Sporting a career in Architecture - David McMillan

Like a lot of students in secondary school I didn’t have much of a clue what I wanted to do with my life when I sat down to fill out CAO; I think it’s fair to say I still don’t (although I take solace from the ‘Wear Sunscreen’ speech which goes “the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t”). If I was still in college I’d worry about how to correctly cite that.

One thing I did know however is that I wanted a career that would keep me away from an office desk and the mundaneness of a repetitive job. I have always had an interest in design and in the construction industry in general. The idea of designing and working on varied projects and buildings during my life drew me to architecture and it was a future career that I felt would suit me. Choosing UCD was easy. It made sense for me, not just for the course, but for the platform UCD gave me into my other career as a League of Ireland footballer.

Juggling both was not easy. Ask any architecture student about the course and most likely their first reaction will be, “it’s tough”, quickly followed by, “but I loved it”. There is no doubt the hours are long and the course is demanding, but often this is due as much to the work ethic of fellow students as it is the expectation of your tutors.

The course is largely orientated around your design modules (which roughly account for half of your marks for the semester) which are always enjoyable. Projects are varied from schools to markets to apartments, with sites picked around Dublin and further afield. The emphasis is heavily on design, so the course is suited more to the design student, however the working world is quite different, and many of my fellow classmates have used the openness of the course to forge successful careers in fashion, photography and teaching amongst others. Architecture teaches you to think about space and how and why we engage with it (or don’t), as well as our material choices and how they interact and affect us. Two other core modules of the course include the history of architecture and architectural technology, both of which are very informative and thoroughly enjoyable.

The course also offers great opportunities to travel, something I did my best to partake in and looking back, they include a lot of the most memorable moments from college. Study and society trips included stops in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Madrid, Porto and Venice amongst others. I also had one semester studying in UQ in Brisbane on my Erasmus which was an unforgettable experience.

My own career has since forked in two directions, one as a footballer in the League of Ireland with Dundalk, and one as an architect working part-time with O’Brien Finucane Architects in Dublin. I love being able to continue both careers, and in UCD I taught myself how to juggle a busy lifestyle. I’m fortunate to have the support of fantastic bosses which has allowed me do this.

Working in architecture differs somewhat from college. While college teaches you to design and shape space, this is only one small part of a career that is always changing and where learning never ceases. The working architect has to learn to deal with clients, design teams (engineers, quantity surveyors etc.) and contractors while also learning how to build within the confines of the law and all the tricks of the trade that come with that. This is an area which probably suits me more than the design side, but there are opportunities to find your niche, be it as an architect who focuses on design or as an architect who enjoys engaging with people and being out on site.

I am now currently half way through my Professional Diploma in Architecture, more commonly referred to as the ‘Part 3’. Once I complete this, I can become a registered architect with the governing body the RIAI. This will be my last step on the architecture ladder; however I will still have a lot to learn as I continue to enjoy this varied and engaging career.