Sarah Edwards

"Identify and recognise the ethos and aims of individual practices and whether that matches your intentions"


CompanyAssociated ArchitectsLocationBirminghamSizeLargeCourse BA ArchitecturePositionPart 1 Architectural Assistant

About Associated Architects

Associated Architects is a large collaborative and design focused practice that was formed in 1968. Ever since then, Associated Architects have been committed to designing architecture within the UK and further afield. Working across both the private and public sectors their portfolio of work includes schools, universities, offices, residential schemes and urban regeneration projects. The practice strives to produce architecture that is both sensitive to its needs and its users through thoughtful and innovate design, yet it has an analytical approach and responsibility to generate high quality creative ideas as well as to deliver pragmatically, beyond design.

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

I would suggest brushing up on your technical skills and knowledge of how specific stages of a project are carried out, which will make your transition into practice slightly easier. My other advice would be to be as organised as possible. In practice, time constraints are more important when meeting deadlines. Being honest with yourself and others about how long a task will take you is invaluable. Despite all this, the most essential top tip is purely to enjoy it – time flies by so quickly!

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

Working in a large practice allows you to work cohesively in a team with a range of roles as well as work collaboratively across multiple teams where discussions can happen in a group environment. A wide range of people working in the practice creates a sense of community and a platform for ideas, influences and input. The breadth of expertise and experience within the studio continuously offers opportunities for guidance and learning, with exposure to large and high profile projects and competitions, due to the reputation of the practice.

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

During my time in practice I have worked on a variety of projects, predominantly school projects, office accommodation and residential schemes. These include masterplan studies, speculative work, refurbishments and projects across all design stages from concept to detailed design. My main roles and responsibilities are to support the project architect by composing various documents and reports, constructing planning applications, attending meetings, consulting with external parties, producing drawings for different design stages including tender, choosing samples, writing NBS specifications and creating visuals for the client.

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

The real social focus and conscience of SSoA has been a strong value I’ve been keen to bring forward into practice, as it aligns with the principles and approach that Associated Architects strive for. Developing skills to design responsive architecture for all the people that may engage with it, and using all the practical knowledge gained to achieve that. Also, the multidisciplinary nature and team spirit of SSoA has really helped me within a dynamic team working environment, giving me the confidence to formulate and express my ideas and opinions during projects and design reviews.

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

Working in practice has developed my attention to detail and taught me the necessity of prioritising the things that are important. This has therefore improved my ability to liaise with different external parties may that be the client, members of the design team, consultants or product representatives. I have also acquired a greater ability in terms of technical skills when drawing up details on a project and understanding how various elements would be constructed. Most importantly, I have developed the knowledge of the practicalities of design, delivery, input and involvement, as a project moves forward.

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

I would suggest brushing up on your technical skills and knowledge of how specific stages of a project are carried out, which will make your transition into practice slightly easier. My other advice would be to be as organised as possible. In practice, time constraints are more important when meeting deadlines. Being honest with yourself and others about how long a task will take you is invaluable. Despite all this, the most essential top tip is purely to enjoy it – time flies by so quickly!

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

Practice is mostly what I expected, with a few small surprises in project delivery. In addition, practice can have minor challenges, especially when I’m attempting something new or unknown to me. However, I have learnt that there is never a question too insignificant and I can seek guidance from my team. There have been pleasant surprises during my year in practice – I have been given more responsibility on projects and my role within the team is slowly progressing.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I’m really enjoying my job, primarily due to its variety. Every day holds diverse tasks, challenges and an array of different people. The exposure to new and dynamic projects makes my year in practice exciting and worthwhile. In addition, feeling part of a team makes work rewarding, as we are working towards the same goal. As I work across numerous design stages, the expertise I have learnt from various members of the team and practice highlights that small design decisions can make a large impact, meaning that ensuring high quality design is paramount.

Where do you see yourself in future?

I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience so far and I see myself taking an extended period in practice, so that I can further develop and continue to work on engaging projects which have been challenging, yet exciting. I intend to continue my studies and move on to undertake my MArch RIBA Part 2. However, I do anticipate exploring a new city either to work or study, and do some travelling in the future.