Context news

What does it take to become an architect?

30 October 2019

We answered this question and others for students at Avondale Primary School when we went face-to-face with the next generation of budding designers.

Context took part in last month’s Model Citizens event, a Lego competition for grown up architects to win the iconic brick sets for schools, part of the NZIA Festival of Architecture.

Soto Solis, Context’s parametric designer, and associate and architect Natalie Snowden delivered the bumper box of Lego to a group of year five and six students at Avondale Primary School, who were invited along to receive the blocks on behalf of the school for their particular interest in design and architecture.

“The pupils were so onto it. Their enthusiasm is heartening for the future of design. We were blown away by the sophistication of their thinking, especially in planning their career choices,” explained Natalie.

“They’re already designing all sorts of things, and were immediately figuring out what to build with the Lego,” says Soto. “It felt like Christmas – they started off carefully unwrapping the parcel, then tearing into once they realised it was a big box of Lego!”

Deputy Principal Kim Wilkinson explained that Lego was in regular use and the kids were very excited about it the new set.

Because they were so keen, we’ve arranged for the group to visit our Auckland studio for more insight into a career in design. We’ll 3D print one of their concepts and create it in virtual reality for them to have a play in the VR studio.

So, what did these budding designers want to know? Here are some excerpts:


Q. Where’s the best place to study architecture?

A. There’s lots of good places in New Zealand. At Context we’ve got people that studied at University of Auckland, Unitec and Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (ARA). (We also told them not to worry too much about it at this stage – just to find something they loved).

Q. How many years do you need to study at university?

A. To be an architect in New Zealand you have to go through five years of study divided in a Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree

Q. Is building in Lego a stable job?!

A. There’s a niche for artists to use their skills to build with Lego like Nathan Sawaya and for qualified Lego Masters. Context designed a large Lego play helicopter for a bank (Westpac) and we needed a special team to build it.

Q. Are there any websites or apps you’d recommend for designing?

A. Pen and paper are always a good start. When it comes to 3D modelling programs to use like Blender or even Paint 3D are good to create models for VR and 3D printing.

Q. What’s the best material to make models with?

A. Foam board, cardboard and balsa wood have been the standard. But there so many new materials that can be used, 3D printers regularly use PLA (Polylactic acid)