What makes the Cambridge Architecture course so special?
Many students applying for Architecture courses in the UK place Cambridge at the top of their list. This is partly because of the excellence of the course, but also because of the beauty of the city and the college buildings, old and modern, and all the extra things Cambridge has to offer. Within the University, the Architecture Tripos is unique in combining an intellectual training with creative design. The course focuses on architectural design as a unifying activity and provides the first part of the professional training of an architect. However, as it provides a good basis of creative thinking, this is useful in diverse careers from product design and film-making to management and policy-making roles, often related to construction and the built environment.
The Architecture Tripos is action-packed and fun and therefore requires considerable stamina and dedication. The studio building at the Department is for undergraduates, and students are expected to do much of their design work there. They also have to do a fair amount of work in the vacations. At the same time, Cambridge is full of exciting activities such as sports and theatre, music and art and through college life you will be able to learn about completely different subjects – so student life here offers great opportunities and new challenges.
You may obtain details of the courses in each year by writing to the Departmental Secretary, 1 Scroope Terrace, Cambridge CB2 1PX, to ask for a copy of the Department of Architecture’s prospectus. You are encouraged to attend the Departmental Open Day, held each year in late June or early July, at the time of the Annual Exhibition of students’ work. Please telephone 01223 332950 for further details or visit the Department’s website.
Professional training in Architecture
In the UK the professional training of an architect is delivered in three parts (not to be confused with the University Tripos Part IA, Part IB and Part II). The Architects Registration Board (ARB) and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) prescribe and validate the courses offered by the various educational institutions. Currently, the Cambridge BA is recognized by ARB and RIBA as equivalent to Part 1. The Department also offers a Master’s degree in Architecture and Urban Design which is recognised by ARB and the RIBA as equivalent to Part 2. It should be noted that there is quite a lot of moving between Parts 1 and 2, as students want to explore different schools. The Department also offers a Part 3 (the final gateway to the profession), which is recognised by ARB and RIBA.
On completing the Tripos, most graduates undertake at least one year’s professional experience working in an architectural practice before returning to university for Part 2. Cambridge graduates are usually highly sought after by leading practices.
Before taking the Part 3 examinations, students complete a minimum of 24 months’ professional experience by working in an architectural office. To find out more about how the professional training works visit www.arb.org.uk and www.architecture.com.
Why choose Newnham for Architecture?
Newnham is a particularly congenial setting for women reading Architecture, as it offers a tranquil, friendly, caring college environment which complements the gregarious and high-pressure life in the Departmental studios. The College’s own buildings are architecturally distinguished, from Basil Champneys’s original buildings to the recent, much praised library and the Katharine Stephen Room for rare books. Undergraduates across the years are helpful to and supportive of each other. The College has just embarked on an exciting building project and this will give our students a first hand opportunity to participate in the design and consultation process.
All design studios and lectures are department-based. The Department is housed in Scroope Terrace (near the Fitzwilliam Museum) and is just a stroll or short bike ride away across the Fen Meadows or through the historic centre. In addition to lectures and studio teaching, regular supervisions are organized through Newnham. Supervisions are given in small groups usually of two to five students and may be given by lecturers, graduate students or professional architects or engineers.
How many students take Architecture at Newnham and what options can they choose?
We usually offer one or two places each year. The BA course combines studio work and lecture courses. Design skills are learnt through doing design projects, presenting them and receiving feedback at reviews. Technical skills in construction, structural design and environmental design are taught through lectures, design coursework and site visits. Most students arriving in the first year find this a new, challenging and exciting range of subjects. All subjects must be taken: there are no optional modules, but in the third year each student writes a dissertation on a subject of their choice agreed with their supervisor.
Can you tell me about the Newnham Architecture Fellows?
Information about the Architecture Fellows can be found on the teaching list.
Are there any A-level subjects which are particularly useful?
Essential: strong interest in architecture and place-making; good graphic ability with a serious portfolio which will be reviewed at interview; a good Mathematics GCSE (but see also below, under ‘highly desirable’). A combination of arts and science subjects provides a useful context for this fascinatingly complex subject. See also Newnham’s general requirements for more information.
Highly desirable: A2 Art (which provides a better preparation for the course than subjects such as Design Technology or Technical Graphics); Mathematics or Physics, ideally to A2 level.
Useful: History/History of Art. Any subject which demonstrates your ability to write and to construct a well-reasoned argument.
Our standard conditional offer will be A*AA at A-level.
Can I take a gap year?
Because of the small cohort admitted each year, we do not usually offer deferred entry. Therefore if you intend to take a gap year we suggest you make your application in the autumn after you have completed your Sixth Form (Year 13).
How should I prepare for the interview?
At interview you will be expected to show a portfolio of creative art work. This may include not only painting and drawing but also, if you wish, other media such as photography, computer graphics, or sculpture. Three-dimensional work may be presented through photographs if too large to be brought. A sketch book, showing evidence of powers of observation, a facility for drawing, and an interest in design and in the built environment, will be a great asset. You may bring A Level coursework, and/or work and designs you have produced independently to demonstrate the things and ideas that interest you.
When you come for an interview, you will be asked to participate in a writing and drawing exercise. Keeping a sketch book will be useful preparation for this.
Look around you and record buildings and objects that interest you. Also, start reading around the subject. You might find these books thought provoking:
Bernard Rudofsky: Architecture Without Architects
Steen Eiler Rasmussen: Experiencing Architecture
William J R Curtis: Modern Architecture since 1900
Architecture for Humanity (ed): Design Like You Give a Damn
Simon Unwin: Exercises in Architecture
You may find enrolling on a Foundation course a stimulating and helpful thing to do for an introduction to 3D design and to design theory. This is particularly useful if you have not studied Art in the Sixth Form (Years 12 and 13).
Where can I find out more?
Have a look at the Department of Architecture website.
If at all possible, do come to the University Open Days or to an Open Day/Subject Taster Day at Newnham.