Remi Phillips-Hood studies on the Master of Architecture programme, and also gained his BA in Architecture from MSA. Here, Remi discusses his experiences at Manchester School of Architecture since joining in 2015, his plans for the future, and what it means to be a creative.
I’m from Manchester - I grew up around the corner in Hulme, so when it came time to pick universities, I was thinking “I’m comfortable in Manchester, I like Manchester, and there’s a top university for architecture down the road - why would I not go?” It seemed clear to me. Although a lot of people from my College went to Leeds, Liverpool or London - obviously London has some great universities, but the prices and cost of living made it unattainable. So, I thought “I’ve got this great place down the road, why wouldn’t I use it?”
My current professor for Year 6, I saw him on my Open Day when I was 17, and we both remember the day. Nobody else was there at the time, so we took a walk around the architecture school talking about everything; trainers, buildings, designs, and he said “I know you’re coming here”, and I said “I know I’m coming here too!” and it was set. That was Richard Brook, he’s been great to me.
It sounds like cliché, loads of people do this, but my interest in design started when I was young and playing with legos. I’ve always designed things, whether that was cars or shoes etc., I’ve always been good at art, but I’ve always been a critical thinker too. Architecture isn’t just creative, but it’s also solving the world’s problems; social issues, political issues, it’s loads of things at once.
I’ve always wanted to make a difference, but I wanted to do so in a creative way
The two tutors I’ve had the most are Richard Brook and Julie Fitzpatrick. I’ve had them both at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Everyone at the School has pushed me forward, but those two in particular took me under their wing. I felt like I was made special by them both - I remember not having the know-how to express myself, but they let me know that is was OK and to trust the process. In first year, nobody has studied architecture before, so everyone is starting from scratch. I remember thinking “I’m good at things, but this isn’t working for me yet” and I’d get frustrated. In first year, I got a low grade - but I ended the undergraduate course with one of the highest grades, if not the highest - and I only did that because I knew the faculty really believed I could do it. If I push myself, they would push me too and we’d all succeed from it. Those two were really integral to my whole time at the University.
Staff recognise the effort you’re putting in immediately, and if you put in the work, they’ll mould you into something better.
I’ve also made a list of creative ventures I’d like to pursue outside of architecture. I remember talking to Richard Brook when I was 17, and he said, “If you can design a building, you can design anything”, I’ll never forget that. I could design cars - I was speaking to someone on the course who was considering working at Volkswagen - I was looking at other architects like Tinker Hatfield who designed a lot of the Nike trainer styles we see every day, the architect Zaha Hadid designed high heels, too. I appreciate the creative details that go into those designs. The School of Architecture, and the School of Art in general promote that appreciation.
You see students from every different discipline in the building; textiles, fine art, architecture, filmmaking - all those people in the same place inspire each other.
In 3rd year, we had to design a building that represented or celebrated culture in some way. Mine was the textile industry, and the building was called The Coat. The idea was that the façade would change or expand seasonally, like a literal coat, and uses a material called ETFE. It’s like a balloon of air and can expand or contract depending on the internal pressure. When it’s warm it will take ‘the coat’ off, and put it on when it’s cold. It could change colours, change the lights outside, change colours and change branding.
In the short term, I want more qualifications and good experience. In the long term, I want to stretch myself beyond architecture - a Creative Director kind of role, where my creativity and innovation can solve problems and help people.
My favourite thing about the Architecture school is the culture of creativity. If you want to do or see anything, you can in that building. You’ll never be anywhere like the Art school. It’s a one-of-a-kind art utopia, and it needs to be cherished. In the world right now, there aren’t many safe spaces where you can let your creativity roam free.
If you’re an 18-year-old heading to Uni, with some uncertainty about where you’re going or who you might be, it can really put you in the right direction.