We are seeking creative, intelligent, motivated individuals, with outstanding artistic ability, a strong three-dimensional sense, good writing skills, and a solid grounding in mathematics or physics.
Why St John's?
St John's is a diverse and supportive community of highly talented individuals, who live and study in a beautiful 11-acre environment in the heart of Cambridge.The College wants its architecture students to thrive - socially, academically, and beyond - and so it provides some of the greatest resources of any College in terms of amenities, teaching, and financial aid:
- dedicated College financial aid funds for architecture students
- generous annual grants for books and architecture materials
- financial support for travel related to your architectural studies
- needs-based living grants of over £3,000 per year
- a professional architectural drawing board loaned to each student for the duration of the course
- an on-site Art Room, always open
- a large, well-stocked, and expanding College Library, always open
- prizes for academic and artistic merit
- exchange programmes with international universities
- financial support towards the University's language centre courses
- opportunities to design and build in the College: recent examples include an architecture student-designed recording studio, and design work for the world-famous annual May Ball.
The Architecture Course
The undergraduate architecture programme assumes no previous academic background in the subject. Design Studios lie at the heart of the course; here you will work on specific design projects, where you will develop your architectural skills through drawing, research, rendering, and model-making, using a range of techniques and technologies. Studio work is complemented by a rigorous range of courses in History and Theory, Construction, Structures, and Environmental Studies.
Each year’s work is assessed through a combination of written exams, submitted essays, and your portfolio of coursework from the Design Studio. In the third year students research and write a dissertation on an architectural topic of their choosing.
The Cambridge degree satisfies Part 1 of the UK Architect Registration Board’s qualification for those wishing to go on to a career as a practising Architect. The course trains you in a wide range of skills and develops your critical thinking, and so students are well positioned for a wide range of careers outside of professional architectural practice.
UCAS Code: K100
Art, Mathematics or Physics, and an academic arts subject are highly desirable A-level and IB Higher Level choices. Please note that Art provides a much better preparation for our course than subjects such as Design and Technology.
Typical offer levels are: A*AA at A-Level; or 40-42 in the IB, with 7,7,6 at Higher Level. We make offers that are reasonable for the particular candidate given their individual circumstances.
Those who are invited for interview will have two interviews. The aim of the interviews, which last about 25 minutes each, is to find out about your motivation and aptitude for the course you have chosen and to discuss your portfolio in person. We are not testing your factual knowledge on the subject. We try to conduct our interviews in a friendly and informal manner, and you should not feel daunted by the prospect of them.
Due to the importance of the interviewers seeing the portfolio and sketchbooks and discussing them with candidates in person, remote interviews via video links cannot be conducted for Architecture. Candidates will be expected to attend interview in Cambridge.
Artistic Portfolio and Sketchbooks
All applicants invited to interview are required to bring a portfolio of their own recent artistic work, along with sketchbooks. We want to see a range of subject matter that illustrates your personal interests, experience, imagination and ability in the visual and material arts. Please note this isn't expected to be work of an architectural nature (e.g. plans, sections etc). We are keen to see informal and preparatory work, as well as more formal work. Original drawings and paintings often form the basis of portfolios and sketchbooks, but work can be in any media; large physical models and sculptures can be shown in a series of photographs.
All applicants invited for interview are required to take both a written and a drawing University assessment at the College when they come for interview. The written assessment will be a 30-minute essay response to a specified question; the drawing assessment will be a 30-minute sketching assignment. Neither assessment requires any preparation in a specific topic. We will provide paper, pens, and drawing materials. More information can be found on the University’s At-Interview Assessment page.
Dr Mark E Breeze is always happy to hear from potential applicants. He can be contacted via email: meb35[at]cam.ac.uk.
(Graduated 2017; currently working for David Chipperfield Architects, London)
Studying architecture at Cambridge was an exciting and enriching experience in many ways. St John’s College helped me make the most of my time during my degree, both academically and socially. The range of opportunities that the College offers as well as the extent of student support is very impressive. With the help of these efforts, I was lucky enough to gain access to useful resources, travel to a range of cities and develop my portfolio without having to worry about the course related expenses. The wide range of extracurricular activities helped strengthen the College community and it allowed me build a large network of inspiring friends from the most diverse range of backgrounds. I believe the College enabled an excellent preparation for working life and personal development equally, for which I am grateful.
