#alcaláaroundtheworld – Cecilia del Pozo / London
0_ Who is Cecilia del Pozo?
Cecilia del Pozo studied Architecture at Universidad de Alcala. During her studies she worked with Andrés Perea architects in Madrid.
She finished her degree on 2011 with a Distinction on high honors on the final year project and an extraordinary award to the best academic record of her graduating class.
After finishing the architectural degree she wanted to go abroad to gain some experience and she started working at OMA, Rotterdam. This was meant to be for a short period but she finally stayed working there for three years. After this she also worked at OMA New York and she decided to move to London where she has recently become an Associate at Allies and Morrison architects.
1_Nowadays It seems common to consider the possibility of working in other countries.In Spain this is specially important due to the lack of jobs we have. When did you start thinking about the possibility of working abroad?Why did you consider this option?
I always wanted to experience other cities and travel around while I don´t have any other constraint, therefore after finishing my studies I decided to work abroad sometime in order to open my mind to other cultures and enlarge my architectural perspective. What I didn´t know at that time is that I wasn´t going to be able to come back any moment soon…that actually being abroad was “compulsory” if I wanted a good job, that is the dark side of the story.
2_How was you ﬁrst experience abroad? Was is difﬁcult to start working in a new and different environment with people from other countries and universities?
To be honest, the beginning was tough. There are too many new ingredients to absorb at the same time. Even having a good English level you are in disadvantage to defend your arguments against people with English as mother tongue. Also getting into higher positions where you need to lease with clients and consultants is more difficult for foreign people. You just need to forget about this barrier and show confidently your skills.
Other difficulties to overcome that can slow you down at the beginning are in general the working methods of each country. Softwares for architecture can vary and you might feel your hands are tied. For instance you might be used to work in Autocad and 3dmax while they use Microstation and Rhino or you can be use to do simple models at home while you will need to cast resin and cut with laser but all these is just part of the learning process.
2a_You’ve been working in OMA for almost three years. How is it working in one of the most recognized offices all around the world?
Working at OMA has been a satisfying and intense experience that I would definitely recommend. Before going there you hear all kind of comments of people that haven´t really worked there who says that you are going to be drawing toilets or furniture all the time with no responsibility at all just for being in such a big and recognize practice.
My experience has been completely the opposite, since the beginning they gave me a lot of responsibility to propose and brainstorm my ideas. It is almost like being on a university workshop where you are completely independent and free to propose with all short of means to make it possible.
Rem Koolhaas in Rotterdam and Shohei Shigematsu in New York where the partners in charge of the projects I was working on, they came to revise the project frequently and in the same way you pin your project at the University to present to everyone your arguments we use to do the same within the team to debate and progress the project. One of the things I appreciate the most is how they listen to everyone’s ideas with an open mind regardless the position at the office. On a way I think that is the key of their success which allows them to keep the spontaneity and creativity that the students have.
On the other hand, no need to say it is a very intense and hard work experience. Depending on the team you can work extreme hours having your ups and downs.
3_And what about the cultures and the cities you’ve lived in? Is there any anecdote you want to tell us about your experience?
During these four years I had the chance to live on amazing cities such as: Rotterdam, New York and London. It is being a great opportunity to get to know these cities better and discover their special corners.
One of the best things of working on an international office is being surrounded by people from all around the world. Once we were on a team of 10 people with 8 different nationalities, which gives you a wider vision of other cultures and a deep bond with them.
4_About Alcalá, how would you describe the training you received there? Do you think we have any skill that characterizes us?
After being around people from other countries I can confirm that the training of Alcala University is Superb. On every interview they told me how remarkable our formation was by having the overview of every scale from the city to the 1:5 construction detail. In comparison with other countries Architecture in Spain has a stronger technical background on construction, structures and services being able to integrate all this on the design and having the whole picture at every scale.
The skill that characterizes Alcala University is the deep analysis we learn to do that sets out a robust foundation on how to think and understand the architecture. The analysis and the critical view given on the Project classes are outstanding and part of a Higher education as far as I have seen during these years.
5_Refering the main topic of the editorial, future, which do you think is the future for architects? Could be working abroad a good option for graduates?
Working abroad is definitely a good option. Unluckily, due to the situation Spain is currently living, working abroad allows you to improve and develop your skills on exciting projects that you would not be able to work otherwise.
There is no written way to achieve your goals or a right path to follow for the future either than doing what you enjoy the most wherever you are.
6_And what about coming back home…?
Coming back home is a sensitive topic. I know for certain that the place where I want to live is Spain and I have the hope of being able to come back soon. I left more than four years ago and time flies, unfortunate the situation on career opportunities is not good enough to take that decision yet. In the meantime I will try to develop my career as much as possible to be prepared for my return.
PD: Any message for those who are currently studying architecture worldwide?
Architecture is a wide field and there are loads of opportunities out there for you, you just need to find the area you enjoy and make the most of it.
Author: Rotating Editor Alcala