Taya's story

13th July 2023

Taya is a student at Coventry University doing her placement year at IDP.  This is her story of how she started her journey to become an Architect.

Architecture chose me!

Some people know their destiny – their family are all architects for example.  I can’t say I was destined to do architecture – no one I know does architecture – but it was meant to be!

Just over three years ago I was a trainee pilot at flight school.  I’ve been flying since I was 14 and have always worked around people who fly, so I guess I just fell into flying as a hobby.  It seemed like the natural choice for a career, so I decided to try and become a commercial pilot.  I was a short way through training to gain my Airline Transport Pilot’s Licence when Covid hit and everything went on hold.  Realisation dawned on me that my love of flying was as a hobby rather than a career, so I decided to take a break.

I worked for a year and did a lot of different things, including working in Austria, and I ended up breaking my leg really badly.  When I came home, I was bedbound and didn’t know where to go with my life.  I kind of knew that flying wasn’t really the career for me –a passion but not a career.  Because I couldn’t do anything else but sit on the internet, I did some careers research, because I’d never really done it before.  When I was at school and had career interviews, I told them: “I want to be a pilot” and they said: “Have you sorted out a school?”  I just said: “Yes I’ve got a scholarship”, and it was like “Cool” and onto the next person.

Now I needed to find something I was interested in.  I took Design Technology at A level and have always been interested in the creative, artistic side of me, but had never really tapped into it that much.  When I was looking at university courses, I was trying to find something that was logical and that would use my Maths and Physics A levels, but also something more artistic that could use both sides of me – putting the logistics and the creative together.

I found an Architectural Technology course at Coventry University, which would mean I wouldn’t have to move away from home during such unknown times with the pandemic.  I didn’t have much passion for anything else I was reading about, but once I had seen this course, I couldn’t stop thinking about it and that’s when I thought “Ah ok – that’s where I’m going then!”  For architecture, you have to have an appreciation of the artistic side and the creativity, but you also need the mathematical side and have a logical mindset in order to build it!  It just chose me I suppose.  Everything kind of fell into place.  I applied, had an interview and was given a place.

I’m doing a sandwich course at university, so my placement at IDP gives me the opportunity to get some understanding and work experience before I start my final year, but still be a student and still have all my contacts at uni.  For example, my tutors visit the office to see what I am doing.  It is really valuable to me, especially as I was so new into the industry when I started my course.

My placement at IDP

I felt a bit like the underdog to start with.  It was such a shock to realise how little I knew before I started here.  I knew I wasn’t going to know that much, especially as the majority of my first two years were spent watching tutorials remotely, online, because of the Covid pandemic.  But it soon clicked that if I worked hard and read a lot it would help me understand more.

What have I enjoyed most working at IDP?  Is it a bit cringey to say all of it?  I love that every day is different and that’s the main thing.  What I will have learned during my time here will be invaluable to me!  It’s huge!  I can’t imagine having to do my final year without knowing everything I’ve learned here.  I can’t really stress enough how much it’s helped, being able to understand the processes behind the work that I am actually doing.

I think my favourite thing is helping with the masterplanning.  I help Ben Flippance (Design Director) with the mixes and schedules of house types that go onto the masterplan, which is basically an overview of the whole site.  You create blocks and then you go into the detailed versions of those blocks, for example which house types.  You literally take an open field, or whatever you are building on, and then create a full working schematic of a potential future place (provided we win the bid!).  That’s been really interesting – seeing how it actually works and to be a part of it – and feel I am contributing to somewhere that’s actually going to be built.

When I came here, I didn’t know if I would be sitting in a corner just doing garden lines for a year.  I got offered a placement for a large firm in London and I knew I would just be doing the same thing every day.  By coming to a smaller practice, colleagues say “you need to learn this because we need you to do it!”  Everyone has to chip in and help.  I’ve learned a lot more here than I would have anywhere else.

Part of the team

I’ve carried out lots of small tasks, such as little feasibility studies for different people in the practice.  They all have different ways of doing things, which has really added to my knowledge and experience, and taught me a lot about working in a team of people.

The largest project I’ve worked on is East of England Show Ground (EESG).  That was the design team’s main project between June 2022, when I started at IDP, until April 2023, when the project was submitted as two parallel planning applications.  It was such a big project and it would be amazing to stay here long enough to see it through all of the various planning stages.  Residential and leisure combined isn’t something people do that often, so everyone was very excited about it!  The call came through that we had won the bid when I first started working here last summer.  Everyone who had worked on it was so happy and shocked, because there were so many other, bigger practices going for it.

This site is different because, as well as around 1,600 houses, it also includes a laser tag venue, golf driving ranges, a massive arena, a hotel and conference complex and an eight-acre extra care village for older people, close to all the amenities, so the residents have a real sense of community.

Just before my three-month review, Ben asked me to be document controller for the EESG project.  I am either CC’d or issue myself everything that goes in and out.  This has taught me so much, particularly that I have to keep my ears open and make sure I know everything that’s going on with the project.

I sit in all the meetings, including the client meetings, when I chipped in a bit, helping with some of the numbers and explaining what I had been working on.  That was a reall learning curve for me.  When I came here, I didn’t think I would be in meetings with big clients like that!   I love being on calls when the lead client, who is funding all of this and making big decisions, says “Oh hi, Taya”!

With such a big project, and so many people working on it, there was a lot of going ‘backwards and forwards’, and a lot of changes made.  Everyone has different skills and expertise so you have to formulate a plan based on eight or 10 different people’s ideas and inputs.  It does make it more complicated, but the more complicated it is, the more I am learning!  They are talking about things and using acronyms and abbreviations that I don’t understand, so I make a note of them and find out what they mean.  It’s all expanding my horizons.

And the future?

Before I go back to Uni in September 2023, I am planning to spend some time in other departments which will give me a good appreciation of how all the different disciplines fit together, what information they need from each team, etc.  For example, in Urban Design and masterplanning, we don’t often have to specify the bricks; another department will do it.  Once the bid has been won and you go through the RIBA stages, you are going to have to do that sort of stuff, and you need to know the whole process to be able to pass on the relevant information so the people after me can do their job.

I am hoping to carry on working at IDP during my final year.  When I had my three-month review, Ben was really complimentary about my work ethics and said that the company would be willing to invest in me and help with furthering my education, whether that’s doing an architecture degree, an urban design degree or a Masters – whatever I want to do.  It was really great to hear that the company would be happy to allow me to work part time while I go back to Uni.

I will push myself during the final year of my degree to do the best that I can.  Of course, my aim is to get a First.

As for the future, to be honest, I don’t know.  I don’t want to put any ceilings on my career.  Three years ago, I thought I was going to be a pilot – so who knows what is around the corner!

What advice would I give to someone going into architecture?  Just get as much experience as you can.  You can sit in lectures but until you actually have to sit in front of a computer and work something out for yourself, you don’t realise how little you know!  Make the most of your course.  Use your relationship with your tutors, engage with the people around you, including other students.  I found the experience and knowledge of some of the students in the year above me invaluable during my first- and second-year course work.

Most importantly, have passion, regardless of what you are doing.  Have passion or you’re going to burn out!  That’s not just for architecture – that’s for everything!


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