Part III Architectural Assistants discuss life at Gaunt Francis

Gaunt Francis is a fantastic place to work for obvious reasons – the amazing office views from the 13th floor in the Capital Tower, the friendliness of the staff, the flexible working hours, staff socials…the list goes on! But what is really great and unique about our practice is the incredible support our Architectural Assistants studying their Part III receive from the team here.

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For those who aren’t too familiar with the stages – in order to become a registered architect, you must earn three qualifications, commonly known as ‘parts’. It’s a very long process and involves an incredible amount of hard work. The Part I is usually fulfilled by a Bachelor’s degree from an ARB prescribed institution. The Part II usually consists of a year working in practice, followed by a two-year Masters program at an ARB prescribed institution. The Part III is then undertaken whilst working in practice and comes in a range of types from intensive 6-week courses to extended 2-year programmes, again at an ARB prescribed institution. The exam process includes: completing PEDR’s over 24 months, a case study of a project you have lead, a careers evaluation, an interview and a written exam. Whilst Part’s I and II are very design focused, Part III is is much more geared to preparing new architects to run a business, including all the legal and management ramifications that entails.

Some of our Architectural Assistant’s here at Gaunt Francis are currently completing, or have recently completed their Part III – an incredible achievement! They decided to share their experience about how supportive Gaunt Francis has been during their journey. Recently qualified Architect, Miranda Dettwyler, studied her part III at the Welsh School of Architecture at Cardiff University – one of the best ranked Architect Schools in the UK. Cardiff offer this programme as a 1-year full time course, or 2-year part time course – Miranda opted for the latter. Here is what she had to say:

“Gaunt Francis were incredibly supportive during my part III studies. We are required to write these reports called PEDR’s, which we write every 3 months; we write about what we’ve been doing for the last 3 months and what projects we’re working on and what kind of experience we are having. This is shown and discussed with our Practice Advisers, who will give us feedback. One of our Directors, Toby Adam, was my Practice Adviser – he was completely happy to do that and spent a lot of his time giving me as much advice as possible. It didn’t seem like a burden for him at all.

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As a Part III you have to write a case study about a particular project and you need to have experience of all the RIBA stages, from 0-7. Some people I know from other firms really aren’t given the chance to do all these stages, or to go on site – they’ve usually only been given the earlier stages or the end stages. But here at GFA, they gave me a project which allowed me the opportunity to experience stages 3-7.  They then gave me another project in order for me to experience stages 0-2. I experienced every stage and got plenty of site time! I’d say my usefulness on site was a lot less than someone like one of our senior architects because I had only just finished my Part II, but they paid for me to go to these sites, paid for my train fare there and back; not only that but it’s also more of the senior architects time because it took more time to work with someone who had less experience. But again, they were happy to give me the time.

It was really difficult balancing all the work on top of my personal life – looking after 2 children and having a husband who travels a lot for work, it can be hard. But everyone here is just really willing to put energy and effort into me, which makes me want to stay here and continue to work for them. They spent so much time helping me with my case study to make it better, they even gave me paid study leave, and if I ever needed an hour here or there to talk about contract law, they would take the time to do that – and that’s their working time, they were more than happy to help and that makes me feel so appreciated here.”

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Bianca, our Architectural Assistant is in her 2nd year of her Part III studies. Bianca is also studying it at the Welsh School of Architecture at Cardiff University. She expressed: ” The support I have received from Gaunt Francis has been really amazing. For my PEDR’s they have arranged for meetings and discussions whenever I have needed them and allowed me site visits when possible. Giving me paid study leave was something I really appreciated – many companies out there would make you take it as a holiday or unpaid so I feel very lucky that they did this.  The course at WSA is generally structured in such a way that enables logical and rigorous understanding of what is being learnt, as well as  where and why to go for supplementary information. The support provided by GFA is key as it further augments this with real, practical examples. You get the best of both worlds: rigorous and comprehensive theory through the academic environment fused with the exciting and unpredictable theory through practice.

It hasn’t so much been difficult but rather it has required constant focus, attention, energy, patience and perseverance – the fact that often, if not daily, time needs to be dedicated after work, including weekends, public holidays etc. for Part III study. But it’s all worth it.”

David, Architectural Assistant, is studying for his Part III at RIBA North. This is what David had to say: “RIBA North is based in Liverpool where I studied Part I and II and so I have a close relationship with the university. What I find great is that this course is predominantly distance learning which makes it more flexible in terms of studying – compared to WSA which is a lot more intense as you have either 1 or 2 years to complete it. The RIBA North offers candidates to take the final exam (which takes place over 3 days) in either the Spring or Autumn each year, which allows a lot of flexibility with writing the case study and gaining the right amount of experience. This year I have attended 8 days of seminar held at Chester University.

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What I found really useful when attending the seminar sessions was realising what I had already been exposed to here at Gaunt Francis as I have been working on a complex project with many parties involved. This projects forms the basis of my case study and provides a wealth of experiencing the complexities of contracts, the various different stakeholders involved, attending site, attending design team meetings etc. Often it is not necessary for myself to attend these but Gaunt Francis encourage my participation to broaden my knowledge and see how various situations are negotiated. However, the work load is significant. Especially with the sunny weather, finding the motivation to study after a long day or week has been challenging!

In addition to all of this, lunchtime discussions with GFA Director, Toby, about various legal issues have been extremely helpful, as well as discussing things with other Part III students. Everyone is happy to take some time our of their busy day to answer any questions you may have and are willing to share their knowledge with you and we all learn from each other – even people who have been here for many years and have lots of experience are still learning from others. I feel a valued member of the GFA team.”

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