Alaa Beruiken is an Architecture graduate, leaving in 2016. She works as a Sales Assistant in Currys-PC World part time whilst taking a break from architecture. She’s now in the process of assembling a portfolio and applying for jobs as an Architectural Associate. In her spare time, she does ariel silks and bellydancing and reads books. Below is our interview with her:
Hi Alaa! What’s your main source of inspiration when approaching a new project? Do you do a lot of research before a final design? Who is your favourite artist/designer, who inspires you, and why?
My main inspiration comes from nature, psychology, family’s cultural background, books and how I feel. I always try and imagine how I would feel in a space and what I would like to surround me. I do obviously go online but I just quickly skim through projects that have a similar scheme and agenda to see what the architect’s found important. I do a lot of research continuously through out my project but not right up till the end.
My favourite Architects are Zaha Hadid and Antoni Gaudi. Zaha Hadid has a very futuristic vision, she’s not stuck in the past and is not afraid to test the boundaries of technological drafting (3D modelling). Her architecture is not seen as practical but rather sculptural, the engineers are just as committed as she is to her designs. She tests the boundaries of curvature and fluidity and does not strategically do things in a sense of going from point A to B. My favourite thing about her architecture is her soaring spaces. And a lot of Antoni Gaudi’s designs are influenced from biblical references and nature. Not a single part of his architecture is left unconsidered from an aesthetic point of view from the ceiling to the door handles. Each piece is thought about to the space its own personality; the energy of his buildings is full of love and so intricate.
How quickly after uni did you manage to find work?
Fairly quickly, 3 weeks in total, one week I went to a cv workshop then I spent the next 2 weeks doing a CV and once completed I spent 2 days CV dropping and was offered a job on the second day.
How much creative freedom do you feel you get in your current job/internships/projects?
To be honest, it depends who you work with and for many architecture jobs it requires working in a team, with each task delegated to the skill of domain. For example those good at creating visualisations will be doing that as opposed to the design process itself. I have friends who haven’t done much creative exploration in architecture and friends who have worked in small practices did have the freedom to express design decisions, however a lot is also dependent on the client to see how much they trust you.
Do you actively seek work? How do you go about it and what is most important – CV, portfolio, social media or blogs?
Portfolio is the most important along with CV. For any creative domain both are needed from my experience. However in the end of the day if you had a basic CV but your portfolio is great then you’re fine! But everyone is different. The more you get yourself out there the more confident you appear to employers! So use whatever you can to do what you want to do, I am totally up for using social media and blogs to express yourself. As a designer/ artist who loves what they do, you need to show what you have to offer. Any source that helps you further get yourself noticed, take it but with reason. Do not lose yourself in trying to advertise yourself and forget your art/designs. Everything it needs to be balanced.
What resources and infrastructure do you miss now that you are away from uni?
Do you feel connected to the people or networks that were available in uni? How do you manage to make new contacts?
Social security and creative flair. The ability to share, to express inspirations from your studio environment. However saying tha,t I’m really glad to be out of the environment and trying different things that are not architecture related to see what’s out there. One doesn’t need to limit themselves to a creative environment only, each place has it’s own benefits and downfalls. I feel the best art and architecture is one everyone can appreciate and enjoy.
What one thing do you know now that you wish you had known when you were leaving uni?
Don’t worry too much about your portfolio! Show what you have and be proud of it, you don’t need to try and showcase all your work. I went from wanting to show 6 projects to only 2 projects. Sometimes less is more. Ignore people saying it’s too hard to get a job these days, maybe for them because they keep complaining about it, but not for you. In the meantime, there’s so much you can do. Try new things, whether related to design or not and work on creating a positive life for yourself. You can’t always be happy, but you can accept that there are going to be really bad days but they aren’t going to last forever. That takes a lot of pressure of yourself. Which is fine and you end up being content. Since I’ve left uni, I’ve started new hobbies and met new people and it’s the happiest I’ve been in such a long time and happy with regards to contentment, being at peace with yourself and your environment.
Also probably one of the most important things people are going to try and advise you what to do, listen to what the have to say but respect yourself to say no if you don’t agree. If you want a break and need a break, take a break! Listen to your gut intuition because I think creative people have been blessed with this. It’s never wrong.
How do you overcome difficulties during projects such as lack of ideas, motivation etc?
I didn’t know this until after facing difficulty, but with hindsight I would say to myself a grade in the end of the day is a grade. Yes it’s important but not really, you can always find a way to do what you want or need to do. I believe there is always a loophole you can slide through! But don’t get too caught up in it, they try and make art academic which is fine; I consider myself an academic person, but it’s not the be all and end all. If you did have a s*** project you can fix it up in Photoshop. When you send your work to employers, they look at your work, not your grades! But in saying that aim high and take pride in what you do. Be organised, give yourself a break and never ever compare yourself to others! Everyone’s skills are different. I obviously still struggle with these aspects but this is what I always try to remind myself. Also, when you go for interviews you don’t need to make yourself vulnerable to the company or office, they may be well respected person sitting across from you but they are just a person like everyone else. Don’t glorify people to much.
How do you manage your time and adjust to going from having the uni schedule to not having a set schedule as such? Do you plan projects up front?
Hard to be honest, in uni you have a set routine, but going back to live with family you need to try and juggle everyone schedule as well as your own. I still manage to plan whether it gets done depends on the situation and in the last month I’ve been strict and organised with my time again. In the beginning of the year I planned what needs to be done in each month , then I plan my week and every night I plan and schedule what I need to do the next day.
Have you experienced any form of internship, and if so, is it something you would recommend? How did you go about getting one? Are there any websites?
Yes, I went into offices and asked people if they know anyone in the field, and if they did, what the company name then I got in contact with them directly. For design it’s hard, I literally just Google practices in places where I want to work, and if there’s designs I like I try to find who designed them, then get the name of the practice.
Would you consider going back to education and do you have any plans for the future?Yes architecture is 7 years and made up of 3 parts. I’ve graduated part 1 (so I’m half way through) I need to complete the 7 years and part 3 if I want to become an architect. This is my year out to find a place in an architectural practice but I’m wanting to take 2 years out to try other creative expressions.