London Firms Doing Transportation Design

Greetings, all...

I'll be taking a two-week trip to London next month, and I'm hoping to meet up with some firms that are involved in transportation design for some informal, informational interviews. I'm not yet formally looking for a job in London, but as part of my M.Arch. program at the University of Cincinnati, I'll have a six-month co-op next spring and summer, and I'm hoping to do it in London. Although I'm open to a pretty wide range of project types, my primary passion is urban mass transit, and I have some experience working on such projects in New York City. If possible, I'd like to meet with some architects in London and ask some questions about practice there, and hopefully do some networking for when it comes time for me to apply for co-op positions and possibly permanent employment after grad school.

I'm not particularly interested in meeting with or working for the "A-list" starchitect firms. I'd prefer to be at a firm that does consistently solid, socially-conscious design and that provides a good work environment for its staff, rather than a sweatshop that pumps out lots of flashy, ego-driven design. (I'm way past the point in my career where I'm willing to work for free just to have a celebrity architect's name on my CV. Sorry, Zaha.)

So, given all that, I was wondering if the good folks of Archinect could point me toward some firms that might be worth getting in contact with? Thanks in advance...

Aug 15, 11 10:37 am

Hi LIG! How's tricks!

Try AEDAS - did some Cross rail planing - Dubai Rail and some big China bits - and i think meets your criteria - while i can't really say any firm engaged with bigger project is really socially conscious [contradiction in terms] they are keenly environmental [as all good capitalist practices must be - you know LEED/BREEM bits - carbon ££ chasing]

Also search for any firm who did Cross rail which was the largest rail development recently in London - Canary Wharf to Heathrow in 30 minutes - 

Also many firms worked on King's Cross / St. Pancreas to Paris work - development in area still underway - 

The visa thing will be tough - I don't know if such an exchange will work for 6 months - you might look for practices that have a US/UK firm - SOM [yah i know you did that!] - P+W [and that too!]- 


Also you might look at Gustafson Porter - although i did hear they were not doing well -

Aug 15, 11 12:17 pm
Living in Gin

Thanks... I'll have to check those places out. In addition to the Crossrail and King's Cross / St. Pancras projects, I understand there's also some fairly major work on the Thameslink line, in addition to a number of smaller projects elsewhere on the London Underground and at the various airports.

Regarding the visa issue, I think I'd be eligible for a student visa for the 6-month co-op, although I'm not 100% certain about that. Things would get a bit more complicated if I wanted to get a permanent job in London after grad school, and eventually become registered as an architect there. My grandfather was born in the UK and my father has dual US/UK citizenship, but I'm not sure if that would open up any additional possibilities for me as far as the visa situation goes.

Aug 15, 11 1:53 pm

For the visa you can do this:

For getting registered in the UK, its a huge pain in the butt...I don't know many Americans who ever managed to pull it off...also costs a lot of ££ . You'll have to get part I&II approved and still do part III in the UK :(

You should see if you can still get that UK passport, but age might be a factor in that...I don't know the regulations off hand!

Aug 15, 11 3:49 pm

While the visa site looks valid, rules really changed here from 2010 so be cautious on who you deal with - even getting a normal student visa to attend a university course is more tough - for a post grad work with a MA students can get a 12 month visa.

While if your father spent at least 3 years living in UK and you were under 18 you could have been naturalized as a UK citizen[pretty easy] so now your out of luck but if your lucky to get a full sponsored vise [5 years-the 1 year training visa does not count toward the 5] you will then need to apply for indefinite leave and again after 3 or 5 years you can apply for a passport[more or less 8-10 years].  else find a lassie and get married.  

its very difficult now to get a 5 year visa as the government put a minimum £££ salary as part of the requirement and firms must advertise for the individual specialism - that visa is £2k. that's if there are jobs [architecture is about 35% unemployed here]

agree with justavisual, getting registered is much more problematic and expensive than one can imagine - this may change in the future as riba is looking at going with a single 4 year degree in place of the 3+2.

am now a full brit with passport in hand - can escape the island to the problems on the continent.

Aug 15, 11 4:27 pm

Bunac is legit, I did it back in the day...or I wouldnt recommend it.

But all the rest is bureaucracy just like in the USA!

I would have told you (if moving to London permanently all along was the goal) to skip the MArch in the States and do your Part II in the UK to earn the Diploma. Then you would have been set on the work side (minus the visa).

Anyway, its all possible, with a lot of perseverance and luck!!

