Academy evening session – careers evening

On Wednesday 23rd November, we held a Careers Evening for our PLACED Academy cohort, alumni, and parents at the ARUP offices in Liverpool. A panel of built environment industry professionals from different sectors gave inspiring and informative presentations speaking about their job role, what they love about it, how they got there, and their career highlights. Each panellist had different expertise and experiences that were very valuable and insightful for our audience.

Our first speaker was Ian Ford, an associate town planner at ARUP. Ian told us about his role, describing the ways in which planning helps communities, companies, and politicians to decide the best way of using land and buildings. He explained that planning includes considering accessibility, protecting areas, and managing projects within public, private and non-governmental sectors. Ian studied Geography at the University of Liverpool, working with different practices along the way, one of his career highlights was working on the Cavern Quarter and Williamson Square developments.

Anna Davies presented her journey from the traditional university route into architecture, to her current role as an architect and director at David Miller Architects (DMA). Anna showed the cohort the different types of practices you can work in, ranging from small to multi-disciplinary practices, and you school consider which one is right for you. DMA is a medium sized practice with 30 people in the team across two offices. Anna’s daily duties include working on projects, finding new business, collaborating, and mentoring, working with famous brands such as Stella McCartney.

Jonathan Lowe then told us about his journey to become a director and surveyor at Avison Young. Jonathan explained the role of a surveyor, explaining that they shape the way we live through construction, infrastructure, property, and land through “the property life cycle”. Jonathan deals with different property types, carries out inspections, measurements, site visits and advises clients. His career trajectory in the built environment was perhaps different to the other panellists as he studied economics at university, then decided to apply to real estate firm Avison Young, where he gained his masters in commercial property management at LJMU, qualifying as a chartered surveyor. His career highlights include briefing MPs at the Houses of Parliament and advising Stena Line to buy 200 acres! He finished his presentation with some information about degree apprenticeships and advised the young people that they should “be yourself, there is only one you”.

Danny Marsh then continued, talking to the cohort about his journey to become a landscape architect at Planit-IE. Danny told us that with his job role, he has travelled and worked in many places across the globe. He has family who live abroad, which is where his passions began for landscape architecture, he loves to return to these places for inspiration and to examine how his designs are being interacted with and how they’ve changed the landscape. Danny enjoys incorporating local heritage and historic features within his designs, he also enjoys site visits and working across different teams to work collaboratively through sketching, programming, and meetings.

Discussing his work as an urban designer for Maccreanor Lavington in Rotterdam, Mark Leitner-Murphy told us about the importance of researching your potential career route through resources online, something he did before deciding his degree at the University of Sheffield. Mark told us about the different design processes and disciplines within urban design such as, research, engagement, landscape, and public realm, the sector involves different ways of thinking and bespoke responses within a dynamic industry, across different scales. Mark enjoyed working on the Complex City project in London.

Alice Gallareto is an urban designer with experience in transport planning at Mott Macdonald. Alice’s experience is broad, from studying architecture in Torino to follow on with a masters in planning, working with Birmingham City Council as part of an ERASMUS and then becoming a graduate network planner at Flixbus in Berlin. Alice returned to Birmingham in 2016 and finally relocated to Liverpool in 2020 to work with Mott Macdonald. Her favourite scale of transport planning is streets and spaces, to focus on roads and streets to make them better, safer environments.

Our last speaker was Mathew Giles who is an architect and director at MGMA Architects, an independent architecture studio based in Liverpool. Mathew explained how MGMA Architects was founded by himself and fellow architect Matthew Ashton. Both were in the same year at university and had turbulent journeys, eventually becoming good friends, graduating, and starting up their own practice during a recession. Mathew explained that although there were different circumstances during both of their degrees, him and Matthew were able to complete their qualifications, a good example to our Academy cohort and alumni that the traditional route and expectation is not always the only way to achieve what you set out to do. MGMA Architects is a thriving practice, they engage in different heritage projects such as Cannington Shaw Bottle Shop and more recently, the Liverpool Playhouse theatre. MGMA’s office is in the iconic Oriel Chambers building in Liverpool which was the first building to feature a metal framed glass curtain wall – something that has become a defining feature of skyscrapers!

After our excelling panel of speakers, we held a Q&A session where our cohort asked some important questions about career routes, volunteering, and how to make a step in the direction of becoming a built environment professional. The Q&A session concluded successfully with some of our cohort establishing some professional connections and contacts amongst our panel of industry experts. Some of the advice given was that it is favourable that the cohort are part of the PLACED Academy as it would look great for employers and increase their chances in the future and at university. As part of the PLACED Academy Alumni, they will continue to have access to resources within the built environment field.

There was plenty of positive feedback from all on our Careers Evening and many people commended how diverse the panel was and how interesting and insightful the presentations were. Many thanks to Ian Ford and ARUP for allowing PLACED to use their offices for this event and for our sponsors who took the time to come and talk to our Academy cohort.

Regenerating dockside – part 2!

On Saturday 12th November, we held our third monthly design workshop for our cohort of young people. This was a continuation of the October session, again working alongside our Gold Sponsors Arup and Planit-IE on their joint project that will regenerate Dockside at Liverpool Waterfront.

We started the day with a quick 20-minute group modelling activity. This involved two competing groups producing quick cardboard models of structures that would carry as many team members off the ground as possible. Both teams did very well, considering structural stability as they improved their ability to work well in a team by delegating tasks to each team member, working quickly and forward-planning.

Participants were then placed into smaller groups, based on their interest towards each of the design team’s priority themes introduced last month – heritage, nature, leisure/culture, and productivity. Several small tasks followed, including creating mind maps of words and sketches based around each theme, using drawing to imagine places and buildings this theme could relate to, and listening to a short presentation that showcased images for inspiration.

After lunch, we introduced the design brief. Similarly to our previous workshop, participants were asked to consider the places, interventions and buildings that would encourage them to visit the regenerated Dockside site as young people. The groups were asked to concentrate on their chosen theme, designing a specific building or place to be communicated through 3D-modelling using craft materials.

Their fantastic ideas included a natural landscape with a greenhouse for butterflies and exotic plants, alongside lakes and a café with views out towards the waterfront. Another involved reinstating one of the docks, refurbishing the clock tower and mooring a large boat containing an integrated restaurant. Each model showed a lot of skill and attention to detail.

We would like to thank Ian Ford and Eleanor Boyce from ARUP, and Chris Hall and Jonathan Helm from Planit-IE for helping to deliver the session. We would also like to thank our Ambassadors, Chris Aitken-Smith and Isabel Daykin for their support on the night.

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.