Sophie helps out on school's building project

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Aspiring architect Sophie Wilkinson does not have far to walk to get to work experience sessions. The year 13 student is working with architects on a new 70-bed girls’ boarding house at her school, Cheltenham College in Gloucestershire.

Aspiring architect Sophie Wilkinson does not have far to walk to get to work experience sessions. The year 13 student is working with architects on a new 70-bed girls’ boarding house at her school, Cheltenham College in Gloucestershire.

She has watched the plans take shape, liaised with architects and builders, learned about the intricacies of planning permission and writes a regular blog about the project’s progress for the school website.

Sophie’s involvement came about after she took a one-year extra-curricular history of architecture course led by Nick Nelson, head of art history at the college.

He arranged for her to talk to architects at Heath Avery, the Cheltenham-based architectural practice responsible for designing the new boarding house, and they gave her the opportunity to attend site visits.

“I have had a real insight into what really goes on and all the different people and areas of expertise it takes to keep the construction running smoothly,” said Sophie, 17. 

Sophie has wanted to be an architect since she was seven or eight, when she designed a hotel on the back of a napkin while on holiday. She is studying for A levels in geography, physics, design technology (resistant materials) and maths and has already had offers to study architecture from Newcastle and Nottingham. 

She added: “I have had the idea compounded that an architect can’t just design a beautiful house. It has to be practical, comply with all the regulations and all be within budget.”

“This has been a unique and very hands-on experience for Sophie,” Mr Nelson told SecEd. “It’s enabled her to see a building take shape right on the doorstep.”

The new boarding house – called Westal – is due to open in September this year.


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