Hannah Thompson, is an architect at Warren & Mahoney. Photo Ted Baghurst.

Students in their final year of school are often, by now, feeling the pressure to settle on a career choice. School-leavers may be interested in a broad range of subjects but can’t decide between a creative or technical future. One career that covers all the bases is architecture, as it offers the opportunity to be creative while also developing technical skills and analytical thinking.

A diversity of interests drew Hannah Thompson, in her last year of high school, to apply to study architecture. She was keen on a range of subjects from art to science, and says key subjects for her were painting, music, English and statistics. She recommends students choose a wide range of subjects that appeal to them – those they feel really passionate about.

Thompson describes architecture as being about “ideas, understanding people and influencing the city to enrich the lives of its users. It relates to many different facets and includes a range of skill sets”.

She notes there are a number of pathways available to qualify as a registered architect within New Zealand, but it typically involves five years at university and a minimum of two to three years of professional experience, followed by registration.

The University of Auckland offers a three-year course of study to gain a Bachelor of Architectural Studies. To then become a practising architect, graduates need to follow this up with a Master of Architecture (Professional) – or an associated combined master’s programme – which takes two years full-time. In the second year of a MArch (Prof), students have the chance to explore an individual architectural design proposition, supported by a strong theoretical component, in a design thesis.

Once the MArch(Prof) is successfully completed, students become qualified to work as an ‘architectural graduate’, and this is how Thompson began her career at architectural firm Warren and Mahoney in 2012.

“This was just after the global financial crisis so I was excited to secure a job with such a reputable and leading design practice,” she says. “I was fortunate to have had architectural experience while studying, which helped get a foot in the door. After five years I’ve recently become an associate, which is very rewarding.”

The final hurdle to becoming an architect is registration, and Thompson is in the last stages of this process.

“I have just completed my interview so fingers crossed! Registration is based on your professional experience and consists of a case study, which is a written component demonstrating your experience throughout all project phases and a professional conversation.”

Applying for registration is an investment that requires significant dedication when juggling work and life commitments, says Thompson. “However, it’s also been a really valuable process. It helps to ‘connect all the dots’ while also recognising that our profession is complex. Part of our responsibility as architects is to continually learn new skills and gain knowledge.”

Her experience to date has ranged from medium to high density housing projects, schools, art installations and predominantly new commercial buildings. “What I particularly enjoy about these types of projects is the opportunity to engage with the community and work with a variety of people,” she says. “No project is the same and you need to have a critical understanding of the client, the brief and varying complexities to create meaningful dialogue and a considered design response.”

Along with many professions in the rapidly-changing working world, architecture has embraced technology. Thompson says technology is very much integrated into the role of an architect and “creates ongoing opportunities within the profession – from the software we use on a day-to-day basis, through to new and innovative materials. Technology is particularly valuable as a great tool to help us effectively communicate and demonstrate ideas with our clients and colleagues.”

Environmental sustainability has become an important aspect for the architectural profession and needs to be carefully considered when planning a new project.

“This ranges from critically analysing the site and understanding the users, to carefully considering materials and construction techniques to improve the built environment with minimal impact, says Thompson.

“Environmental consciousness is growing day by day and is becoming an expectation for all new buildings.” The good news is that with new material innovations and technologies, she says the concept of sustainability is becoming easier to access and achieve.

Thompson notes that one of the great aspects of a degree in architecture is its versatility.

“There are a range of career opportunities, depending on your interests and key areas of specialisation. This is often difficult to define as a graduate and is something you learn as you gain experience and exposure within the industry. Be creative, test ideas and enjoy the journey!”

Source: NZ Herald

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