my posts is ever so slightly odd. But I don’t really mind as they push a lot of traffic around. It’s also worth saying why I started it and I wrote a post about that when I started.

Architect and photographer Andy Matthews from Peckham, England, fills this Tumblr with images that he finds in his research or on design sites. It is a high-quality batch of fairly straightforward building documentation.

I guess they could have said something about my love of brutalism and concrete but it’s still nice to be featured. I woke this morning with a lot more followers on Tumblr which no doubt means I’d better make a bit more effort with it and post some original content (with attribution) and up the quality a bit.

Thanks for all the followers Architizer!

Screen Shot 2014 02 08 at 08 58 57


Architecture Rant

Architects moaning over ARB fees

Inspired by Mathew’s post, karma neutral, I’ve decided to offer a little more critique and voice an opinion rather than the usual ‘oh my god these images are amazing’ posts.

First on my list is Architects moaning. Now we bloody love to moan – subjects include, but not limited to; the world hates us, we don’t get enough recognition, Doctors earn more than us, it’s not like the old days, we don’t have a design champion, our voice is being diluted and so on.

So I was amazed to read a piece on the Architect’s Journal this week about the ARB throwing Architects off the register for not paying their fees. The title Architect is protected in the UK and you have to be on the register to use the title legally. Arguments about the role ARB plays vs RIBA aside, it’s clear that this is the only thing you need to do each year (and some CPD etc) to stay practicing. You know, doing your job still after all that studying and working your nuts off.

According to the board, almost six per cent of the UK’s 34,000 registered architects did not manage to cough up the £105 fee before the 31 December 2013 deadline.

The number marks a 57 per cent rise on the 1,300 architects booted off in 2013, and is equivalent to almost half the architects employed by AJ100 practices.

The tone of the article clearly implying that the ARB was being nasty and charging a fee for people missing the deadline. Then cue quotes from people who missed the payment and wanted a moan.

Fran Balaam of Pie Architecture, said: ‘The £65 charge is ridiculous. And for what? It’s costing more [to be reinstated] than when I joined first time.

You could have saved the £65 by paying it on time surely?

I’m reminded of the blog youhadonejob.org. The only thing you have to do was pay your fees and stay registered as an Architect. You get an email reminder too telling you to pay. But instead of phrasing the article as “Architect’s too lazy to pay professional fee to allow them to continue their job” it’s all “woe is me we’re put upon even our own professional body hates us”. The AJ weren’t the only one’s to take this angle. Please man up Architects. Anyone outside of the profession seeing this article would surely think we’d all lost the fucking plot and were a bunch of moaners.

And as Vinesh reminded me, you expect clients to pay you on time (and moan about that too) so why haven’t you paid your fees?


Architecture Photography Rant

The @RIBA would like your images for free

Felt pretty stressed today. Lots to do and try and achieve before a meeting tomorrow and then I get this in my inbox.

Hi Andy

I am including a case study on the **project** in a book on domestic refurbishment projects to be published by RIBA Publishing in spring next year. Around 30 projects will be featured and the book will be a well-designed hardback with an initial print run of 2,000. I do not have a budget for the reproduction of photographs so I am having to rely on the architects concerned to supply illustrations free of charge. I don’t know what your arrangement is with **** Architects but I am hoping you can supply the shots included on their website. You will be properly credited, of course. The book includes the best work of the leading young architects in London and the rest of the UK and the photography I have received so far is by well respected architectural photographers so you will be in good company.

The book is soon to go into production so I would need to receive the material as soon as possible.


********* RIBA

First impressions, wow…

As a fully paid up member of the RIBA it’s pretty crap that they don’t even think that paying for photography is necessary. Would they suggest Architects work for free? Now I’m sure they’re not giving this book away as it’s “a well-designed hardback“. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe it is going to be free? So if they don’t have the budget to pay photographers then they don’t have the budget to publish a book surely? I’m sure they’ll be charging a decent fee and making a profit of some form. In addition Mr RIBA is suggesting that a credit will suffice and that it’ll probably get me more work. I’ll also be surrounded by the best of the best, all of whom are giving their work for free.

Now I feel slightly conflicted as I’d love the Architects I shot for to be published and gain more work for themselves as well as wider recognition. So I do want them to be published but why should the RIBA make money off them and me without giving anything back? There’s not even the offer of a free copy of the book!

And to top it all off.. can you get us images as soon as possible please? Not only are they free but they’re very urgent. Unbelievable. I wonder if the RIBA will give me my 2014 membership for free? I don’t have a budget for it and it’s urgent as 2013 is almost over.

Now I’m not the sort that objects to free work of any kind. I’ve done free designs, sketches, photos, in fact entire days of photography for free. But they are all done for a reason, whether that be PR and exposure, friends, a charity or just because I’ve offered to waive my fee. But this stinks, really stinks. I wish the RIBA had a bit more respect for their own professionals as well as photographers who are trying to make a living. It’s not very easy paying the rent with a credit.

So I’ll probably give them the images anyway as I feel for the Architects but holy hell it’s one more nail in the RIBA’s coffin for me.

EDIT: As pointed out on Twitter by Steve Parnell the RIBA and RIBA publishing are two different entities. The RIBA is a registered charity which I’m more inclined to support – as above comment on working for free. RIBA Publishing is a fully fledged business though.


Architecture Photography

Zumptobel lighting competition

Each year I sign up for the Zumptobel Lighting competition. They send you a disposable camera and every year I forget to use the damn thing. I’ve done it so many times I now have a collection of them stretching back to 2010, which is even in its original wrapper.

So this year I’ve actually got round to using it. But rather than just snapping away I’ve decided to only take pictures of scaffolding with it. I’m sure they’ll be a little confused as to why anyone might do that but then they probably don’t know about #scaffoldlove / scaffold of the day on Instagram.


I’m pretty sure I won’t win anything.


Architecture Music

CAD and music

I miss the days when I could sit down and do a massive drawing task over a few days relatively interrupted and just churn through album after album in iTunes. These days I struggle to listen to an album in a day and it’s never in one sitting. Not that I’m complaining, I enjoy my job a million times more now but still long for a good isolation-CAD-music-therapy.

Today I’m trying to listen to Ghostface Killah. You should too.



Being an Architect is cool

We recently had a work experience student from a local school come and work with us for two weeks. He was a really pleasant young man and seemed to have a great time seeing how an Architect’s office works. On his last day he sent an amazing email round which was touching. The line that got me the most was as follows;

Being here has allowed me to see how cool being an Architect (and Architect’s assistant) is when other people have told me its not worth it. It definitely is.

Amazing. Good luck Seni.