Aug 15, 11 4:45 pm
Living in Gin

Thanks for the info... I briefly considered going to the UK for RIBA Part II, but I wasn't sure I'd want to spend my entire career in the UK, and the M.Arch. seemed like it would give me the most flexibility in terms of where I decide to get registered. There was also the question of how I'd pay my tuition and living expenses over there.

Right now my main focus is the 6-month co-op. That should give me a decent idea of whether I'd want to stay over there for good and try to get registered. For all I know, I may decide the UK isn't for me, and I'll stay here in the US (most likely in NYC or LA if I want to do transit infrastructure stuff).

Aug 15, 11 11:38 pm

Nicholas Grimshaw may be a bit too "starchitecty" for you, but he's doing a lot of transportation work in Australia and I hear through the grapevine his team is top-notch.

Aug 16, 11 7:34 am

Talk to Allies and Morrison. I worked for them for a few years and they have a crossrail project as well as recently completing Kings Cross. Not starchitect, but very british style of thought and work. Almost unknown in the US, but one of the big guys in the UK. Plus the glass box office was nice to work in. 

Dont even consider getting licensed there. I thought a lot about it until I discovered all the facts. First you will need to transfer your non-EU education for a lovely £2400. Then you are officially a part II. You wont be paid anymore for that. Then you can start the RIBA testing procedures like anyone with a proper british part 2 education. Thats actually easier, faster and cheaper than the AIA. You can punch that out it a year or so as long as you get the right on-site experience. But if you plan to return to the US, or go anywhere else, its pointless unless you stay in the UK and practice with your part 3 for 7 years. After 7 years of practicing architecture as a licensed architect, the AIA will recognize it and give you AIA status for a few thousand dollars. I have one friend form Iran that is on year 5 of his RIBA sticking around 2 more years just so he can move to the US. But all my other American, Canadian or Australian friends gave up on their hopes of becoming an "architect" in the UK. The only way is to have access to money... which you wont earn on your own. 

The visa process is also a bit expensive but not impossible. I got a 3 year visa pretty easily after 3 months of processing. At the time it was about £300, but an american friend who just renewed hers paid £850, so the prices are rising there too. Investigate your student visa thing... make sure that works right. The UK gov. comes down hard on companies with illegal immigrants so the companies want to play right. If you had gotten your part 2 in the UK, it would auto include a 6 month work visa after you graduate if I understand correctly. 

to find other firms doing transport, just goto (weekly london arch mag) and type in transport or something similar

Aug 21, 11 8:00 am

visa used to be very easy.  i got a working visa quite quickly but it cost my company a thousand pounds.  now with salary minimum i don't see how it would be possible.  isn't it set something like 60k pounds/annum now?  c. 2000 the starting wage for was somewhere around 22k-25k (which is not a lot for london anyway, but such is the lot of an architect and cetera....)


i also started process of getting part II.  was mostly money game and not so hard.  i didn't finish as i moved country, but my classmate did it and has used his license in UAE and other countries, so it is not completely invalid or a dead end.  the part III is not so hard compared to the North American process if you do plan to stay there.  much more sensible really.

Aug 22, 11 5:56 am


Holler when you're in town, I'd be happy to introduce you to the city. As for recommendations for firms I'll second Aedas. I worked with their research team on a few projects and they provide a great environment. Their office, just off Amwell Street, is a great part of town to be in.

Aug 22, 11 10:53 am

hey PsyArch! good to see you around here. Or have you just been using another name?

Aug 22, 11 1:01 pm
Living in Gin

PsyArch --

Cool, thanks... I'll be in town from September 5 - 16 (with a day trip to Paris on the Eurostar booked for for the 8th).

Aug 22, 11 3:30 pm

Nam, LiG, I have been absent for many many months...

I'll be in France 3-10th, so in town from the Sunday onwards. It's a shame you are ten days ahead of the London Design Festival where the great and the new get put on show. As the time gets closer I'll list some of the seasonal hotness.

Is there any particular London dream: a view from a tower, underground club, gentlemanly promenade or pulsing heart of gritty and dark? I'll likely know where it came from, or how to get back there.




Aug 23, 11 7:45 am

priestmangoode are worth a look for transport, though I haven't any contacts there.

Worth booking for Ryan Gander's Locked Room Scenario - in an interesting part of town and just around the corner from Victoria Miro,(cracking building designed by Claudio Silvestrin) & Parasol Unit next door (they share a stairwell) both of which have private views while you're here. Just turn up and enjoy the beautiful people, and the free beer beside the canal. 

Around another corner is the office of London hero Edward Cullinan, and from there you are just a short wander from The Charles Lamb and The Duke of Cambridge

Aug 25, 11 2:27 pm

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