Connor Downie - Master of Architecture

Connor Downie
After working in oil and gas, Connor wanted a change in direction and decided to leave the industry to pursue a more varied and creative career in architecture. He’s now graduating with a Master of Architecture with Distinction and has been nominated for a Silver Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), and a RGU Art and Heritage Award.

From Kemnay Academy, Connor went straight into work as an apprentice technician in the oil and gas sector. Whilst he enjoyed his apprenticeship, he realised he wanted to pursue a more creative career and after a couple of years, decided to apply to the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment believing it offered one of the most attractive Architectural Technology courses in Scotland.

Architectural Technology (AT) appealed because it matched Connor’s technical and engineering interests and offered opportunities for creativity and problem solving. He was also impressed by the facilities and staff. After two years studying AT, Connor gained a valuable understanding of the built environment and decided to develop his interest in architecture further by transferring onto the Master of Architecture course.

It's a decision Connor’s not regretted. He’s now graduating with a Master of Architecture with Distinction. He’s also been nominated for a Silver Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), an international award presented annually to outstanding architecture students or recent graduates. On top of this, Connor has been awarded a RGU Art and Heritage Award in recognition of his success at the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture & Built Environment.

Looking back on his studies, Connor says a highlight from his studies is his master’s project as part of the University’s Pomona framework for Finstown in Orkney, when he designed an Orchard and cyder hall. The aim was to enhance the quality of life on the island and to establish more sustainable opportunities for the local community, a core goal of the University’s recently launched Orkney Strategy.

Connor created a cyder factory and designed a microclimate within the apple orchard by using pattern of walls and trees to offer protection from the wind and promote growth. The orchard promoted seasonal agriculture and supported biodiversity. to reflect the Orcadian landscape.

Reflecting on his work, Connor said: “The Orkney project allowed me to develop a strong understanding of Scottish architecture and the built environment which has helped me build a portfolio to appeal to Scottish practices.  By offering innovative projects such as this, the Scott Sutherland School has given me the skills and knowledge to develop my career as a professionally qualified architect which will proved invaluable in finding employment.”

During his studies, Connor enjoyed the weekly lectures as part of the Scott Sutherland’s 5710 Architecture Society which attracted visiting professors and gave him a good insight into the latest developments in the sector.

Like other students, Connor was affected by Covid. “The pandemic was a real test of motivation and confidence. Without the studio environment we lost the casual discussions and interactions that contribute to developing different approaches, ideas and skills. On the other hand, the pandemic sparked the introduction of online lectures. Some modules were well suited to online teaching and, as a student living outside of Aberdeen, they saved me four or five hours of travelling time per week."

During his studies, Connor says he really benefitted from RGU’s Employability Hub which offered personal professional development support and access to resources which were invaluable. He also built-up useful work experience, working as a part one architectural assistant with Moray Council which tested his skills and knowledge in a working environment.

Looking back at his experience at RGU, Connor says: “I’m proud of my achievements, including being nominated for a Silver Medal from RIBA and the RGU Art & Heritage Award and have found my time at RGU extremely rewarding. I have developed interests and passions that I hope to continue exploring as an architect.

“Two weeks after completing my final submission, I started working as a part two architectural assistant with LDN Architects based in Edinburgh. Having previously worked with LDN as a part one assistant I really valued the opportunities and support they offered and was delighted to find a position with them as I graduated. With the skills, knowledge and qualifications I have gained at the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and the support of University staff, I feel confident and prepared for the next step in my career.”

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