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Faces of Architecture: Shannon Langley

Faces of Architecture: Shannon Langley

25 September 2018

Through school, Shannon was always interested in Design. Her decision to pursue Architecture was made after attending a Post 16 Architecture Open Day at Northumbria University. The full day event included an insight into the university and the studio facilities, a project brief and small scale concept modelling.

I was born and raised in the North East. Neither of my parents went to University, but always knew it was an achievement I wanted to have. My father was a delivery driver and my mother was an admin assistant. I believe my design flair came from my grandfather, who used to work as the lead artist for a large supermarket chain. This was back in in the 1950s, where all artwork was hand-drawn and painted!

Always interested in design, I took GCSEs and A-Levels in Graphics and Product Design and during my A Level studies, an opportunity arose to take part in an Architecture Open Day at Northumbria University. I was fascinated by the level of detail students were developing their schemes, and the way tutors promoted creativity and exploration.

A few weeks later, I submitted my only UCAS application to Northumbria University to study Architecture. Having no previous art/building design experience, I was invited for an interview. Upon ending of the interview, the interviewing tutor asked me, “What is your plan B?”, and my honest reply was, “There is no Plan B.” I am pleased to report that I began my architectural journey in September 2012.

I will be honest; I didn’t find my Part 1 easy. Having not undertaken an Art GCSE/A Level, I felt I was constantly chasing my tail with other students. Any advice I would give to a Part 1 student, would be to concentrate on your own work, rather than comparing to others!

I graduated in July 2015, and was fortunate enough to already have a Part 1 placement secured with a large multi-disciplinary in North Tyneside. This practice was my home for 2 years, before spreading my wings and joining GSS Architecture in August 2017. This has given me a wide variety of professional experience and I am delighted to be returning to Northumbria University in September 2018 to take part in the new Architect Degree Apprenticeship with support from GSS Architecture - Some may of heard this previously being referred to as the “Trailblazer”. This alternative part-time route to qualification was recently approved by the RIBA and ARB and combines the Part II and Part III into a 4 year course, meaning that I shall complete the apprenticeship as an Chartered Architect. Design projects throughout the course will be based on real challenges that you are faced with during your professional work life, creating fluidity between the practical experience in the workplace with academic training at the university. Northumbria University was the first university in the UK to be approved to deliver this apprenticeship and I am thrilled to form part of the first cohort!!

The early stages of a project are always enjoyable and I am a big fan of a pen and some trace! The early design stages allow for problem solving and finding a solution to client requirement. I believe the character of a building can be translated through hand sketches. Although I am a big advocate for BIM, the character of these spaces can be lost through programmes such as Revit.

My most enjoyable project to date was the conversion of an old boat house into 2no. residential properties, which can be found within the harbour of a small Northumberland town. I worked closely with the project architect to ensure a scheme was proposed that was sensitive to the history of the building but provided well designed, inhabitable spaces. Key architectural features such as arched stone openings were retained, with the inclusion of dormer windows to the rear elevation for enhanced levels of natural daylight.

Learning and reflecting upon previous experience is vital to success within the profession. If everyone is from the same background, all projects would be carbon copies, meaning that there would not be an opportunity to learn from each other. You would never be able to develop your knowledge without drawing upon colleague’s experience.

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