Posted Apr 13 2023 | By Thomas Franks

Celebrating New Methods of Qualification

September 2020 - a move to the north, starting life at Levitt Bernstein, and the beginning of my 2nd instalment of architectural education, the Collaborative Practice MArch at Sheffield University.

The Collaborative Practice course at Sheffield is a new take on traditional architectural education and is a blend of practice-based experience, and academic research and learning. During the first year of the course students work for their practice Monday to Thursday, with Fridays being dedicated to university studies, before re-joining full time with the traditional course in the second year. A wonderfully efficient and thoroughly rewarding way of learning whilst remaining connected to practice.

Straight from my kick off meeting with Levitt Bernstein Directors and Sheffield tutors it was clear how supportive the practice was going to be as they have already been a part of the Sheffield Collaborative Practice MArch programme on several occasions. The practice was therefore already aware of the numerous benefits of this alternative Part 2 qualification which seeks to break the boundaries between education and practice.

Miller Road, a 61 bed Extra Care scheme in Preston, was the focus of my in-practice work and after progressing through stages 2 and 3 at pace, it naturally lent itself to becoming the topic of my Reflective Design module at Sheffield. In this module students critique and develop real practice-based projects which becomes the main design project for the year.

Colleagues took a particular interest in the university work I was completing alongside and relished in the opportunity of rethinking the Miller Road site without the restrictions of real projects. This collaborative method of working on individual university submissions with the wider support of Levitt Bernstein whilst doing ‘real’ practice-based work certainly helped me progress, and I believe both university and practice benefitted as a result.

Miller Road 2040 - Summary

The images in this piece provide an overview of my Reflective Design module at Sheffield, A reconfiguration of the traditional UK housing estate which sits alongside the Levitt Bernstein Extra Care building.

Built on rewilded brownfield land, the proposal reimagines and fully respects what has become of the existing site after 20 years of growth. Integrating with the Levitt Bernstein Extra Care scheme designed in practice, the new housing masterplan places a focus on community and provides a communal building and a large, shared open square. A framework of plot passports enables the homes to be highly flexible and unique to each individual occupant.

During the final year of MArch I kept in contact, working back at Levitt Bernstein when available before joining full time in 2022. With the practice’s further support, I’m now getting stuck into part 3, with the ambition of practising as an Architect here for many years to come.

As the ARB reconsiders the future of architectural education, it is great to see how supportive the practice is of future methods of qualification. Since the opening of the Manchester Studio 10 years ago, Levitt Bernstein has supported 7 students on the Collaborative Practice Sheffield degree, have hired their first Architectural Apprentice, and helped a staggering 48 individuals pass their part 3 and fully qualify as architects. A further 5 of us are currently working to join this number - the end of correcting people with ‘I’m not quite an architect just yet’ is now in sight.