One of the best things about a career as an architect is that you’ll get to be a part of a huge variety of projects. One day you could be working on a mixed-use residential and retail development, the next on a crucial urban infrastructure strategy. So long as people will need designs that provide both utility and happiness, they’ll need architects – and that’s just as true elsewhere in the world as it is in Australia.
At UWA, we make sure our Architecture students have all the skills they need to establish a career anywhere around the globe. Here, three of our Architecture graduates talk about how their degree has led to success both here in Australia and beyond…
Joe Bean grew up near the beach in Perth, and has been fortunate to travel far and wide since graduating from UWA.
“Throughout my studies I became increasingly interested in how design recognises and engages with ecological and social contexts,” he says. His fascination led to an internship in the Philippines with Habitat for Humanity towards the end of his master’s course, which was the springboard for his dissertation on climate-induced displacement.
After completing his studies in 2018, Joe worked for a residential architecture practice, David Weir Architects, where he learned how a small design practice interacts with the real world. He then spent several months in remote north-western Zambia, helping design and construct housing for doctors and nurses.
“I learnt a lot about the potential of an inclusive design and construction process to promote change and wellbeing in a community,” he says, “as well as the opportunities, nuances and sensitivy required when collaborating with unique communities.”
To explore this further, Joe has teamed up with a friend and mentor, Greg Grabasch, to co-run a small business called Brave and Curious. “We work across urban design, landscape architecture and architecture, as go-betweens supporting communities to move towards their desired outcome – walking trails, cultural mappings, town master plans, public art, wellbeing centres.”
He loves that his career has enabled him to meaningfully engage with our understandings of landscape and culture, and particularly enjoys building relationships with communities. “I am grateful to learn from a wide range of great people,” he says, “from tradespeople in Zambia, to Traditional Owners in Warmun (Gija people), and local Fremantle architects and clients.”
Studying at UWA, he explains, played a big part in preparing him for what’s already been a diverse career.
“My UWA degree provided me with a broad set of skills, which I have been able to apply to a wide range of projects. I have worked across a huge range of scales already, from large trail-mapping projects through to detailing bathrooms. I am grateful that by offering a wide range of electives, my course and the educators within it facilitated this jack-of-all-trades approach (master of none, at this stage!). The course also encouraged me to form a world view and design approach that I have been able to test and bounce off collaborators and clients, with many learnings along the way.”
Jenny Watson started work at ARM Architecture in Perth while still studying at UWA. Graduating with a Master of Architecture in 2010, she later relocated to Melbourne, where she still works for the company.
One of her favourite things about her career is “the variety in what I do day-to-day, month-to-month and year-to-year.” Over the years she has worked on a range of large and high-profile projects across the country, including the RAC Arena in Perth, Melbourne’s Southbank Theatre, and the Geelong Arts Centre.
“I was privileged to work on one of the most significant projects in Perth’s history – Elizabeth Quay – from inception to completion ten years later,” she says. “There was incredible change across that period, including three clients and two state governments, but the core design concept carried through.”
More recently, she’s worked on the HOTA Gallery in the Gold Coast. “The concept sprung from an early conversation with the client about the most prized painting in their collection,” she says. “It’s a big shift away from the traditional regional art gallery model, with four levels of galleries and a public rooftop bar.”
For a career that’s taken in myriad design concepts and projects, Jenny believes UWA offered the ideal preparation. “(The staff) showed me how many different ways there are to approach architecture and be an architect. It’s crazy to me that some architecture schools are pitted against each other in espousing a particular style or a particular method of designing. Uni should be about learning as many different ways of designing as possible – that’s what I learned at UWA.”
The many hours spent in the studio, computer lab and library also meant Jenny left UWA with lifelong friends and contacts. “Having our own campus allowed us to bond,” she says.
Since completing his architecture studies, Abel Feleke has worked alongside communities on several continents. As well as collaborating with UWA’s Australian Urban Design Research Centre, teaching in the School of Design, and writing for ArchitectureAU, he has contributed to international studios such as Kengo Kuma & Associates (Tokyo), Foster + Partners (London), and the Norman Foster Foundation (Madrid) and is currently recognised as a World Economic Forum Global Shaper.
“I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to work on a variety of projects from smart city planning to major transport infrastructure design, and, more recently, cultural projects working directly alongside British architect Lord Norman Foster,” he says.
Abel won the 2016 RIBA Norman Foster Travelling Award, which enabled him to pursue research on the future survival of cities and communities. “My experiences journeying and meeting with community leaders in informal settlements around the world has been invaluable in helping develop my own ethos and approach to design,” he explains. “At all scales, design has the ability to contribute to the wellbeing of people, so this remains a responsibility and motivation that drives me to continue to learn about the built environment.”
While at UWA, he formed a close network of friends and mentors. “Being able to learn in the classroom is important, but what I found of great value was the opportunity to come across a lot of curious minds with differing perspectives. It's really this access to a wealth of experience, coupled with the opportunity to debate opinions, that I found most beneficial to my personal growth.”
So if you dream of contributing to beneficial and uplifting design all around the world, it’s important to ensure your starting point is the best it can be – a place where you can not only get the professional training you need but also the broad, expanded mindset to think beyond what’s just around the corner.
Learn about UWA’s architecture pathways now and start thinking bigger.