How long have you been working within the Industry?
I started studying architecture in 2016 (University of Liverpool for Part 1, University of Westminster for Part 2, RIBA North for Part 3). Before taking on my Part 1 studies I worked in an architectural practice in Clerkenwell London as office manager and then junior architect, this really made me pursue and know that I wanted to do architecture. I then worked every summer in this office between my studies and for my part 1. Once graduating my Part 2 I started to work at Foster + Partners, where I also completed my Part 3 on their course which is combined with RIBA North. I am now an architect at F+P. So, I started my studies in 2016, I would say years in practice have been approximately 5.
What made you want to become an Architect? Did you always know what you wanted to do?
I always had a creative instinct and came from a very creative family. My mother studied art in her 20s and my grandmother had the hobby of painting, so I was surrounded by art very early on. As a child I enjoyed painting, making abstract pieces with wood cuts and drawing, I also played the piano which I think provided me with dedication and determination as I played till grade 8. With all this said I did not necessarily know I wanted to be an architect. As I came into my teen years and early 20s, having more freedom to explore the city I was born and raised in, I realised I enjoyed the built environment around me. The enjoyment of being creative and fascination I began to have around architecture led me to where I am now.
Setting up POC in Architecture was more of an unexpected creation. After the tragic story of George Floyd I felt helpless, being a student studying my masters, cooped up at home due to COVID. It made me reflect on my own journey and how I felt about it. I also reflected and spoke with peers who were from the same demographic. It made me think about inequalities within the UK, the systemic racism that appear in some institutions, lack of representation and opportunities for people like myself within the architectural sector. This drew me to create POC in Architecture, to celebrate and support African and Caribbean heritage architecture.
The Reality: what does your role actually involve and how does your work affect our lives/the world around us?
My role as an architect currently involves working and designing as a team for high end clients in London but also internationally. Currently I am working on a project in London which means I can feel more connected to the project and the impact it will have on our city. As a team we demonstrate design ideas and problem solve to come to an outcome that fits within our complex built environment but also pleases the client.
Being an architect is exciting because you get to see your thoughts, ideas and teamwork come to life and manifest into something that can be enjoyed by people, lived in and experienced. In my role as an Architect, I get to work with structural engineers, planning consultants, visualisers, landscape architects and professional physical model makers. Through POC in Architecture, I get to work with a variety of architects who want to support the next generation of diverse architects. I get to communicate and support young creatives, and share knowledge and experiences with them.
I have picked up many key skills during my experience so far, including:
Documenting my own work
Presentation design of ideas and solutions
Communicating with senior staff
Emailing and coordination with consultants outside of the practice
"The best thing about my role is that I'm part of something that will become reality. I enjoy this aspect, turning a thought into a thing. A thing that stays for decades, that is beautiful whilst serving a purpose."
I feel proud to be a young woman in this industry, especially a woman of colour, there are not many of us and it feels empowering to know I am within the sector as much as anyone else.”
Hey Ladies, my name is Savannah Williams, I’m 28 years old and I'm an Architect at Fosters + Partners. I’m also the Founder of POC in Architecture CIC. As an Architect and designer, I love socially driven and innovative architecture. I also enjoy using architecture as a tool to positively impact its users.
Whilst working full time as an Architect I founded the organisation POC in Architecture CIC which aims to celebrate and support aspiring black and mixed heritage architecture students and designers. So far we’ve run a mentoring programme, an exhibition in a London art gallery and are working on expanding to collaborative workshops in the future.
Challenges are inevitable. What are some challenges you personally face at work and how do you overcome them each time?
Not everyday at work is fulfilling or not everyday when working I feel my potential is being fully used, and sometimes this can be hard, especially when you are creative. However, I overcome this by knowing that I am still gaining from the task I am doing and it is still needed as part of the team. I think once you feel you are no longer learning from something and there is no enjoyment then it is
time to reflect and possibly move on. Until that point, I think every practice faces challenges but these will come and go.
What is it like to be a young woman working in your career area & how do people react when you tell them your job role?
I feel proud to be a young woman in this industry, especially a woman of colour, there are not many of us and it feels empowering to know I am within the sector as much as anyone else. In some ways being a minority in a space can put you at a disadvantage, but I focus on ways to exceed what people may think is or is not achievable for a young woman in such a male dominated industry. When I tell people I am an Architect it is often a “oh really!?”, I’m not sure if this is because I look young, because I am a woman or because of my ethnicity. Nonetheless, it's nice to surprise people.
"If you're thinking of becoming an Architect, be yourself, show your creativity and also demonstrate professionalism."
Platform: POC in Architecture CIC - https://www.pocinarchitecture.com