Aoife Kane has been with Carless + Adams following her Masters and is studying for her Part 3. She’s already had great impact here and we are keen to share her career path to date to understand where her passion for architecture and the care industry comes from:
Prior to architecture you had a background in the care industry. How has this influenced your thinking in architecture at Carless + Adams?
When I finished my Part I I was unable to find a suitable placement quickly so went to work as admin support at The Cedar Foundation in Belfast, which is care and support environment for adults with learning disabilities. Spending time with the care givers and residents made me appreciate how important providing the right care is, how the environment affects this care and how much benefit is gained from the building and surrounds. So much so I also became a support worker!
All the residents were a range of ages. The Cedar Foundation would support them and if their health decreased as they aged and needs increased, they would ensure that they had appropriate nursing care. It was a great place and I loved being there – it was hard work but also very rewarding.
Understanding the impact a home environment has on someone’s mental and physical health really influences my designs now. This is what led me to my Masters Thesis looking at architecture for supported living. Having had this experience really has helped me when designing to consider how it impacts the people within it. So not finding my Part I placement immediately was a blessing!
Why were you drawn to Carless + Adams as architects who have an exclusive focus on the design of integrated retirement communities, supported living and care accommodation?
My experience at The Cedar Foundation had a huge impact on me and I knew I wanted to work in the care industry using design to better environments for people. When I was writing my Thesis I came across Carless + Adams and utilised the white papers in my research. They inspired me to investigate more into architecture for the care sector and I realised they were one of very few practices that focus in this way. It took me a year before contacting Carless + Adams and speculatively sending in my CV! Glad I did though as my interview was not long after and then they offered me the role. I just then had to figure out about moving to England from the North of Ireland!
You are working at Carless + Adams whilst studying for your Part 3. How is this and have you been able to utilise your team’s experience to assist your studying?
Having Mel as my mentor is quite amazing! Having access to her and her flexibility in giving me time to discuss projects is unreal. Everyone in the team is so helpful and I have access to architectural technologist team members who have so much experience and are willing to spend the time with me.
Going on site to see designs coming to life plus being involved in onsite team meetings adds to all my knowledge, which is always growing. Understanding that not everyone can view drawings and immediately understand them and how they work has also been something I’ve learnt how to communicate.
I keep looking back at where I was 3 months ago and see how far my architectural knowledge has grown and consolidated my learnings. Being able to constantly learn is how I want my career to be, embracing new technologies and materials which keep our designs growing in effectiveness.
How has working at Carless + Adams influenced you?
Moving from Ireland to England was a huge move. The team here has been amazing in making me feel welcomed and always have time to help me. I keep pinching myself that I’m here and am so glad I made the move!
I always wanted to work somewhere that has a positive impact in peoples lives and designing at Carless + Adams really does do that.
Technology is advancing at a staggering rate – what do you feel has positively impacted architecture in recent years?
One of the first things I experienced when I joined Carless + Adams was the VR offering. Being able to show operators what the design looks like and how it could be furnished is really helpful in explaining layout and flow which is incredible to be able to communicate to clients. There is also a big emphasis on using modelling and how we see the space being used.
How do you think the care sector needs to adapt to meet the growing ageing population in the UK?
This is a big topic and something I am still learning about! Using evidence-based design and the principles and learnings made will help us to design well. Constantly learning and developing is key. Overseas later living where it is more advanced in the provision is a great inspiration – we are able to learn from their findings and apply in the UK.
What architectural designs in the care industry do you admire?
There are so many good ones – I have admiration for so many! Linden Farm which offers supported living for young adults with autism or high-level support needs. The building utilises the ancient woodland and has a strong sensory garden. The architecture promotes calm and wellbeing through feeling as if it is a domestic home environment.
Niall McLaughlin designed an Alzheimer’s respite center. Built in a protected location the area has interconnected pavilions and outside space. They worked on dimension and this is shown in the design as each footpath leads back to home.
In Norway there are many designs that focus on intergenerational care, which Carless + Adams focus on too. It shows how being part of society helps each element of it. I have a huge family and see how we all live so close to one another really does make a difference to each and every one of us, no matter what our age. Home is so important so to be able to design a place that feels as such is very special. Care is a choice move and if the decision to move to care is made at the right time it can make life more enjoyable and easier. The designs we make are genuinely made with this in mind.
Explain why Carless + Adams works for you.
Everything works so well here! We are constantly learning and developing and have meetings all the time about how we can better ourselves. It is great, so refreshing and the team genuinely cares. We’re always thinking and we’re always challenging thoughts and ideas to better projects. It’s a vocation for us all!
Thanks Aoife – understanding how your first-hand experience in working in care has influenced your architectural journey is so interesting. Thanks for sharing.