Academy Blog – Jana Kefurtova

22 August 2017

When I started working as a Part II assistant at a start-up office in July 2016 I was quickly faced with the harsh reality of ‘The Architect in Practice’. My first few months didn’t quite go to the plan since I found it difficult to cope with a hectic environment and in the end I even questioned my career choice. This wasn’t the best beginning. In March 2017, however, I found a position with Pozzoni and I am pleased to conclude that it has been going incomparably smoother! I enjoy coming to work and I am quickly drifting away from the idea that architecture is not for me. If you are wondering why, then the following paragraphs will hopefully clarify your question and give you a bit of an insight into our Altrincham office.

Soft landing

At Pozzoni, I experienced for the first time what it was like to work in a large office, where tasks are clearly divided, administration sorted out by dedicated staff and a pension scheme residing on a long list of employees’ benefits. The structure was immediately apparent and various inductions and CPDs started filling up my calendar. Compared to all my previous positions, I had an abundance of time to get familiar with the office systems and settle in the Living team – one of the current quartet of Living, Commercial, Education, and Leisure.

My first day at work was an Open Forum day, when there are usually presentations and interactive discussions carried out throughout lunchtime. This was a great way to find out what other teams were doing and meet colleagues I don’t normally work with. We now have another one coming up, which will enable people to showcase and discuss their work, have a chat with the directors and mainly spend their lunch break away from their desks.

There is an incentive to involve students, graduates and fresh architects more in a design process and the approaching Open Forum demonstrates this by allowing the junior members of the team to present their work and bring fresh ideas into the office.

Another pleasant thing I need to mention is that Pozzoni are big supporters of women in architecture. The gender ratio is pretty much equal and the overall atmosphere feels very balanced. This is something that I would not have considered as a huge advantage a few years back, but getting to know the professional world a bit more, this is a refreshing experience.

Scope of Work

So far, I worked on several feasibility studies, developed as hand-drawn sketches, sometimes involving a presentation. I also enjoyed preparing a bid submission with my colleague and helping with tender drawings for a care home scheme. The work has been divided between hand-drawn sketching and Revit, with a pinch of SketchUp and I find this a very efficient way of going about a project. I wasn’t even hoping for as much hand-drawing as I am actually doing right now, but I hope I will be able to continue this routine and also immerse my-self in more elaborate drawings from time to time.

I have also done quite a bit of Revit work, which I have used before, so it is not an entirely new world for me. Nevertheless, it is still useful to have quite a few people around, who are experienced users of the programme and able to help when one struggles to find vanished levels in a view. The architectural technicians within the team are particularly helpful as they can advise on detailed design.

Various meetings are on weekly schedule and there is an opportunity to join the relevant ones to get in contact with clients, consultants, and contractors. I like to attend those as they reflect the reality of architectural profession much better than interpreted briefs and e-mails.

One of the approaching meetings will be for a big Senior Living scheme in the south-east that I and another two students are working on. This has been one of the most enjoyable projects so far because there has been a lot of interaction between the three of us and we seem to work together really well. Not having the greatest of experiences with team work from university, I am amazed how enjoyable and satisfying it can be to produce something in group. I very much like the fact that there is an ethos of collaboration running through everything we do in our team. People pair up for tasks, offer help to each other and swap between tasks to distribute the workloads as evenly as possible.

Other teams recently pulled me into produce sketched visuals, which allowed me to refresh my mind by working on a different sector projects and get to know my colleagues better. I hope this will become more common across the office, as it promotes outside-the-box thinking and helps to expand our professional knowledge. This is already happening through the internal design reviews, which are based on such principles, and there is always at least one person from a different team to give an opinion on a project.

The final Part

I signed up for the Part 3 course straight after my graduation in the summer, but due to the job change, my study plan was slightly delayed. I’m now on track with my PEDR sheets, drafting up my case study and gaining experience from the daily work. There are plenty of materials in the office to draw information from, ranging from past submissions through all the imaginable literature one needs, to very helpful colleagues, willing to discuss any topic in depth and give advice. We will also be setting up small workshops for Part 3 students (currently three of us) to discuss the exam topics with more senior staff, which should be extremely helpful especially upon the approach to the exam.

As we get Friday afternoons off, I decided to use this time for my studies and it proved quite effective. The office is really quiet, which allows me to focus on writing, with access to all the office materials I might need.

When in doubt, don’t give up

I am glad I decided not to give up on architecture as things are going very well for me at the moment. It’s hard to believe that experiences from architectural offices can be completely different, given that the content of the work is very similar most of the time. I was lucky enough to find one that personally suits me and I would recommend anyone, who embarks on an architectural career and is in doubt of its suitability, not to give up hope of finding a practice that can provide the right balance of work and team spirit.