Portfolio Preparation

Student drawing a flower
"It’s a golden moment, when you begin to see things that don’t yet exist"
Marvin Malecha (1949-2020), AIA President, Architect, Educator, Dean of New School of Architecture

Your portfolio plays an important role in the application process for our BA (Hons) Architecture course. This advice page should provide some general guidance about the expectations of applicants’ portfolios at our School of Architecture.

A portfolio is a well-organised and reflective collection of your best work as a designer, an artist or generally as a creative individual. As such, it is your visual ID, the document through which you introduce yourself, your skills, your aspirations and your curiosity to us.

A good portfolio should respond to the four requisites of: Curiosity-imagination-creativity, Strategy, Organisation, and Completeness.

Curiosity-imagination-creativity

The best way to be an architect is by being constantly curious and willing to explore the world through your senses (seeing, observing, touching, smelling, hearing) and thinking. Your curiosity can then drive your imagination to identify and see things that already exist or not, as well as interpreting these from a different perspective. This is the time that you ultimately become creative, and we would like this creativity showcased in your portfolio and to continue in your work throughout your degree. It is not vital that we review completed portfolios, but we encourage portfolios that speaks volumes about how you work and your multiple interests. Hence, it is not too important to only show “complete” projects.

Strategy

A portfolio should be all about strategy. An important aspect to remember when preparing your portfolio is that it will have to be able to speak for itself, as you will not be able to present in person and discuss your portfolio with the academic member reviewing your application. Therefore you should be strategic about what you choose to include and how you present it. For example, consider the importance of the very first page and images on your portfolio, as this would make your portfolio immediately appealing.

Organisation

The way you organise the materials in your portfolio is very important, as it demonstrates your abilities at selecting, structuring and collating together a range of work. You could follow an organisation according to the type of graphic material or to a chronological order. Whatever your choice, you should include a table of contents at the start of the document to allow for an easier navigation of your portfolio. It is better not to clutter each page with too much information, and you should aim to have your best materials shown at full page: let your work breathe and have the space it deserves! Try to keep graphic consistency throughout the document: i.e. page numbers, a layout based on some simple but coherent rules for each page, a single type font for the main texts and captions (note: there is no need to include too much text, but it is important that you provide some introduction to each piece of work – i.e. when/where/why it was produced).

Completeness

You should aim to present your skills in the most complete way. To do this, you might want to choose a combination of your more complex work and projects, which can be explained in further detail, alongside some other visual and written outputs that demonstrate your wider interests. Whilst it is advisable to keep the portfolio within a reasonable number of pages, there is no limit to what you can include, and in fact we hope to see a broad range of materials possibly spanning (but not necessarily limited to) hand drawing, sketches, technical drawings, textiles, photography, painting, sculpture, computer-aided drawings, scale models, etc.

If you have any questions about building your portfolio or the next steps in your application, email answers@aru.ac.uk for information.