Manchester, Lyon and what I learnt during my placement experience at stephenson STUDIO

Posted in: Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Engineering placements, Undergraduate

Author: Rebekah Ball -

Rebekah Ball is a 4th year BSc Architecture student and is the poster competition winner for her 3rd year placement. In the blog she tells us about her placement experience and the difference between her 2nd year and 3rd year placements in the same architects’ studio.

Office sign of stephenson studio

For my 2nd and 3rd year placements I worked in the same practice – Stephenson STUDIO in Manchester.

Founded in 1979 by Roger Stephenson, the studio employs around 20 people. They work on projects in sectors such as urban regeneration, bespoke houses, cultural buildings, and hotels.

Credited as a major player in the urban renaissance of Manchester back in the 90s, Stephenson STUDIO's recent awards are for projects such as the extension to Chetham’s School of Music and The Oglesby Centre, a new rehearsal space for the Hallé Orchestra.

I chose to return to the studio for my 3rd year placement because of the friendly and nurturing atmosphere, the type of projects and the attention to detail and craftsmanship (which is very Bath!).

working projects designs

In my first placement, I worked on an office refurbishment and two private houses, carrying out a mixture of visual and detail tasks. Architects perform different roles and working alongside them helped me to understand these roles better.

I enjoyed working on the house projects, as they were at a scale that I was familiar with and one of the houses was a ‘contemporary castle’, which was very cool!

A highlight of my placements was an office trip to Lyon. I organised the itinerary which included visiting architectural sites and a trip to Le Corbusier’s Couvent de la Tourette.

Lyon city sign

When I returned to the practice in February 2020, I worked for 4 weeks in the office before the government advice to work from home.

The main project I worked on was a modular housing concept scheme. I attended the first meeting with the client and then developed an initial design that we presented. I also assisted with the office refurbishment I had worked on during my 2nd year placement. It was interesting to see how the project had developed from design to construction stage.

House project images

In the middle of my placement I went on furlough (along with 60% of my co-workers) for a period of two months. I worried that it would mean the end of my experience at the studio. The partners were keen that we continued to develop our skills through online training courses, and I included these in my professional development record.

To help everyone feel part of the office, we also had a weekly meeting. It included short inspirational talks and each of us did a presentation on an architect or building that we liked.

home office and a design

Already knowing everyone at the practice made the transition to working remotely much easier. I know that if it had happened during my first placement, I would have found it very daunting.

The projects I worked on were engaging and gave me more responsibility whilst the unusual working conditions led me to develop my communication skills. Although my 3rd year placement didn’t turn out quite how I expected, I still thoroughly enjoyed the experience -although I was very disappointed that I didn’t get another office trip!

As part of my unit assignment, I had to create a poster showing what I did on my placement. I was very surprised to win the 3rd year placement poster prize with the judges saying: “The poster challenged the norm in representational techniques and how to re-imagine housing.”

Posted in: Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering, Engineering placements, Undergraduate

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