Lucía Pells

"Starting at a smaller practice gives you much more responsibility which can be nerve-racking but you will gain a lot from it."

CompanyDuncan McCauleyLocationBerlinSizeSmallCourse BA ArchitecturePositionPart 1 Architectural Assistant

About Duncan McCauley

Duncan McCauley is a small practice, and the expertise of the practice is exhibition design. This can vary between the initial concept of the exhibition, including visitor experience and involving a certain amount of curatorial research, to the design of the whole museum exhibition space/building. There are two directors, around 5-8 full time employees at any one time, as well as several freelancers in other fields of design such as furniture, graphic, lighting and visualisation. Most of the work is done in the studio, with occasional work in green screen studios and exhibition furniture workshops.

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

I would suggest that they should not rush into any placement, or accept the first that offers them the job. It is a competitive climate, but the right placement will come around. Starting at a smaller practice, in my opinion, gives you much more responsibility which can be nerve-racking but you will gain a lot from it. You could end up doing things you’d never expect with so little experience. For example, during the projects in Kensington Palace, I had to fly to and from Berlin most weeks and represent the studio on my own. It was daunting at first, but exciting.

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

As it is such a small studio, I often act as project manager for whole exhibitions or competitions, even as a Part 1 in Practice employee. Also, the work is varied in its content; I am always learning new skills and gaining experience. This can include curatorial research on historical/cultural topics, concept design, visualisation, furniture design, filming, sound design and interior design.

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

This can vary. Often, I am working on large scale exhibitions that are in the “Ausführungsplanung” (detailed design) phase, such as the renovation and new permanent exhibition of a castle in Münsterland, and new permanent exhibition in Weimar. Between working on those I am also doing competitions for new exhibitions. If the competition is won, I move straight onto the “Vorentwurf” (pre-design) phase, such as with Kensington Palace and Hampton Court Palace in London.

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

To be able to develop a strong program and concept, and to convey the idea in a simple diagram is a skill that I have used in every project whilst working at the studio, and this is a skill which I feel SSoA very much tried to encourage.

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

On a practical level, I have learnt how to produce ideas and drawings in very narrow time frames, and under a lot of pressure. Also, as I have been working in a German studio, where most of the employees and clients are German-speaking, I have had to work to a German brief as well as pitch ideas and present in German.

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

I think what surprised me the most is the amount of risk that practices go to in a project, particularly competitions. A lot of time and money goes into a competition, with the knowledge that it all might be for nothing.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy the projects that I am involved with, as I have always been interested in historical buildings and the research involved in adapting a design concept to them. So far I have worked in this way with the New Synagogue in Berlin, Kensington Palace in London and most recently Volklinger Ironworks, a UNESCO site in Saarbrucken.

Where do you see yourself in future?

I enjoy the field of exhibition design, however I would like to move into the field of museum building design and landscape design itself in the future.

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

Making mistakes is normal, and don’t be intimidated by those with more experience. Apply for a placement in a topic that you are really interested in, as this is a time where you can really be involved with and discover exciting things.