Author: Faith Muir -
Jestico + Whiles is an employee-owned architecture and interior design practice based in London and Prague. Founded in 1977 by Tom Jestico and John Whiles, the practice now employs over 100 people across both studios, producing award-winning schemes from a wide range of typologies and scales in the UK and abroad.
For my second year placement I mainly applied to practices in London as I wanted to experience the workplace dynamic of larger companies. After many hours of searching and creating cover letters, I received an invite for an interview at the main J+W studio in Sutton Yard, situated at the heart of London’s design district Clerkenwell. Upon arrival I was greeted by friendly faces mingling around a central communal space, and after the interview I was given a tour around the studio to get a feel for what it was like to work there. The central space is mainly where everyone comes together during lunch time, but it is also used as a flexible space for meetings, presentations, and after hour events. Three separate studios branch off from this central space, each housing a separate department: residential, education, and interior design.
Over the course of 5 months, I worked on several projects within the residential and education studios where I had a holistic experience as I was exposed to projects at various stages of the RIBA Plan of Work. For instance, working on the residential masterplan Greenwich Millennium Village during its technical design stage allowed me to understand the process of issuing technical drawings to contractors and working on complex models on BIM software like Revit. I also worked on Cavendish III, the new laboratory that will soon house the Department of Physics at the University of Cambridge. By working with the FF&E team at the developed design stage, I was able to gain experience in creating visual renders of plan layouts using different textile and furniture design options.
Along with work, I have also been able to participate in many external and internal CPD events. Lunch presentations were often held by companies in the industry that aimed to promote their products and services. There were also multiple extra-curricular events like themed Practice Lunches and Half-Days where everyone would come together and take part in fun activities. I personally volunteered for the March 2020 Practice Lunch where four other colleagues and I cooked a Japanese themed lunch for everyone. Imagine making sushi for 80 people! Another event that I thoroughly enjoyed was the Biophilia Practice Half-Day, where we had talks from companies that provided green solutions for public urban spaces, along with an activity that made everyone get involved with repotting plants and sowing seeds.
Work From Home
Unfortunately, as a result of the pandemic I was only able to work at the office for two months. Still, it was encouraging to see how quickly we adapted to working from home despite the social and technical disadvantages. I felt as if the practice was successful at maintaining a sense of community through frequent team meetings and weekly Virtual Beer Busts. Normally we’d have Beer Busts that occur every Friday afternoon where everyone would gather around the communal space and unwind with some drinks while listening to any practice news updates or mini project presentations. Along with working from home, I also experienced what it was like to be furloughed. The practice ensured I felt emotionally supported and had all the resources I needed to keep myself proactive with personal work. I was given free learning resources that allowed me to improve my Revit and Adobe Creative Cloud skills so that when I returned to work I’d be more efficient in completing tasks.
Overall, I’d say that my experience working at Jestico + Whiles has exceeded my expectations. From the very first day, I felt welcomed into the practice and there was always a supportive environment no matter which project team I joined. The practice was able to provide a holistic experience both in the workplace and at home, which demonstrates their commitment to supporting students undertaking professional placement.
A word of advice for future placement students…
It is important to remember that practices who recognize the value of mentoring will always actively hire architectural assistants of all skill levels, so you shouldn’t feel discouraged when sending applications especially during these hard times.