By Hannah Bird, Architecture Graduate, Leicester UK.
My name is Hannah Bird, I’m 26 years old and a MArch - Masters of Architecture student at De Montfort University in Leicester, UK.
My initial attraction to studying architecture was my love of all things design and craft. I always knew that my future would revolve around a creative industry, however, I did not know which. At the age of ten, I used to study floorplans I found on Google, redrawing them and altering them to suit my ideas. I’d then build them in The Sims; a game I adored, not for the gameplay, but for the ability to visualise my creations. Through my years at sixth form, I was told that I would not be able to follow a career in Architecture because I didn’t study Maths at A-level. Whilst I found this discouraging at the time, I knew that I would find a way to study what I wanted.
I ended up meeting a girl, a few years older than me who had done an Art foundation degree at the Leeds College of Art. She told me about the benefits of the course for broadening skills and helping with university admissions, and after a visit to their Open Day, I knew this was the route for me. I would say, looking back, that the foundation degree at the Leeds College of Art (now Leeds Arts University) has had the biggest impact on my development as a designer; from changing my way of thinking and analysing the world around me, to the opportunity to develop a high-quality portfolio - which resulted in an unconditional offer to study Architecture at De Montfort University, Leicester.
Hannah Bird - Design Elevations
My Route into Architecture
I undertook GCSEs and a Diploma in Creative and Media, followed by A-Levels in Art, Biology, English Literature and Language. Following this, I went on to study the foundation degree at Leeds College of Art, before progressing to an undergraduate degree in Architecture at De Montfort University. Following my three years at university, I took two years out to work in practice at an Oxford based multi-disciplinary firm - Carter Jonas. There, I worked in a team of 8 architects, and over the two years, I was fortunate enough to work on multiple projects in various sectors. By the second year, I was able to lead projects under the supervision of an architect.
After two years in practice, I decided to leave work early before returning to university to study for my masters. In this time, I spent a month travelling around northern Italy, an experience that I believe has shaped my ideas during my studies. I decided to return to De Montfort for my MArch, due to the quality of teaching and the work I have seen produced by Part II De Montfort students in the past. Nearing the end of my two years of further study, I can safely say my expectations have been met.
Typical day as a MArch student
This year has been extremely different to what a ‘normal’ year at university would be. However, I try to keep to the same routines and schedule I would have if I was at work or university in person. I start my day early at 6 am; I find that if I wake up late, my whole day suffers and my motivation is low. A few times a week, I do Yoga before I begin work for the day, as this helps me to regulate stress and gather my thoughts. I usually work from 8:30am - 1pm before taking an hour lunch break, working again in the afternoon until 5-6pm. Whilst this is quite a long day, I find that if I work in this way, I can still enjoy the freedom of evenings and weekends - unless I have an impending deadline that requires longer hours.
Hannah Bird - Spatial Exploration Work
Some challenges I personally face at university on the course
A major challenge currently faced by myself and many other students is lack of access to efficient and fast computers that can handle the programs needed to run my course. The pandemic has affected how we work in massive ways, and not being able to use university facilities has definitely affected my work and my efficiency.
Skills gained during the course
Over the past two years, I have really begun to develop my own style - something which has been in the works for many years - my experience in practice and through my masters has increased my confidence in myself and my abilities, helping me to further this even more. I have also taken time to refine, revisit and challenge my own viewpoints on political, environmental and social issues that affect, not just architecture, but the world around me. I hope this will make me a more considerate and thoughtful designer as I progress with my career.
Hannah Bird - Design Work
Exciting projects I’ve worked on so far
My project this year is based on the way humanity has treated the Earth. I have studied the novel, The Drowned World by J G Ballard, which is set in a flooded London in 2145. I have used the ideas presented in this novel to inspire my project, focusing on mounds of landfill being used to house a community displaced by floods caused by global warming. As this project nears completion, I can see the benefit of studying such a topic at this stage in my career, something I would not have had the opportunity to do had I not returned to university full time.
What is it like to be a young woman studying my course?
Exciting, the more young women entering this profession the better. Sometimes it can also be daunting, especially when working in practice - undertaking site visits or hosting design meetings with only men present. I have been disregarded by clients before due to being female, but have luckily worked in teams where I have been supported and backed up by my colleagues. I wish that this didn’t need to be the case and that respect for all parties was the standard in every design meeting; this is something I hope will change in the future.
Do you think there is a stigma or misconception preventing young women from joining the industry?
I know that Architecture has previously been seen as a male-led industry, however, I hope that we can continue to squash this concept. I strongly believe that women should promote women and hold each other up; helping others to progress and further their careers will never diminish your own.
Hannah Bird - CGI Elevation Design work
What advice would I give a young woman thinking about studying your course?
Go for it! Architecture is notorious for being a course that requires hard work and long hours, however with the right attitude, mindset and passion, it is still a pleasure to study. You truly do get out of this course what you put in.
What’s next for me in my career Goals?
Upon graduating from my Part II, I hope to gain work in an architecture firm that focuses on creative solutions, innovation and has a passion for thoughtful and forward-thinking design. After a period of further experience in practice and building up a case study, I then hope to progress to study for my Part III to become a chartered Architect. In the further future, I aim to establish my own practice, but not until I feel that I am ready and have had enough developmental and valuable experience to grow from.
My passion project alongside studying my degree
On the side, I have just set up my own Analogue Printing Business with my Mum. We create prints and artwork using a method called Cyanotyping, which involves mixing two chemicals, laying them on paper or fabric, and using either a negative of a photograph or graphic design or foliage from nature to block sunlight from hitting the chemicals. We then expose the print to UV - either through direct sunlight or on a cloudy day, our homemade UV Lamp - and, once developed, we rinse the print in water and leave it to dry. The prints, once finished, are a beautiful deep blue - the same as the blueprints previously used in construction.
Lateliercelestial - Analogue Printing Business
Businesses Instagram: @lateliercelestial
LinkedIn handle is: Hannah C Bird