Posted Feb 28 2023 | By Hala Al-Abweh

Life at LB: A pandemic, a Part 3 and a baby later

I have been with Levitt Bernstein for over two years now and what an eventful two years they have been! I joined the practice during lockdown in 2020, working remotely from home. During my first months I was working mostly with the London office within both the Architecture and the Urban Design teams (Place Studio), the collaboration between the two teams and offices was seamless. This was because working remotely and collaborating with the London office on projects was not new, this arrangement has been in place since the foundation of the Manchester studio a decade ago! This piece is my tribute to this milestone for LB Manchester.

As I joined the team during lockdown, I felt that Levitt Bernstein has coped incredibly well with COVID-19 and that the lockdown somehow brought the wider practice closer together. There was a huge focus on remote socials, social-distance friendly walks, and regular remote events. This ensured we were all connected and kept us sane through this tough period. Although I was not able to meet anyone in person until a year after joining, it was not difficult for the Manchester team to make feel part of the Levitt Bernstein family. When I later met everyone, it was strange that it didn’t feel weird, and it felt like I have known everyone right from the start. The transition from working fully from home after the lockdown to be now back in the office a few days a week was simple and something I had greatly looked forward to.

There are a lot of positives to working at Levitt Bernstein other than the exciting variety of projects and the amazingly talented people you work with. The culture of the practice is something I really admire and was one of the main reasons I initially applied. The practice prioritises people at all times, its motto People.Design is not just an empty expression. Levitt Bernstein does not only prioritise people as the users and community when working on projects, but also its own employees. I really appreciate how approachable Directors, HR and senior staff are and how willing they are to support and guide at every step of the way whether at work or personal life. A focal point is ensuring staff are healthy, content and valued, which is evident in the high retention rates of staff. I have found it so fun to be part of with socials, sport days, badminton, charity lunches, bake sales to name a few. One thing I think everyone agrees about Levitt Bernstein’s social organising team, is that they certainly know how to throw a costume party, with the Manchester team often coming out on top for the group costume award!

I feel I grow everyday as an individual and a designer, as there’s a lot of time spent for continuous career development at all levels, whether with casual learning like knowledge sharing sessions, formal CPDs, weekly Revit training sessions or regular study trips and site visits. The practice is divided into smaller studios ensuring it maintains a design-led ethos and creative flare while upholding the family-unit feel. This also gives exposure to the junior staff to all stages of projects with more involvement and responsibility to get hands on experience.

On a personal level, Levitt Bernstein never failed to provide me with support and flexibility, whether working remotely from Jordan for over a month due to family circumstances, flexibility while pregnant and regular check-ins while I was on maternity leave and completing my RIBA Part 3. When I thought getting my Part 3 with a newborn was impossible, the encouragement and emotional support was all I needed! I started writing up my case study three weeks after I gave birth as I worked on the project towards the end of my pregnancy. The project team met with me regularly while on my maternity leave to keep me updated on the project and celebrated with me when I passed! The practice is still offering me continued support and flexibility to register with ARB due to my international status and to be able to have a healthy work-life balance.

I do feel the Manchester Team are really like my extended family and I came out with really good friends. In the last two years we celebrated weddings, birthdays, many Part 3 graduates, and multiple babies. I feel lucky to have been with Levitt Bernstein during this period and to have shared my personal milestones with the Manchester team.

Happy Birthday LB Manchester, thank you for all your support and for taking me on this wonderful journey with you.