Connor Downie - Master of Architecture Stage 5

Image from Master of Architecture Stage 5 student, Connor Downie
Having initially worked in the oil industry as an apprentice technician, mature student Connor wanted a change in direction. He turned to architecture to open up more creative job opportunities, being drawn initially to an Architectural Technology course at The Scott Sutherland School of Architecture before pursuing a Masters.

26 year-old Connor Downie from Kemnay in Aberdeenshire, applied to The Scott Sutherland School because it offered one of the most attractive Architectural Technology Courses in Scotland. Having studied AT for two years, Connor had a thorough understanding of what RGU had to offer and decided to transfer to the Master’s course.

His Master’s project, ‘Pomona Orchard and Cider Mill’ is part of the University’s Pomona framework for Finstown in Orkney that aims to provide sustainable living for the island community.

Connor has created a cyder brewery with apple orchards that uses a pattern of walls and trees to offer protection from the wind and generate a microclimate to support the growth of an orchard.

The orchard is a space to gather, play and grow and provides opportunities to connect with nature, promote seasonal agriculture and support biodiversity. The orchard harvest also supports the cider mill and tasting rooms that produce ciders imbued with the taste of their Orcadian landscape. The building is positioned to connect directly with the orchard landscape and uses a variation of vernacular forms and materials, drawn from surrounding buildings, to enhance traditional, agricultural typologies and give character to the orchard's facilities.

Architectural rendering of a cyder brewery interior
Architectural rendering of a cyder brewery exterior

Speaking about his work, Connor says: “I hope to gain the skills and knowledge required for a career as a professionally qualified architect. I’m using the Orkney project as an opportunity to understand Scotland’s architecture and built environment and develop a portfolio that will appeal to Scottish practices. 

“I’m proud of my achievements so far and looking forward to undertaking the final year of the MArch course.

“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 are well suited to online teaching and as a student living outside of Aberdeen, they save me four or five hours of travelling time per week. “

Connor says he’s really benefitted from the RGU Employability eHub which has offered personal professional development support. He’s also built-up useful work experience, having worked as a part one architectural assistant with Moray Council. This has tested and developed his skills and knowledge of real projects, which is very exciting. As a stage 5 student, Connor’s now looking forward to building upon his early foundation at The Scott Sutherland School and to completing his final year of studies. 

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