Programme: Architecture - MArch; Architectural Design - MA (Hons)

Year: 2012; 2010

Laura graduated from the Architectural Design - MA (Hons) programme in 2010 and Architecture - (MArch) in 2012. She now works at Heatherwick Studio in London.

Tell us about your time at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA)

Prior to studying Architectural Design I had heard about the long hours, difficult coursework and high qualifications required for entry. I soon learned that the programme, although challenging, allowed me to be ambitious, think big and put my passion for art and design into practice.

During my studies, a wide number of opportunities were made available including a number of grants to help towards drawing and modelling materials. The opportunity to submit work to the RIBA Silver Medal Award and RIAS student awards and display work in end of year shows helped me to build confidence in my own work.

Tell us about your creative practice

I have always been interested in the aesthetics of historical buildings, especially the human scale, richness of materials and craftsmanship - something that I think is often lacking in contemporary architecture. My time at university was characterised by an intense investigation and development of designs on both urban and micro scales with a real interest in the use of materials. Inspiration often also comes from outwith architecture, including nature, art and the way other industries use forms, materials and manufacturing techniques.

It was important to me to go on to work at a studio with a similar ethos and my current work at Heatherwick Studio has a particular emphasis on materials and craftsmanship, which gives me a chance to explore the areas I enjoy most. One of the most exciting aspects of my job is the opportunity to be playful with design and experiment with materials, form and space.

Architects have an important responsibility to create new spaces and urban environments that inspire and influence the way people live.

Laura Barr, 2010 Architectural Design - MA (Hons) and 2012 Architecture - MArch

Tell us about your experiences since leaving ECA

After my graduation I went to work for OMA in Rotterdam. It was a challenging, intense but rewarding experience. The long hours were often overwhelming but the experience really prepared me to deal with the pressure of the business. I learnt a lot, not only about design and architecture but about working with other people, meeting deadlines and managing time.

Most recently I have been working at Heatherwick Studio in London, which has given me a valuable opportunity to work on ambitious, large-scale projects in Africa, Asia and the UK. Working at the studio has allowed me to travel abroad and work on multi-million pound projects at the cutting-edge of contemporary design. This has really broadened my sense of what is possible, which has been great for my confidence and ambition.

For the past two years I have been part of a team working on The Garden Bridge. It’s been a great opportunity to be involved in such a significant project and to work with enthusiastic clients, consultants and manufacturers who are at the top of their game. Working on a project designed for the public makes it all the more enjoyable.

Alumni wisdom

There’s no doubt that studying architecture is tough and demands a lot of time and effort. But the subject is also an incredible opportunity to be creative, to use your imagination, explore your own talents and work with others who share that passion.

An instinctive love of images, drawings and graphics is a good place to start. Architects have an important responsibility to create new spaces and urban environments that inspire and influence the way people live. This draws on a whole range of other subjects, from social sciences to environmentalism. Architecture allows you to explore your own passions through your work, which is really exciting.

I would encourage others to be ambitious with their choices, and not to doubt their own abilities, even if it seems like others may have the edge. In the end it is enthusiasm, passion and hard work which count for most.