Creating a better built environment

Keven Lester is a Chartered Architect, and Director of an Architectural Practice called CB3 Design.  He tells icould about his experiences and shares his advice on following a similar career.

Tell us about the job you’re doing now.  What does it involve?

Architects are responsible for forming the built environment that we live in, and everything from the layout of cities and how they look, to domestic porches and minor works.

My job is very varied, and that is why I enjoy doing it. Every project is different, with new clients, new locations and new daily challenges that keep my work interesting.

What is the most exciting aspect of your work?

Whilst people know that Architects design buildings (amongst many other things), and this is certainly one of the most fun aspects of the job, what I find most interesting is finding creative solutions to problems, whether it be an innovative design solution around a difficult design problem, or solving contract issues and ensuring projects run smoothly.

Would your classmates from school be surprised at what you’re doing now?

My old classmates probably wouldn’t be surprised at what I am doing, but they may be surprised that I am now directing a company, I certainly am!

Was there a teacher who had a particularly strong influence on you and if so in what way?

I have a lot of respect for one particular teacher Mr Garofall who taught me English, and encouraged so many people that it was ok to be non-conformist and stand up for what you believe in, and go ahead and achieve what you want.

What school subjects were you good at and have any been surprisingly helpful later on?

At school we had to choose between several subjects (and couldn’t study everything we wanted) and I was told that certain subjects would be best to prepare for a career as an Architect. Having undertaken these, and many years later, I can honestly say that as long as you are keen to learn and really want to do this, then go ahead and do whatever subjects you wish. Art would be a good subject as it makes you think creatively, however I didn’t study this for my GCSEs and didn’t find it a problem.

If you went to university what was your university experience like?

University was a fantastic experience, and has been very important in making me the person I am now. Many of the friends I made at university have become lifelong friends. The studying is only a small part of what I got out of a university education, and for me, of more importance was learning to be self sufficient, free thinking, question everything, and mixing with so many different people and ways of thinking.

Did you take a gap year? Did it influence any decisions later in life?

I didn’t take a gap year but I took full advantage of extended university exchanges by going to live and study elsewhere and immerse myself in differing cultures such as in Romania and Tasmania; I feel this was a better way of seeing the world as it gave me focus and allowed me to really get involved with the culture and people of a place, rather than just passing through or mixing with other gap year people (it was also partly funded!).

What advice would you give someone still at school who wants to do what you’re doing now?

Architecture is a very satisfying career, as every day is different and no two projects are the same. It’s a long period of study to become a professional Chartered Architect (usually more than 7 years), and unfortunately the wages aren’t as high as many other professions and what most people starting out expect. The work can be very stressful, but it certainly isn’t boring and there is a lot of satisfaction in creating a lasting legacy and creating a better built environment.

Can you give us a link for more information?

The RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) has some good advice.