Posted on Apr 21, 2022 by Webber Architects
Job title: Architectural Assistant
Commenced at Webber: May 2021
Qualifications: Bachelor of Design (Architecture) with Distinction
In April 2022, Caitlyn Sherwood received her Bachelor of Design (Architecture) with Distinction from University of Newcastle. Her academic performance also earned her a place on the 2021 College Commendation List which recognises the outstanding achievements of students undertaking an undergraduate program.
While the leap from schooldays spent in rural New England to becoming an Architectural Assistant working on multi-million-dollar construction projects might seem enormous, our chat below with Caitlyn reveals that the bigger the challenge, the more resourceful she becomes.
How did your family feel about your decision to pursue architecture as a career?
They were actually very nervous. My parents and extended family are all in maths and science-based professions, and because I was creative and looked for solutions to all sorts of problems, I was regarded as a bit of a black sheep in the family.
Both my parents have careers in the finance industry, and financial security is very important to them. To make sure I knew what I was getting into, they set me the task of putting together a presentation with all the figures, illustrating what my career in architecture might look like. As mentioned, I love finding solutions, so I was very happy to weigh up the risks and opportunities with the likely return. I was speaking their language, and I must have done a decent job at stating my case, because architecture won!
What impact do you think school had on your future ambitions?
In Year 10 my career assessment revealed the top five careers I was most suited to. Architecture was not one of them. However, in first place was Civil Engineering. I had to apologise to my career advisor because the thought of all that maths did not excite me. I was good at maths, but I didn’t love it. I knew I would much rather design the things that engineers will build.
I really enjoyed art at high school. I became very involved in digital art, mainly cinematography and film and I produced a video for my Year 12 major work. Technically, the hands-on experience I have using creative software has served me well as in architecure. I know that it was my background in filming and acting that started my appreciation for space and light and atmosphere, and how the built environment influences art and culture and understanding. So maybe this subconsciously pushed me towards architecture as well.
What motivates you?
I am a very driven person and set very high standards for myself. I like making beautiful things and to feel proud about what I put my name on. I also don’t think that someone’s age or experience should define their capabilities. It is possible for anyone at any stage of their life to do great work. I don’t see why you should wait 10 years to feel legitimate. If you feel that you can make a difference, do it.
Who are your role models?
I am inspired by people who put themselves out there, do the unexpected and are unafraid. At the end of the day instead of thinking who my role models are, I’d really like to work on being one myself, especially for young people.
What irritates you most about the built environment?
I am frustrated that building codes limit creativity and don’t necessarily reflect good design. This is something that was most shocking to me when I moved from studying architecture at university to commencing in the workplace. We are taught and educated to produce good design and social and ethical design, however, building codes can make this very difficult to do.
I also think there is still stigma that something that is sustainable is somehow less durable or reliable. Maybe this was the case 20 years ago but these days with the quality of eco materials, there is generally no difference. If we are the architects, we are supposed to be leading the built environment and if we don’t stand up and push for these things no one else is going to. Other compromises such as budget can come in later, but if we don’t push for the best design from the start, it will never happen.
Compared to some of my peers, I am very fortunate working at Webber. Because it is multifaceted and has a diverse client base, I have had the opportunity to work on a wide spectrum of projects that satisfy my craving for good design. Some of my university peers have the same job title as me, however they are mostly in drafting positions. At Webber, I am an integral member of the project team, meeting with clients, listening to their goals, weighing up ideas and options with my colleagues, and I feel my voice is listened to.
You get more of the bigger picture at Webber, which I feel is more valuable. As well as watching and shadowing, you also get a say and are expected to take responsibility for your input.
What advice would you give to anyone considering architecture as a career?
Do it but know it is not easy. If your brain was a computer, you would have to have about 100 tabs open at once.
What would be your ultimate dream assignment?
I am just excited because architecture is boundless. I have recently met someone who is a marine architect exclusively designing ships and there is talk about NASA taking on architects to look at Mars colonisation, so literally the sky is the limit.
I am really into experimental architecture, even what is known as paper architecture. It may not get built; however, it is an investigation of thought. I would love to do something that would be morally interesting – explore concept and ideas and the evolution of architecture.
I am very interested in the metaverse. There’s a calling for architects in the digital space in areas such as altered reality and augmented reality. People are already buying multi-million-dollar digital houses, so who knows what could be next?