George Fisher

"Don’t just look at the architecture of the practice; a large proportion of your judgement should be based on the studio environment and ethics"

CompanyBennetts AssociatesLocationLondonSizeLargeCourse BA ArchitecturePositionPart 1 Architectural Assistant

About Bennetts Associates

Bennetts Associates is a practice of about 80 with its main office in London, along with two smaller offices in Edinburgh and Manchester. It prides itself on developing a close relationship between the technical requirements of architecture and the built form, and by not employing technicians as they expect their staff to be well grounded in technical matters. Therefore, the final finish of Bennetts’ buildings have a level of honesty to them, along with great care to materiality and to the context within which it is sat.

What are the best things about working in this type of practice?

Being part of a well-established firm means that projects are well resourced, you are not overworked, the pay is good and you are generally looked after very well. Moreover, it is interesting to be in an environment surrounded by so many different developing projects.

What type and stage of projects have you been working on and what are your main roles and responsibilities?

I have worked mainly on projects at RIBA Stages 0-2, as well as a couple of competitions. Most of my time has been spent working on a mixed-use scheme in Chiswick which includes residential, a car showcase, hotel, student accommodation and a central public space. I have now been moved onto a feasibility study looking into the renovation and extension of a theatre in London.

What knowledge, skills or values developed at SSoA have you brought into practice?

The SSoA’s emphasis on a careful consideration of both social and built context has helped me maintain an awareness of the human scale and ethics, consequently enabling me to bring a level of modesty and consideration into the larger projects I have been working on. Moreover, SSoA’s collaborative studio nature with regular pin ups and reviews have prepared me with the necessary skills to speak out during design discussions.

What knowledge, skills or values have you acquired or developed during your time in practice?

My team working skills have developed since my time working in practice as a result of constant group decision making. Through this process I have learnt to be more open to other viewpoints and perspectives that I previously would have found harder to go along with, thus opening me up to new ways of designing. Moreover, designing while considering planning regulations has been a challenging but interesting skill that I am still developing.

Is practice what you expected? Describe any surprises or challenges that you’ve encountered.

I have found there has been much less direction and leadership than expected. This may be as a result of the non-hierarchical nature of the office, whereby you are trusted to contribute your time and energy the way you see fit. There is often a level of expectancy from you as people forget you have never worked in practice before, which means you have to work and learn fast to keep up.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Designing, learning and being able to switch off from work in the evenings and weekends!

Where do you see yourself in future?

I would eventually like to open my own practice, but in the meantime I want to get as much architectural experience as possible. I would like my second year in practice to be in a smaller practice.

What top tips would you offer architecture students who are applying for Year in Practice placements?

Give yourself a week or so off after finishing then apply to as many architectural practices as possible. The people I know who started applying late, regardless of their portfolio, found it very hard to find a job. Accept interviews for places you are not necessarily that interested in as it is good interview practice. Don’t just look at the architecture of the practice; a large proportion of your judgement should be based on the studio environment and ethics.

What top tips would you offer architecture students who are about to begin a Year in Practice placement?

The studio environment and type of employees employed by the practice is important. The smaller the practice, the more responsibility you are likely to get. Follow your gut instinct. Keep your CV as simple and clear as possible – the less text the better. Don’t be nervous about interviews as it’s no more intimidating than having a chat over your work with a tutor.