Recently I graduated from UCL in a spectacular ceremony celebrating all the resilient people…
Recently I graduated from UCL in a spectacular ceremony celebrating all the resilient people from Classes 2020 and 2021, who completed their studies during one of the most uncertain times of our decade. So, buckle up while I take you to my journey on how I got here.
During my 5-year bachelor studies in Architecture at Uth, Volos, I got fascinated by the complexity of large-scale projects, the impact they can have on the users’ experience of the built environment, and how they can reconfigure how we live in a dynamic way. Living abroad, experiencing different cultures and ways of perceiving the world has always been a driving force for me. Knowing that London is the perfect fusion of thousands of years of history and contemporary design, a melting-pot of cultures, urban design, arts, and food, pulled me in like the strongest force field.
In 2019, this ‘pull’ led me to UCL, where I did an MSc in Urban Design and City Planning. Only a few days after the commencement of the program, I met a group of incredible people from all over the world (India, Netherlands, Canada, Colombia), who very quickly became my good companions throughout this journey. I worked on case studies all over London, interviewed locals, learnt about the importance of public engagement, the multi-faceted nature of sustainability, the importance of designing with inclusivity and equity in mind, the complex planning world and how everything is interrelated.
No one knew at the time that this one year would offer us unforgettable memories alongside great insecurity, distress, and fear for both our individual and the world’s future. In early 2020 Covid hit, with a number of lockdowns happening all over the world, including the UK. That signified the end of that experience as we continued the masters online, had to return to our home countries, and reconfigure life as we had known it until that point.
Two years, several lockdowns, ups and downs, my first planning job with Arrow, and a virtual graduation later, I had the ability to attend an in-person Graduation Ceremony! The days, before, during, and after the event were like a small celebration. Once again, people gathered from all over the world to celebrate, reminisce, share personal stories, experiences, knowledge gained in the last two years, and hopes for the future. It was a true celebration of resilience, friendship, personal growth, and achievement. We could once again engage in interesting discussions in poerson, this time elaborating on the learnings of the pandemic: how they apply in urban design and planning; how we can reform the built environment; and how we can reconfigure the way we live along our priorities.
It was a significant moment reminding everyone that we can and should use the knowledge gained through these hardships to reform ourselves and consequently – as Planners and Urban Designers – the environment around us. It was a reminder of the importance of our role to use that knowledge to help others live a better life by providing opportunities for active transit, work, recreation, shopping, and socialising opportunities in walkable distance (i.e., 15-minute Cities). It was a reminder that everything around us is in constant change, that we need to adapt, keep these conversations alive, learn from the human experience and evolve.
Leaving the academic world for good after several emotional and happy days, and returning to the professional realm, I was glad to observe that I am part of a practice which values principles, like personal experience, equality, and diversity. A team that does its best to contribute to change by promoting developments that are high quality, affordable, sustainable, working towards net zero. A practice that has one eye on the learnings of the past and one to the needs of the future by utilising all its knowledge today.
Written by Rafaela