📃 On paper
Year one: Studio, IDS, Architecture in Context 1, Technical Studies
Year Two: Studio, Technical Studies, Architecture in Context 2, IDS Masterclass
Year three: Studio 3 , Tech 3, Context 3, Professional Practice
The studio module tries to build on what you learnt the first year and the aim is to use your final project from first year as basic template for the projects in year 2, however you should adapt and improve on it accordingly. It also introduces masterplanning into our biggest project which involves a hybrid programme. The same goes for Tech and Context modules its about building on the first year knowledge.
The module Interdisciplinary Design Studies kind of captures the whole focus behind NTU second year course which is experimenting, this year you are encouraged to use as many different techniques and approaches as possible in preparation for your third year. In particular this module took you through different techniques of representation so you have an idea of what a good representation is. This module also gave an insight into to conducting a good precedent study.
Overall second year is about experimenting and getting familiar with as many techniques as possible before third year so you reduce the time needed for learning in third year and focus on representation. Also in second year the final studio project is linked with the Interdisciplinary module and is based around "masterclasses" that the tutors put on. Each tutor runs a project based around their expertise, so I believe there was Analysis of Architecture, SketchUp, Technical Model Making and Drawing. You can choose which one you want to do but if it is oversubscribed then the tutors delegate depending on your rational and what they believe could be beneficial to you based on your previous work and weaknesses.
The final year of NTU bachelors is all about refining and honing in on your skills and it is about honing in on your strengths, this is where all the different techniques you learnt and tried in first and second year come in. The first studio project is a concept based one around a pavilion brief. You have a choice of multiple sites in Nottingham and you are taken to all of them within your smaller tutor groups and then you decide which one you want to use. The pavilion is designed around concepts from artists which are listed in the brief so again you are given the option to choose from them and even your own personal choice as long as you have good reason. The pavilion project is the smaller project in your final year studio and is really about getting comfortable with concepts and translating it to architecture.
This then sets you up for your final studio project, this is usually set in a European city (previous locations being Venice, Barcelona and Berlin.) You usually have a week in this city to study the site and possible carry out research for your dissertation. Tech and Context are again building on your previous knowledge from first and second year, however this year there is an emphasis on trying to link these modules with your studio project. So for example your tech should be "designed" and thought about during your whole design process so that it fits with the concepts and works well tectonically. In context you are required to do a dissertation again this idea is to link this with studio so for example you might study a building or an aspect of architecture to think about critically and maybe use this in your own designs.
The new module in third year is the professional practice module which gives you an insight into the practical side of architecture in particular the business element of it. The first project was to create a design tender document for a realistic project which is outlines in the brief and the idea of this is to show the student on how to create these real life documents. The second project is about the basics of running a business here we are encouraged to make a business up in a group and create all the relevant material like websites, Instagram pages, presentation boards showing our business plans, strategies etc. alongside the actual visual material for the make believe business we also have to document our meetings on a separate blog to show teamwork, engagement and professionalism.
The final year project is presented at an end of year degree show where the university pays for all the work to be printed on good quality foam board panels. Everyone helps set up the work and boards. This end of year show has guests from different companies that NTU is associated with and is open to everyone as open exhibition. It also is an evening of celebration and awards given by the tutors.
👐🏻 General approach
The architectural course at NTU focuses more on pushing the boundaries of design by allowing the student to have a freedom in their conceptual approach, which is later narrowed down in a much more technical output that complies with the teaching standard norms from the RIBA.
NTU will always have an emphasis on the technical aspect of design but at the same time it can be overwhelming for students. Experimenting is encouraged throughout but this is difficult because it doesn't mean you forget about the final product so you can experiment within reason to ensure you learn new techniques but also can complete a good project in the end. Firs year is new to everyone so its a struggle, second year has a another huge jump from first year so it is difficult to keep up with the pace of the course but if you can get through it, it helps a lot for your final year.
The first year is about learning the basis of architectural design, hence hand-drawing is required , with a lot of technical hand-drawing and model making, as well.
Most of it will be group projects with one or two individual design projects.
There are a few tutorials on a couple of softwares, encouraging students to start learning software skills, if they don’t already know, such as Indesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, Sketch Up and AutoCAD.
Also, research and essay writing will also be taught in the Context module.
Second year is about developing further as an architectural designer, so it goes straight into a design project. With mostly individual projects. The end of year, will concentrate in masterclasses, with a specific agenda, either hand-drawing, model-making, software skills, historical studies, etc. Students get to choose which one to be part of.
The use of softwares is many times required to be used throughout the year, hence there will be a couple more tutorials on it, in IDS, including VRay for Sketch Up. (There will still be a lot of opportunities for hand-drawing, if that’s your preference. Also, model-making is still alive!)
There will also be live construction site visits, teaching more in depth about the whole construction process, such as, who are the people involved, costs, materials, structure, construction details, construction programmes, etc.
The Context module will be mostly about architectural history in Europe and current emerging debates in architecture.
This year is all about the student as an architectural designer, so there is one individual project with 2 phases, throughout the whole year.
The first phase is about developing conceptual ideas, in which model-making and hand-drawing are required.
The second phase is a more specific study and the actual design project, as you will be presented with ateliers* and must choose one to go on till the end of the year. (The ateliers are also very diverse, as each tutor has different areas of interest.)
Tech & Env starts a little later, together with phase 2, and is about a very in depth study of the site, the structure and envelope of the building, with construction details, environmental and daylighting strategies, as well as, fire and accessibility in compliance with building regulations.
In Context, students will be working on a 6000 word research project, for most of the year. Students will have the chance to choose between 3 or 4 themes, to work on.
Finally, Professional Practice, is about the business side of architectural firms. One project is about producing a design tender, the other about developing a business idea in a group and presenting it, by the end of it.
*an atelier is a studio, which is like a smaller group of students who work on a similar theme
💖 Student support
The student support/ staff members is very welcoming and enthusiastic, which was good to know. They always seem keen to help and almost all facilities had a good amount of works who helped the individuals from all backgrounds and cultural history.
At the end of the year, students are asked to give anonymous feedback on what is good and what needs to change in the course, and the staff always take this in consideration, explaining to students at the beginning of each year what changes have been done according to past students' feedback.
The Architecture school has its own mental health advisor, which students can book a meeting through an online booking system.
NTU also offers a lot of student support, either financially to those in need, and/or, mentally, as the uni has a mental health team and a campus health centre of its own.
The mental health team has very competent counsellors (I have used their services many times and it was always very helpful). They also offer a couple of workshops on stress management and anxiety during term time.
NTU has a good workshop with a few bandsaws and a couple staff to help you out however this is shared between all years so can get busy especially near end of the year so you need to be able to manage your time well and think about these conditions during the project. It also has a bigger workshop for more advanced model making techniques in the basement but this is primarily for the product designers but the facilities are very good and most of the staff are good at helping you with the machines and tools.
Architecture students from year 1 to year 3, share a large studio with some space to store models in the studio, although this has probably had some changes now due to COVID.
Students also have access to workshops in the sub-levels, many of the machines have recently been upgraded and they also added a couple more, the facilities are really large and allow work with all types of materials, such as timber, iron, concrete, etc.
There is also access to computers in different spaces at the uni, with windows or ios software, and laptops to be borrowed. These probably are subject to a booking system this year, as a response to the pandemic.
📄 Application Process
For me personally coming from an overseas perspective I would summarize the whole application process as very straightforward after doing the interview with the module leaders from both the BArch and MArch courses.