AUB alumna, Thora Arnardottir, graduated from the BA (Hons) Architecture course in 2014 and now works as an Architectural Bio Designer and Researcher.

We caught up with Thora to find out about her experiences as an international student and her career after graduating from AUB.

FROM ICELAND TO AUB

“I came to AUB in the autumn of 2011. It was my first time living in a different country on my own. I started my university experience, like many international students, with a mixture of nervousness and excitement to be living and studying in a new country. But, I felt so welcomed as the faculty at the university are among the most helpful and caring people I have met along my educational journey.

I chose to come to AUB as I felt I would get more out of studying at a smaller school, where the one-to-one experience with tutors and staff is higher than in larger universities. Therefore, they are able to guide you in a more personal way towards your interests and skills. This attentiveness allowed me to not only explore a wider array of subjects within architecture, including futurism, ecology and self-sufficiency, but also explore myself. I grew into a stronger woman, questioning the status quo of the consumerism life today, and evolved my ambition to work towards changing our environment for the better.”

FROM AUB TO NEW MEXICO

“At AUB I became drawn to self-sufficiency within architectural design, and wanted to expand on it. I went to New Mexico to work alongside the Earthship/Garbage Warrior architect, Michael Reynolds. I completed a month-long hands-on internship situated in the desert of Taos building off-the-grid homes. There I learnt that sustainable architecture is more than just human settlements.

It is about understanding and designing the primal connection between people, the Earth, plants, energy, climate, water, transportation, shelter, animals, economics and so much more. I believe each house should be able to take care of its inhabitants with solar energy, water harvesting and waste management, and inhabitants should be considerate towards nature and contribute to it rather than just take from it.”

HARNESSING SKILLS FROM AUB

“When it came to finding a position at an architectural firm after graduation I had no clue what to expect. Group work is an essential skill when it comes to working in the profession of architecture, and design in general. That’s when the collaborative nature of the different courses at AUB became really beneficial. I was lucky enough to get a job at a local practice, BrightSpace Architects, straight after graduating where I received an amazing mentored experience from my colleagues. At the practice I learned essential skills for developing projects and working with clients. What it takes to run an architectural office, budgeting, time management and how much to charge for your work. 

My designs aim at engaging in a more symbiotic relationship with nature, by understanding patterns and processes of our environment and exploring this in an adaptive systematic approach. Currently I am freelancing, finishing my masters degree in bio-responsive design at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia in Barcelona, and starting a bio centric design group aimed at exploring the possibilities within the realms of biodesign. As a designer I would like to address the question of materiality in terms of sustainability and the aim of that group is to design projects and material research that is fusing biology with technology.”

SEEKING OUT COLLABORATIVE PROJECTS

“Today I work on a variety of projects and with multidisciplinary groups of people ranging from biologists, robotics experts, architects and fashion designers. I see opportunities in not so prominent fields within architectural design and seek out collaborative projects in realms of bio-design.

I’ve realised what a nomadic world we live in, and as designers we are able to work with people on projects in multiple cities at the same time and have a social impact on these places. We can encourage discussion and change views by creating a platform or a system that enables creative thinking in our environment to exist. Architecture, for me, is no longer solely focused on buildings but what it contributes to society on a cultural, economic and social levels.”

VALUABLE ADVICE

“When you are starting out in a design based field such as architecture you have to be willing to take chances. I was given a piece of advice when I was leaving Iceland and starting on my journey in architecture. It is something that has followed me for the last six years and guides me still today.

If you’re offered an opportunity, even if you think you might not be ready to tackle it, just say YES. Sit down, panic, cry… and then just do the work and overcome that fear. It’s amazing where you can go and who you can meet. That’s my advice for anyone scared about stepping out of the comfort of the university into the professional field.”

Find out more about our BA (Hons) Architecture course.