(Graduated 2016; 2016-17 worked for Parti Architecture, Shanghai and London; 2018-20 Bass Scholar to Yale University School of Architecture)
Studying architecture in the supportive environment at St. John’s was a privilege. In addition to providing extra funding for course materials (drawing boards, books and model-making materials), the College helped me pursue my interests beyond the course by offering generous travel bursaries and sponsoring my undergraduate research project one summer. The College community was both diverse and inclusive: I lived with people studying other subjects throughout my time at St. John’s and was constantly exposed to new ways of thinking. By studying at St. John’s, I not only received an excellent architectural education but I also broadened my cultural perceptions and was able to make the most of my time at Cambridge.
As someone who is equally interested in the sciences, humanities and arts, I enjoy being able to develop my knowledge and skills in a variety of different subject areas, which is something the Architecture Tripos at Cambridge does perfectly! Between studio projects, field trips, supervisions and lectures, there is never an opportunity for boredom and the small cohort of about 45 students means that the whole year becomes very well acquainted and will probably become some of your closest friends!
I am currently going into my second year studying Architecture at St John’s and I could not have chosen a better college for this subject. It is, in my albeit biased opinion, one of the most beautiful colleges in Cambridge and an inspiring place to live and work – from the grandiose atmosphere of New Court to the stunning example of 1960s architecture as seen in the Cripps Building. Students of John’s also have access to various Learning and Research funds, which are incredibly generous and useful when it comes to purchasing materials for studio work. Drawing boards are also provided on loan by the college during the academic year, which not only helps financially but also reduces the need to move it in and out of your room at the end of each year, which as an international student, is very much appreciated. The teaching and support system in College and the Department is excellent and the regular supervisions and tutorials are the perfect way to consolidate everything that is taught in lectures. Termly meetings with your Director of Studies and Tutor also give you the opportunity to talk about any problems you might have, either personal or academic. St John’s College library is also accessible 24/7 (which has proven very useful before coursework deadlines!), and has a great selection of books on Architectural theory and history as well as an A3 printer.
Overall, I have had an incredible experience so far and would very much encourage anyone who is thinking of applying to choose St John’s.
(Graduated 2014; 2014-16 worked for Herzog & de Meuron, Basel; 2016-19 Masters in Architecture, Harvard University Graduate School of Design)
I chose to study Architecture because I was fascinated by the fusion of artistic and analytic aspects which allowed me to study a broad range of stimulating subtopics. Shaping and reflecting on not only the way we live but also on our cultures and identities, architecture can really have a profound impact on us which has been significant to me while growing up in various countries around the world. The architectural discourse is a universal one and that is a feature which I still think forms part of the great allure of the subject.
The course at Cambridge, while probably taking a more academic approach than some other schools of architecture, definitely encourages great creativity in its students and it is this balance I liked when applying here. Each college generally takes between one and three students for architecture and it is this small numbers which creates a strong sense of 'community' within the course and allows for more individual attention.
The benefits of applying to St. John's include the College's amazing support system for architecture students (with supervisions, tutorials etc.), coupled with excellent facilities (such as the provision of drawing boards every year, a fund for material costs, etc.). Apart from providing a first class education, the College also attracts a wonderfully diverse range of students from all over the world, which makes settling into university life or even a foreign country much easier. St. John's has numerous societies, sports facilities and events to brighten up your days. The beautiful grounds (formed from a variety of inspiring architectural styles!) are an added bonus and are located right in the heart of the city which makes it easy to get to other places.
(Graduated 2016; 2016-17 Masters in Real Estate, University of Cambridge; 2017 Founded Hinterland, London)
Studying architecture at St. John’s was a very rewarding experience. The college went out of its way to help me get the most out of my degree - it offered huge amounts of support; personal, academic and financial, which allowed me to travel extensively and broaden my interests even further. There were opportunities to meet lots of different people from diverse backgrounds, both in terms of the extensive and impressive alumni network and more generally - I found it truly exciting to live and learn in such a large, buzzing community.