Seaside was the first project I was involved in when I started at HLM. I spent two weeks producing a masterplanning document for the site. Given that I was coming from East, this kind of work was right up my street and I jumped at the prospect of some urban and landscape planning and the kind of school/community/housing work that had been a staple part of my previous role. The architects were surprised, I think, at the degree of enthusiasm with which I took up the task (is masterplanning not seen as a fun thing to work on here?) It was a good chance to show I could work independently and resourcefully, and it allowed me to acclimatise to the office while working in ways that were reasonably familiar, as opposed to being dropped straight into ArchiCad.
It was a great way to start, partly because I thoroughly enjoyed it and partly because I was able to show my ability to take a project and run with it, which gave my employers confidence in me and me confidence in myself. It also showed me something I hadn’t particularly appreciated: that many architects don’t regularly work on masterplanning, on an urban scale, on landscape strategies, on the public realm. I also hadn’t noticed that the foundation in these areas that I gained working at East – full name East Architecture, Landscape, Urban Design – means that I’m incapable of working on a project without seeing those aspects as an integral part of the design.
Afterword: A year later, when I started at Pentan, the first substantial work I did was urban design and strategy for masterplanning a couple of large sites in Cardiff for new housing. Perhaps it’s coincidence; perhaps I landed it because my confidence in the area meant I showed enthusiasm for the work. Either way, sitting down with the project architects a week or two later it was interesting to find that I was able to handle the landscape strategy for the streets and public areas of the scheme adeptly and with more confidence than they felt. It made me glad I’ve moved around different practices and that I’m able to carry those experiences from one part of the profession to another. It showed me how much I did learn in my first practice, and it let me see that I do have specific skills and strengths that I can bring to practices and that help make me a valuable employee. It’s nice to have reason to recognise that.