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Creative and practical learning helps Unitec -Te Pūkenga architecture graduates stand out in the workplace

10 August 2023

We sat down with Unitec Te Pūkenga Architecture alumni, Lindy Ewart and Stu Penno, to talk about what the practice looks for when recruiting staff, and what advice they’d give graduates.

Unitec Te Pūkenga Architecture alumni Lindy EwartLindy is a director of the Auckland-based design practice Ministry of Architecture + Interiors, along with her partner, Malcolm Ewart. Stu Penno is one of the principals, working alongside other Unitec Te Pūkenga graduates including principal Brett Roake-Barefoot, architects Tricia Ware and Desmond Lam, interior designers Michelle Pirret and Jessica Thornton-Grimes, architectural designer Shiman Singh and architectural graduate Boris Adam.

The Blues High Performance Centre, Ministry of Education, Kainga Ora, Habitat for Humanity, Fred Hollows Foundation, and Metlifecare are just some of the well-known names that Ministry of Architecture + Interiors has worked with over the past few years.

What makes a Unitec graduate stand out?

“What makes Unitec graduates stand out is what attracted many of us to study at Unitec in the first place; design programmes that place an emphasis on creative and practical learning. Much of our work is focused around understanding and interpreting the local context, navigating building regulations, collaborating with other industry professionals and creating documentation which is legible for both clients and contractors.

“We find the practical focus of Unitec learning provides an opportunity for graduates to hit the ground running when entering the workforce.”

What does your firm look for in graduates?

“We look for someone who brings a strong can-do attitude.

“We value people who want to be involved, who want to listen, want to learn and provide a similar space for others. While it may sound cliché, we know that success happens when we work together.

“We also encourage our team to find their own way in their careers. We’ll place the resources and support around them to get them to the place they want to be, but they need to be able to navigate their forward journey; therefore, self-awareness and drive are key character traits.”

Unitec Te Pūkenga Architecture alumni Stu PennoWhat is the future looking like for architects and interior designers in the changing world of sustainability, regenerative design and AI?

“A key competency that architects and designers need to develop in their career is the ability to discern contextual factors and know how and when to innovate and push boundaries. The ability to stay connected and aware of one’s context and a good level of emotional intelligence will always help designers navigate a changing world.

“The drive to design and operate sustainably has been of key importance for some time, and therefore should be more fundamental to how we work than it is.

“Projects from now on will see sustainable design as an imperative, not a choice. However, how we approach this is developing. We saw the interruption to our international supply chains with COVID and it highlighted the amount of resources required to support our design and construction industry.

“The recent discussion around regenerative design presents some really interesting prospects. Focusing on more of a cyclical approach, by understanding the many “ecosystems” that exists around projects, it encourages a greater emphasis on the understanding of a project’s wider impact both on the resources that it consumes, but also how it contextually relates to its surroundings.

“As for AI, it presents some exciting prospects for designers particularly on the ability to input data and rapidly generate design outcomes.  However, it’s currently reliant on the quality of the data entered.

“It’ll be interesting to see how this will evolve over time but there’s no denying the potential power that this tool presents to designers, so long as the ability to discern context and make human-centred judgements remains.”

Was it through connections that any of you found jobs, so does networking pay off?

“Networking absolutely pays off.

“Several members of our team got their start by being introduced through networking events, or through friends.  Through networking you’re more likely to hear of opportunities by making contact with people and practices who you wouldn’t normally come into contact with.

“Networking allows people to get ahead of the pack when positions become available. While it’s important to have a strong portfolio and CV that reflects your capabilities, your application can be one of many.

“Establishing contact through networking is far more personable and therefore more memorable.

Seeking guidance for your career path? Book an appointment with our Career and Employability Team.