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Purcell aim for the skies with RIBA Student Mentoring visit

Purcell aim for the skies with RIBA Student Mentoring visit

On a very cold February evening, architects from Purcell’s Bristol studio took a group of UWE Bristol students on a visit to see the practices’ s completed Aerospace Bristol museum.

The visit was to provide students on the RIBA Student Mentoring Scheme with an insight on the process of a project from inception to completion. The architects shared stories of the project from initial client appointment through a competitive tender; through the options appraisal stages leading to funding applications.

The visit started at the Grade II Listed hangar 16S, explaining the use of frugal materials throughout which relate to those which were historically present in the hangar; alongside use of exposed services and fabric ducts relating to the industrial past of the building.

The relationship with the conservation officer and Historic England was explained, along with the design negotiations with the contractor in achieving the required attention to detail.

The architects explained the use of a Design&Build contract on the project and the fact that a stage F design had been completed before progressing to contract to ensure that quality was maintained.

The architects and students then walked across the tarmac taxiway to the Concorde hangar explained conceptually as a jewellery box of sorts, concealing its crown jewel. Inside the hangar, they explained the challenges and complexities associated with the design, including those surrounding the rear of the building left exposed and incomplete to the elements until the aircraft was inside.

Also, the stairs and walkways were in place when Concorde moved in giving rise to a very specific problem of tolerances. The exciting conclusion was boarding Concorde and the students had opportunity to speak to the volunteers who once worked on her.

Űna Breathnach-Hifearnáin, Dan Courtney and Clifford Martin from Purcell have mentored nine students from UWE Bristol as part of the nationwide RIBA Student Mentoring programme which has provided 150 architecture students at UWE Bristool and Bath University with invaluable time with practicing architects.

UWE Bristol student Mireille Patrick said:

'The visit to Bristol Aerospace museum with Purcell was a great experience and a real insight into architecture in practice and the processes involved in taking a project from a design to a completed building.

'Hearing this from the personal perspective of Una, the architect on the project, was particularly engaging: we talked about the ideas behind the project, conservation and working with heritage, issues which arose and how they were resolved and the relationships between architect and client.

'For me the whole experience of the mentoring programme at Purcell has helped to bridge the gap in my mind between studying and practice and affirmed that architecture is the path I would like to follow'.

Űna Breathnach-Hifearnáin said:

'I thoroughly enjoyed giving the students a tour of the buildings and describing to them the various decisions which had to be made on site as project architect to ensure the successful delivery of the project. I enjoyed sharing stories of the client and contractor relationship with them and I found that the questions that they raised at the end of the visit were thoughtful and well-considered.

'For me, the experience of the mentoring programme has been very fulfilling; giving us the chance to interact with students in a new way and hopefully helping them to understand what architecture can be like in practice.'

RIBA Student Mentoring is a benefit of RIBA Student Membership. The programme is run across many universities in England offering RIBA Validated courses. Please see our Student Mentoring page for further information on the programme and where it runs.

Image courtesy of Purcell Architects

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