School of Architecture's Practice Mentor Programme Offers Professional Perspective
The School of Architecture's Practice Mentor programme has been embedded into its programmes this year: following the lead of Interior Design, who launched their Practice Mentor initiative in October 2015 to great success, Architecture follows suit with an impressive roster of practices who have committed to support students' industry understanding during their two years of MA study.
The aim of the Royal College of Art School of Architecture Practice Mentor programme is two-fold, giving both the practice and the student room to grow: the practice has the opportunity to develop research interests within a prestigious art and design institution, while the student is offered a window onto the working processes of some of the UK’s leading practitioners. Access to critical real-world practices, constructive advice, support and encouragement is instrumental to RCA students, who seek broad and informed experience – both intellectual and practical.
Within Interior Design, each MA student is assigned to a ‘practice mentor’ at the outset of the academic year – a professional, practising interior designer who offers a professional perspective on studio work and long-term career intentions. Practice Mentors for 2015/16 include professionals from Penoyre & Prasad, Red Deer, Casson Mann, &Company, Surface to Air, Studio Ilse and Studio Jenny Jones, amongst many others. Paired mentors and students meet four times a year; some of these relationships have developed further into internships and part-time work.
Mijail Gutierrez, Design Director and Associate Principal at Perkins + Will, speaks highly of his experience as Practice Mentor: ‘As an alumnus of the RCA I feel it is extremely important to share professional expertise, guidance and insights on promoting design excellence in the constraints of a commercial environment with emerging RCA talent. The programme is a fantastic opportunity to encourage my mentee to find her voice in the design debate while helping her position her design skills in the context of professional practice.’ Gutierrez’s mentee, Yanyi Ha, welcomed the objective feedback and suggested directions for the future, as well as advice about how best to work with her time, peers and the resources of the College.
Dr Harriet Harriss, Senior Tutor for Interior Design, says: ‘In our view, students are increasingly seeking real-world experience as part of their Master's programme, and therefore value making connections to their wider practice and professional network before graduation. Practice mentors offer a fresh perspective on students’ creative work but also their professional ambitions, giving students confidence and a deeper sense of purpose regarding their career ambitions.’
In Architecture, a field in which practical professional experience and an in-depth understanding of industry – as well as the many approaches within the field – is strongly emphasised, the Practice Mentor programme will be an instrumental tool for students moving on from their studies to enter the workplace. The new initiative, which launches in the 2016/17 academic year, recognises the value of collaborative networks that drive students and continue the tradition of linking design education with industry – a long-established commitment central to the RCA, as a direct descendant of the Government School of Design, 1837.
Many of the practices signed up as Practice Mentors for the inaugural year of the programme in Architecture also star in New Architects 3 – a recent publication by the Architecture Foundation and a definitive survey of the best British Architects. Mentors will be invited to attend themes research cluster days where both practitioners and ADS tutors will present findings to further test and disseminate emerging areas of research with a view to scope future research applications. Each student is assigned a practice mentor, who they will observe and record with the aim to mapping shared research themes, as well as a greater understanding of individual working practices. A keen focus on practice methods and approaches to architecture will allow each student to become more aware and reflective on his or her own emerging alternative practice methods.
Practices signed up as Practice Mentors include: Acme, AY Architects, Citizen Design Bureau, Nissen Richards, OMMX, Takero Shimazaki Architects, OS31, Duggan Morris Architects, Hugo Hardy, Stitch, Amin Taha Architects, Asif Khan and Price Gore, as well as numerous others.
Dr Adrian Lahoud, Dean of the School of Architecture says: ‘This is an extraordinary opportunity for our students to engage with leading practitioners. The new initiative recognises value in the collaborative networks that drive our students and continues the RCA’s tradition of linking design education with industry.’
Interior Design’s Practice Mentor programme for 2015/16 can be found here.