UCLan BSc (Hons) Architecture graduate, Tom Benson, has secured a research role at a top ranking global institution, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States of America.
Prior to starting University, Tom struggled to succeed in high school so commenced a career with the British Army. This meant he missed the opportunity to gain A-Levels and gain practical experience. He says that this time was “very rewarding” and saw it as an “incredible opportunity to learn new skills”. However, he found the time away from home difficult and instead embarked upon an apprenticeship as a fabrication engineer, manufacturing parts for military aircraft.
Sadly, in 2009 Tom’s Mother passed away after a nine-year battle with breast cancer. Being witness to her fight was the catalyst for Tom to work harder and turn his life around. Ultimately, he ended up graduating as one of the top students on the on the course at UCLan. Tom said: “I never had aims to become an architect before joining the profession, nor did I have any real interest in art or buildings. Throughout my early life, I was never motivated by education or had high ambitions for a career. However, going to University has brought me opportunities but only through hard work hard and only if you want them. People who only coast through will not see the benefits.”
After graduating from University in 2013 with first class honours, Tom began an internship for international design firm, Buro Ole Sheeren in Beijing, China, where he worked on several international design competitions, including a multi-use development in the Olympic Park in Stratford, London.
Following his time at Buro Ole Sheeren, Tom worked for Foster + Partners under Narinder Sagoo as part of the Design Communications team. In this role, he was involved in a wide variety of projects across a broad range of sectors, from master planning to interior design. A highlight of his experience at Foster + Partners included extensive time spent working on their Droneport project in Rwanda, East Africa, that sought to save millions of lives through the use of drones as infrastructure, integral to the transportation of blood.
After this, Tom spent two years at the University of Westminster, London where he studied for his Masters in Architecture. Throughout the course, he was part of Design Studio 18, which the focused on the exploration of relationships and intersections between architecture, energy, matter and space, framed by the Monsoon and its effects on South Asia. Whilst studying, he also tutored and mentored first-year undergraduate architecture students. Tom graduated from Westminster in 2017 with distinction for both his practical design and written theses.
Over the past year, Tom had various contracting roles, the first working with BDP in Manchester in the transport team with Peter Jenkins. He was tasked with aiding in the delivery of the infrastructural bridge project, The Orsdall Chord. He then spent time working with Simon Kay-Jones, the course leader of Architecture at UCLan, to help the University gain a five-year unconditional validation from RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects), the UK architect accrediting body. Tom has cited that this as being “great for UCLan and young, local budding architects.”
More recently, Tom has been employed as a Design Research Assistant, working with his previous design tutor, Professor Lindsay Bremner from the University of Westminster, aiding in her research project, Monsoon Assemblages, which undertakes ground-breaking research into changing monsoon climates and rapid urban growth in South Asia.
In September 2018, Tom moved to Boston, United States, to work with MIT as a Research Fellow within the SENSEable City Lab, directed by Professor Carlo Ratti. The lab explores, develops and deploys dynamic tools to learn about cities, characterised by an omni-disciplinary design methodology operated by designers, planners, engineers, physicists, biologists and social scientists. Their aim is to create a real-time city, looking at layers of networks and digital information and finding new approaches to study the built environment. Speaking about his new role, Tom said: “I will look to gain a stronger synergy between computer science and design. As our cities are growing extremely quickly, it’s important for us to design smarter with the use of data and emerging technologies.”
Reflecting on his time at UCLan, Tom said: ‘We had a great culture in the studio and still to this day I am close with many of the people I graduated with. This culture allowed me to develop skills that I still find useful. The pressure I faced at University was all new to me and to be able to come out successful on the course set me up to want more.”
17 October 2018