Building bridges for Manchester’s student architects

By Peter Stanners, Jonathan Brown, Jade Verity and Anna Mauremootoo

Aspiring Manchester architects who are failing to find degree work placements are being handed a lifeline from a ground-breaking project.

 ‘Archi-Hub’, set up by student, Luke Tyson, aims to provide the compulsory 20 hour-a-week work placement required of all fourth-year architecture students in order to complete their degrees.

With the recession hitting hard leading to industry cuts, the mini practice will provide projects such as urban intervention, furniture restoration and mini-build projects.

He said: “Practices I’ve contacted have said the economic climate is not good and so they don’t have the jobs to offer.

He added that while the project is in the embryonic stages, ‘Archi-Hub’ is seeking funding from the Manchester School of Architecture (msa) and the council.

It takes seven years of study combined with professional experience to fully qualify as an architect, with the experience taking place in professional practices.

However if the project is successful, students at the Manchester School of Architecture would be some of the first to experience charity based placement work.

Architecture lecturer at msa, Dominic Sagar, said: “Groups trying to get together with charities and voluntary groups for example to do things that may lead to some work. A lot of professional architects can’t get any projects funded now.

“Architects should be at forefront of ideas rather than bogged down in the cuts.”

Trouble in the architecture industry intensified when the Department for Culture, Media and Sport pulled its funding for the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE).

And as the commission’s official government sponsor decided to remove its £5 million annual funding, it is understood CABE’s other major funder, the Communities and Local Government, will also withdraw its financial support – worth nearly £7million last year.

Jangahir Arji, a Director at Urbane Forms in Manchester, said: “The problem is not that architecture firms don’t have work. They do but the jobs are on hold while the clients wait to get money from the banks.”

While Urbane Forms suspended taking on staff in 2008-9, they have been feeling more optimistic about the building climate since November 2009 and are now looking to take people as the projects start getting approved.

The optimism is echoed by Mark Canning, Project Manager at the Northwest Regional Development Agency.

He said that development projects have definitely been slow over the last few years especially in the Ancoats region of Manchester where many developments have stalled since the credit crunch.

He can report, however, that the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) have unlocked two stalled developments schemes in east Manchester.

The Sarah Point scheme in Ancoats will receive £2.5million of investment which means work on the 166 new affordable homes, which had stalled due to the effects of the recession, can now continue.

Mr Canning said: “There are signs of green shoots of recovery.”

For the time being Mr Tyson intends to press on, having also set up a blog for architecture students featuring information on current jobs and relevant competitions.

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