Portfolio Submission Guidance

Person drawing

For applicants to: 

  • BA-Architecture (K100)
  • BA Architecture and Landscape (KK13)

What is a portfolio?

During the degree course the portfolio represents the final version of your work, which is marked by tutors at the end of each year and might also be seen by external examiners. Each student’s portfolio becomes a reflective document, which describes not only the projects it contains, but also the thought process that has contributed to each project. Each student is therefore personally represented in their portfolio.

In most design-related disciplines a CV will need to include some examples of work from your portfolio and a job interview will involve presenting your portfolio. The editing and presentation skills that are required to produce a portfolio are valuable generic skills for any professional setting.

The portfolio we ask you to submit as part of your application to this University will give us an understanding of not only your representational and creative skills, but also your critical thinking. This document should therefore contain a selection of work that you thinks best demonstrates both your creative skills and the way you look at the world around you. As you will not be present to explain your work it is important that it is clear what it is, and laid out in a manner that you feel best represents your approach

I’m not especially interested in looking at accomplished artwork. What is more important is that drawings demonstrate a sense of exploring a set of ideas in an imaginative and thoughtful way

Russell Light 

Scissors and Pen drawing

What should your portfolio contain? 

People apply to the School of Architecture with a variety of skills, and having studied a number of different subjects: it is not always the case that applicants have studied art at A-level for example, nor is this necessary.

Work that demonstrates your ability to think in three dimensions and your ability to use different media is encouraged. We are not interested in seeing lots of drawings of buildings at the expense of any other work. If you choose to represent buildings in your portfolio it may be useful to note why you have chosen a particular building or a particular view of it.

You may use the requirement to submit a portfolio as a way of experimenting with techniques that you have not used for some time or are, as yet, unfamiliar with. If your strengths lie in a particular field, think of how you can use this in an innovative and appropriate way - for example you may not feel comfortable with drawing freehand (although this is a useful skill to practise) and want to produce a model that is then photographed in a particular way.

Remember that we will be looking at a large volume of portfolios and a distinctive approach, or work that shows a clear insight into the subject matter, will stand out. What is vital is that all work submitted is original, i.e. it is all your own work.

Work Suitable for inclusion as part of your portfolio may include: 
  • Drawing [ i.e. Pen/Pencil/Charcoal of Objects/ Buildings/People etc ]
  • Painting [ i.e. Watercolour/Oil/Acrylic - figurative/abstract]
  • Screen-printing
  • Typography [ i.e. font design, lettering layout ]
  • Graphic Design [ i.e. Poster, Magazine, Flyer, Book ]
  • Sculpture [ Small or large scale, wood/metal/ plastic/clay etc. ]
  • Ceramics [ i.e. pottery, sculptural ]
  • Textile Design [ i.e. 2-d pattern design, creation of the fabrics themselves ie weaving ]
  • Fashion Design [ Design of clothing, or the making of clothing ]
  • Theatrical Work [ Stage set design, Lighting, Costume [ Furniture, Building, ]
  • Product Design [ Development sketches to finalised/ built designs ]
  • Still Photography [ To highlight compositional skills and/ or observational skills
  • Film [ stills only, no video files ]
  • Jewellery [ design, or finished pieces ]
  • Collage [ digital, paper, fabric, mixed media ]
  • Animation [ stills only ]

A good portfolio would reflect the candidate’s own interests and passions so that we are able to find out the context for their drive to explore and study architecture

Dr Rosie Parnell

Drawing of person roller skating

Putting together your portfolio 

We now ask that your portfolio is submitted digitally by email. As with a hard (i.e. paper) copy of your work, there are certain guidelines that still apply. Your work should be easy to look through and it should be clear what each piece is – remember that you are not there to explain individual items to the people looking at your portfolio. Text, neat labels, or a sheet of contents, for example, can all help to explain what you have produced. Give a value to what you do and make sure that you present it in a way that does the work justice - this might mean that that you produce a ‘cover’ page, or carefully consider the layout and order of images submitted.

Details of how to submit your portfolio will be provided in a separate email, after you have made your application.

Photographing and scanning work 

As you will be submitting photos of 3-dimensional work, and photos or scans of 2-dimensional work, ensure that:

• Photographs are taken at a resolution that ensures that the file you submit is easy to see and is not distorted or blurred

• If you are photographing 2-dimensional work you photograph this with the camera at right angles to the art work so that the image is not distorted

• You photograph your work under bright natural or artificial light (don’t use flash) and check that colours and details are true to the original

• You photograph your work against a neutral background (black works best for art/ drawings) so that this doesn’t detract from the artwork

• If you are scanning a drawing, you check that the resolution is set high enough and that the image isn’t too small

File format 

The most important thing is that your work is easy to see. If you submit files that cannot be opened, no matter how good the quality of your work, it won’t be seen. We prefer you to combine all of your work into one file, allowing you to control the order that your work is seen in and to add a title page or contents page.

We accept the following file formats for combined files: Adobe Acrobat (.pdf), MS Word (.doc or .docx) and MS Powerpoint (.ppt or .pptx).

We generally advise against submitting a collection of single image files (i.e. .jpgs) as this is time consuming to look through for staff who have large volumes of portfolios to assess. If it is unavoidable, make sure to label files clearly, number them and provide a cover sheet or key. We cannot accept archived files (ZIP, RAR etc.), and you must ensure that, uncompressed, your chosen file type is no larger than 6Mb. Note, we are unable to review video or audio clips. If you wish to include animation work, please submit a selection of still images.

A good portfolio should not only demonstrate the ability to observe, think and to represent but should also give an insight into the character of its author

Susi Clark

My street drawing

And one more thing...

As a further test of your critical, representational and observational skills, we ask that you submit a piece of work that illustrates an aspect of the street/road/lane that you live on. This can be in any medium and should be accompanied by a short text of around 200 words.

We are interested in a creative, rather than strictly descriptive, approach. For example, a straightforward sketch of the house opposite yours may show how well you can sketch, but it will not necessarily demonstrate your ability to look beyond what is immediately apparent. You do not have to live in an area of particular architectural significance, in fact looking below the surface of what you consider to be an ‘ordinary street’ may create more interesting pieces of work.

Exploring the textures, patterns, scale, details, signage, local inhabitants and signs of life, patterns of use or the atmosphere or character at different times, may result in a much more individual approach. What is the character of the area? Why? Who lives there? Why are the houses all the same? Are they really all the same or do they differ slightly and how/why?

Questioning and making yourself think in more detail will help you with this task. The text accompanying your representational work should, similarly, be imaginative, insightful and expressive, and not purely descriptive. We are much more interested in your critical approach to your piece of work and not the techniques that you have used to make it. 

The best portfolios are those that show personal explorations, experiments, and reflections, through a variety of techniques and types of work

Dr Christina Cerulli 

Four students laughing while sat at a bench, outside the Students' Union

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