There’s a real buzz surrounding the School of Architecture and Design at Birmingham City University (BCU) these days. According to BA architecture course leader Victoria Farrow, BCU has become a hub for architectural education worldwide—due to its intimate, hands-on education strategy, close involvement with industry practitioners, and state-of-the-art labs, BCU proves itself to be the best in preparing students for architecture careers.
Vectorworks in the Classroom
BCU’s courses are validated by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA); the Architects Registration Board (ARB) also certifies courses for full exemption from the ARB/RIBA exams, which are crucial to becoming a registered architect in the UK.
Students can become fully registered architects from within the school. Staggeringly, 90 percent of BCU’s BA architecture graduates find jobs in the field within six months.
A longtime Vectorworks user herself, Farrow teaches the software in her classrooms to great success. She runs the BA architecture course at BCU, overseeing around 250 students as they break into the world of design. She also runs a design studio course and oversees teaching strategy for all BA architecture students.
First-year students start by learning hand drafting for about two months, then dive into the basics of 2D CAD. They’re then introduced to basic 3D modeling concepts and learn how to integrate graphical presentation programs like Photoshop and InDesign. In students’ second year, they’re introduced to BIM as background knowledge should they decide to pursue it in masters’ studies.
In addition, Farrow introduced our academic lab donation program to BCU. The program allows students and professors to get free Vectorworks labs for their schools. We’re very proud to be supporting education in the design disciplines.
BCU’s School of Architecture and Design showcases its success in an annual event that welcomes specialists, students, and practitioners from around the globe—the event, BIM in Birmingham, has been making waves across the building information modeling community.
BIM in Birmingham
Sponsored by Vectorworks since its inception, BIM in Birmingham started in 2016 as an annual networking opportunity for the UK architecture industry. The event has become a global success, having recently completed its fourth year; January 2020’s event saw visitors from 33 different countries, said Farrow, who founded and organizes the event.
She conceptualized BIM in Birmingham as a way for industry members and students to engage with each other and with dozens of presentations. “It allows aspiring professionals to tap into the wider network of BIM to share knowledge and practice within the profession and beyond,” she said.
With an estimated attendance of 400, you might expect a sizable events team—but Farrow does things differently.
“There’s no marketing, there’s no events team, there’s nothing behind the event apart from a group of students and me as team leader. This is to create a unique learning experience for my students,” she said. “Each of the students who sign up to join the event plays a role. I feel incredibly proud of the amount of talent demonstrated by the group every year and it has become a fantastic opportunity.”
Through managing 400 people through presentations, the students walk away with exposure to coordination skills — the volunteering students help with the event from the get-go, communicating and organizing with each other to meet deadlines, which is key when welcoming visitors from all around the world. Moreover, the event allows students to forge connections with professionals in their field, a valuable jump-start to their careers.
“This year’s event was the best we’ve ever had. I’ve already had guests asking how I’m going to top it next year,” Farrow said with a laugh.
The Association for Architectural Educators
Before BIM in Birmingham came Farrow’s involvement with the association of architectural educators (aae).
Farrow co-founded the aae in 2012 with a number of colleagues, fueled by a passion for architectural education and the realization that there was no representing organization. Now, a majority of architecture schools in the UK have become aae members.
The aae founded the UK’s first publication on architectural education, “Charrette.” The aae journal looks to gather insightful findings from practitioners and theorists who do substantial research.
Since its beginnings, the aae has hosted a yearly conference; in its first year, 2013, there were educators from 43 different countries and close to 250 guests. Today, Farrow continues supporting the organization as Director of Events. She’ll help with the coordination of 2020’s conference, which is happening on September 10-11 at the Bristol School of Architecture, University of the West of England.