Melissa Kirkpatrick

"Try to choose a practice where staff are valued, and your hard work will be appreciated"

CompanyMSMR ArchitectsLocationLondonSizeMediumCourse BA ArchitecturePositionPart 1 Architectural Assistant

About MSMR Architects

MSMR Architects is a medium scale practice, and is currently expanding. The nature of our work is mainly high end residential interior architecture, much of it being in prime central London. The office is in a recently refurbished old Victorian school building, fitted out by MSMR. Being designed by the occupants, I think the space makes for a really pleasant working environment. The office is open plan, which I think encourages a collaborative working style.

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

I have benefitted from the opportunity to work closely on one project, for which I get given a lot of responsibility, working as part of a small team within the office. As the practice is growing, we have lots of current new and ongoing live projects, so I have also been exposed to a range of different types of project at different stages, which is a positive thing.

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

I have followed one project, a penthouse apartment, through to tendering stage from early concept design. This means I’ve played a role in developing the project from initial ideas through to a complete detailed design package. I’ve had tasks such as managing the design of the bathrooms, selecting finishes, writing schedules, communicating with suppliers, consultants and clients and keeping an up-to-date 3D detailed Sketchup model.

I’ve also been involved in various other projects; for example recently I was part of a team of five who worked together to develop a competition entry for a temporary dwelling. MSMR held an office-wide competition to generate ideas and after that we developed the concept into an entry. This competition was a good way to allow us to be experimental with design without many limitations. I was involved in developing the idea and producing presentation sheets and visuals.

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

Aside from presentation skills, the main value I have brought from Sheffield has been a ‘studio culture’ approach to architectural work. Discussing ideas and exchanging opinions and advice with peers is very important, which is something I learned at SSoA.

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

I have learned that an important part of architecture practice is the coordination of work; making sure every drawing corresponds with all design elements, and with other parties’ designs, engineers for example. A lot of organisation is necessary to ensure a project runs smoothly.

Also, through drawing and designing to a high level of detail which at first I found slightly challenging, I have been able to get a better grasp on how technical design works, building on the skills I had already learned at university.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy the relaxed atmosphere at MSMR, and having lots of people around to speak to. I like being in a job which is so teamwork oriented, and work productively in this sort of environment.

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

I have at times been surprised by how much responsibility I have been given. Colleagues having faith in my ability to perform challenging tasks has been key in being able to develop my skills as an architect.

I have also been pleasantly surprised at how much the practice makes an effort to encourage employees to socialise outside of working hours. I have been able to attend networking events organised by MSMR, alongside staff events and an office trip abroad. These have help me bond with my co-workers, which I think is crucial in working effectively.

Where do you see yourself in future?

I would like to be able to make a difference to the world through architecture in some way, perhaps by developing initiatives to preserve the environment. I hope to do this by working on architecture projects driven by sustainability, and by being involved in the wider architecture community.

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

Apply to lots of practices, and go to as many interviews as you can. Apply for a range of different types of practice, and be open to different opportunities. It’s important to get a feel of the place you will be spending every day at, and to make sure it’s the right fit. Try to choose a practice where staff are valued, and your hard work will be appreciated.

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

Don’t be afraid to show your co-workers how much you already know and what you can do. This will encourage people to challenge you more with the work you are given, which is a good thing. Get involved in fun things like competitions, and definitely make an effort to socialise with co-workers as it will make your year in practice much more enjoyable.