Student spotlight: Meet Dan from the USA

Dan is a MA Architecture student at the Royal College of Art. Here, he tells us more about why he chose to study in London at the RCA and his experiences so far, including working on an exciting project with a property development company.

  1. Why did you choose to study in London?

I had studied in the city for a term in 2011 and loved the sprawling energy of the city. There is a sense that no matter how specific or niche your interest is, there are other people in London who are also pursuing it with equal passion.

  1. Why did you choose to study MA Architecture at the Royal College of Art?

Before coming to London, I worked in architecture for five years, and learned a huge amount about building and the circuitous route many successful projects take to completion. I chose to attend a master’s of architecture program to refine my design ability and to experiment with a variety of non-standard construction materials and techniques, many of which are not widely used in professional practice.

  1. What do you enjoy most about your course?

I like how easy it is to make things at the RCA. There are wood shops, resin labs, laser cutters, CNC mills, 3D printers, metal work, jewelry, kilns and robotic arms for ceramics, casting space, etc. Each discipline within the school has a specific set of tools and workspaces; what’s unique is that they’re accessible to all departments. As an architecture student, I can go to the jewelry shops and learn lost wax casting, or to the ceramicists and learn to 3D print clay.

  1. What have you enjoyed most during your time as a student in London?

Most days, I’m working at the college, but I try to find a new piece of the city each week. London is pocketed with tons of interesting neighborhoods with their own identities. I feel that I’m perpetually on the edge of discovering something new. I cycle everywhere too, which is like a daily shot of adrenaline- so the city definitely keeps me on my toes.

  1. How would you describe London in three words?

Full of Contradictions (in the best way possible).

  1. Tell us about the collaborative project you have been involved in with the property development company British Land.

We were tasked to think about lobbies and how they’re used today. Lobbies are kind of forgotten spaces, in that most people are moving through them on the way to somewhere else. The challenge was to make the lobby useful in some way. The lobbies we looked at in particular were in office buildings, so I asked: “what do office workers want that they don’t get?” I found that a huge amount of desk-based employees today don’t feel like they have enough privacy in their office space.  Words like “collaboration”, “co-working”, and “open plan” make up the bulk of office marketing today, but over half of the workday is still spent doing individual, focus-based work, which requires a quiet environment. So, I designed a series of small caves/alcoves that will provide quiet spaces for focus work and reflection. My aim is to provide a working refuge for employees who are too distracted in their workplace. The alcoves are panelled with a custom felt panel that I’ve been developing, which helps diffuse and absorb sound. The project was an exploration in how we operate in noisy conditions, and what materials and forms we can use to mitigate noise when it’s unwanted.

  1. What are your plans after graduating?

I hope to work closely with materials in some way. I worked as a carpenter before attending the RCA and really enjoyed the immediacy of building houses.  So something that involves testing materials and fabrication techniques at the scale of a single family home really appeals to me. London has a lot of studios that make interesting furniture, pavilions, community gardens, houses, etc. I’m not a city-dweller by nature, but London has incredible parks (I’m looking at you, Hampstead Heath), and there are a lot of opportunities here.

  1. Do you have any advice for other students thinking about studying in London?

As a student, much of your time is self-structured and it’s easy to overwhelm yourself trying to see and do everything that a city like London offers. I think London is too large and complicated to know completely, and so my advice would be to think of it as a collection of interesting micro-climates. There’s no one “London Experience” that you should be having, it’s up to you to carve out something meaningful from your surroundings. The great thing about London is that it provides an incredible variety of those surroundings within one metropolitan area. Working on a community farm in Zone 6 is as equally “London” as seeing Shakespeare at the Globe, and the city’s ability to provide that point and counterpoint is a resource that can’t be found everywhere.

If you would also like to study in London, take a look at the list of universities in London and search for courses

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