Academy evening session – creating portfolios

On Tuesday 18th October we held our second two-hour skills session for this year’s cohort. Six of our Ambassadors, from a range of disciplines and professional levels, joined us on Zoom to present a portfolio of their choice, answering questions related to their work, projects and professions. Each offered best-practice insight on clearly presenting design work for different purposes.

Architect and Director Andrew De Silva (Das) from David Miller Architects, and Rhianna Weston, a MSc student in Climate Resilience and Sustainable Architecture from the University of Liverpool, each gave fantastic introductory presentations on putting together an architectural or urban design portfolio respectively.

Das spoke about the importance of including a range of media, personal interests and creativity in a university application, whilst Rhianna explained how balanced page layouts and a clear narrative contribute to ‘telling the story’ of a project.

Millie Evans from Maccreanor Lavington, and Anna Harris from MF Architects, both Part 2 Architectural Assistants, presented their master’s projects from university. They really gave our young people a flavour of the breadth and quality of work produced by architecture students at master’s level. Stylising drawings, page hierarchy, reflective descriptions, including a variety of images, and understanding your audience were all discussed.

Millie Evans from Maccreanor Lavington showed the cohort her portfolio from university

Architect Louise Taylor, from BDP, also presented her fantastic master’s thesis project, undertaken at the University of Sheffield whilst in practice. This communicated the value of not overcrowding a page, explaining ideas through diagrams, and using bold images to give the portfolio a strong visual identity. Louise also introduced the group to conservation architecture.

And finally, Darren Smith, Senior Architect at AECOM, took us on a journey through his career to date. This included the portfolio of sketches, drawings and photographs he used to apply to university, images from his architectural education, and technical drawings that his team are currently working on. Darren’s wide-ranging experience across sectors highlighted the different avenues a career in architecture can take.

A huge thank you to our speakers, and to the young people for listening and asking questions. This session was invaluable for participants putting together portfolios for university applications, as well as those unsure of their future career paths.

For participants, remember Anna’s ‘four c’s’:


What to include, showing a range of skills, not showing everything from a project but selecting the best images.


The layout of the pages, using a grid structure, and lining up images. Software can be useful for this but also good old-fashioned rulers.


Setting rules so that pages look cohesive. Having the title, subtitle, and any captions inconsistent size, location, and font on each page.


Including personality, probably the most important for a portfolio to get into university as the other skills are all things that can be learned. Use the portfolio to show your interests and hobbies, get creative with the graphic styles, and tailor the portfolio to best show your own work rather than using a generic template.

Second Saturday workshop – regenerating dockside

Our Saturday design sessions continued this month, with the first of two consecutive workshops led by our Gold Sponsors Arup and Planit-IE. Activities focussed on their joint live project – the regenerative masterplan for Dockside at Liverpool Waterfront.

The session began with a ‘hairy drawing’ activity, which asked participants to visually describe their journey to our workshop location that morning, from memory. This was followed by an introductory presentation to the Dockside project by Planit-IE’s Anna Couch, followed by a site visit. During our walk around the site, we discussed existing environmental and heritage features, local buildings and their uses, and site conditions, opportunities and constraints. We asked participants to consider their personal experiences and opinions towards the site and surrounding area.

On our return, participants split up into smaller groups to design a public ‘intervention’ for the Dockside site – “what would make you and your friends want to regularly spend time here?” For inspiration, PLACED presented a few international architectural, landscape, and infrastructural design projects – including Heatherwick Studio’s Little Island, a park and events space by the Hudson River in New York, and the Serpentine Pavilion (2021) designed by Counterspace. We asked participants to pay particular attention to the design team’s priorities for the project – heritage, nature, culture and leisure, and productivity.

Each group described their ideas through the medium of collage, cutting and pasting magazines and coloured card, alongside drawing and sketching. Many worked directly on top of the site plan provided, indicating strategies for improvements to the site as a whole. Each group presented and explained their ideas, then took part in a wider discussion with PLACED, Sponsors and Ambassadors. Their ideas were imaginative and well considered, including markets, arcades, parks, water sports, nightlife venues, street lighting, cycle hire schemes and racing tracks. Many groups explained that they’d like to see a range of fun activities, environmental initiatives, heritage features brought back into use, and the area to feel safer.

We would like to thank Ian Ford and Katelyn Nagle (ARUP) as well as Anna Couch and Rebecca Foy (Planit-IE), for planning and delivering the session, and their continued support. We’d also like to thank PLACED Ambassadors Diya Calleechurn and Chris Aitken-Smith for their support on the day.

First design skills session – learning to draw like an architect

On Tuesday 20th September we held our first of many design skills sessions for the PLACED Academy 2022-23 cohort. The session began with an introduction explaining why architects draw, how they draw, and who they draw for. We discussed how architects use drawings, at different scales and levels of detail, to explain how their designs work to various audiences, including clients and the public. Participants learnt that digital software and sketching by hand are both invaluable tools to an architect or designer.

As the session continued, participants sketched objects of their choice, followed by one-point perspective drawings of rooms in their home. After this, they tried orthographic drawing, learning about plan, section and elevation through demonstrations and tasks. This included sketching an elevation of their home or a nearby building.

The session was attended by Laura Gouk, an architect at OMI, who demonstrated some of her portfolio to give an insight into the industry. We were really happy with the progress in this session and would like to thank Laura for attending.

One of our participants showing one of his sketches from the session