11th February 2019

School of Chalk

Here at Chalk we value education and continuous learning. We’re often looking for new experiences and educational opportunities to enhance our design. Over the years we’ve also delivered critiques at universities, hosted talks, tutored and run in-house workshops; so, when we were approached by Cowley International College Art Department to run a workshop for their A level students we were happy to oblige. The college wanted their students to experience a few hours in an architect’s office to learn about the business and look at different routes into interior design and architecture.

Sue Kay, Head of Department, said it was important to expand the students’ career path choices to include a wider range of options, to raise the number of students applying for university and also look at locations further afield from their location in St Helens. Sue went on to say that ‘it’s great to be able to visit an architectural firm and to show how studying leads to greater opportunities to learn and employ skills beyond lower level expectations.’

The workshop covered a number of points and began describing a traditional route into architecture through university degree, masters & diploma, it then went on to discuss the type of work we do at Chalk. The students were all studying A level art in the 6thform and looking at various career options.

We asked the students to divide into small groups and carry out a time limited task to build a tower (as tall as possible) using only A4 paper and sticky tape. The task encourages group work, problem solving, basic structural ideas and working to a deadline.

We followed this with an interior architecture design exercise called ‘THEBLUECORNERCAFE’. This is a collage and drawing workshop designed to introduce aspiring designers to the basics of spatial design and just one of the ways design can progress in practice. Starting with a perspective corner diagram and a brief, the students were presented with the different architectural elements that have to be considered within an interior. For each element they were also given precedents, for example a traditional, a sliding & a garage door. Having been given some elements to collage into the drawing and a range of blue pens, the students were encouraged to embellish materials and to create their own. To emphasize not being too precious or scared with their designs, each drawing got passed to the next person throughout the different sections.


From engaging in this workshop, we hope the students gained an understanding of all the aspects that go into a design – the research and use of precedents to inspire and answer a brief – as well as working collectively on a design. We ended with a critique on all the drawings. THEBLUECORNERCAFE is a 20 min insight into what can go into designing interiors.

Sue Kay said, ‘the opportunity to have students experience an afternoon in an architect’s office means they can imagine themselves in that role. It encourages the idea that it becomes achievable with the right amount of effort and attitude.’

Running workshops like this is mutually beneficial. There were four of the Chalk team at the workshop and we have different amounts of experience. You can always learn from a group and they often look at a design problem in a fresh way that can help with your own development. It’s also good to hone your own practices and think about how you design and approach a problem; explaining a brief or concept can solidify an idea and there are good transferable skills for working with colleagues and clients.

Over a coffee we talked to the students individually and discussed their aspirations for the future. They were an interesting and engaged group of young women and hopefully we’ll be able to repeat the workshop next year.