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Architecture student comes second in TRADA University Challenge

Architecture student comes second in TRADA University Challenge

Second year student Stephen Johnson’s team won second place in the challenge.

BA-Architecture-Stephen-Johnson-TRADA Challenge

Second year BA (Hons) Architecture student Stephen Johnson came second place in the annual TRADA University Challenge. 

The challenge, open to universities across the UK, invites student architects, engineers, landscape architects and quantity surveyors to take part in a charette-style competition brief to build and plan a structure predominantly out of timber. This year, students were required to come up with a design for student accommodation with a focus on wellbeing.

We caught up with Stephen about his experience taking part in the competition.

What did you learn from taking part in the challenge?

This was my first experience working with other students from different disciplines, in an environment that was aimed towards being as close to working life as possible (albeit in a much shorter timeframe).

It felt great to have authority on topics I knew about, but there were also aspects of the challenge in which I could only sit by, watch and learn. We had to learn what limitations people had very quickly in terms of both skills and vision for the outcome of the project.

How do you think taking part in the challenge will help you with your course studies?

The challenge has helped me gain a better understanding of a material which I already love to use throughout my designs. Talking to the judging panels and guest lecturers that stuck around for the challenge was like having a really intense tutorial about timber, how it works, what are the limitations and whether they can be overcome.

It also will help me consider the real life implications of what we propose through our designs more carefully. Talking to the student engineers on our team especially helped me understand what was actually possible through our design.

What was the most challenging part of the task?

The most challenging part of the design was coming to grasp with the scale of what we were doing in contrast to the time frame we had. A 300 room student accommodation building is a project that would take years of designing, consulting, planning and constructing for it to be finished.

To propose something of that scale within a day and a half was quite an intense experience, but also very interesting. I think also worth mentioning is overcoming our teams shortcomings. I think when someone on our team was stuck on their job, we tried to help as best we can, not just through disciplines (e.g. architecture) but we all kind of got stuck in to engineering problems, design problems and so on. It was a real team effort to complete the tasks.

What did you enjoy the most about taking part?

Talking to my team, the teams around me and the judging panel was probably my favourite aspect of this challenge. It was great to talk to other architecture students about their work and why they enjoy it. It also gave me insight into what engineering, landscape architecture and quantity surveying students do on their courses, which was eye opening as I have had no experience talking to any students in those fields.

Everyone in the room was really interested to talk to each other – I have actually made a few connections with people just from that aspect. The talks from the judges, architects and engineers alike were very interesting, and they were super helpful in giving advice throughout.

Overall, it was a really intense but enjoyable experience that allowed me to interact with other students, lecturers and professionals alike, whilst also gaining first hand experience of what a working environment could be like.