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January 27, 2023

Master's in Architecture: the balance between working and learning, dreaming and doing

Three architects, three different perspectives on practice. Ted Maters, Antoine Bowers and Daniëlle Haasjes are alumni of the ArtEZ Architecture master’s course. How do they look back on it? Did they get something out of the research they concluded the course with? And what advice would they give potential new students? Daniëlle Haasjes: “Try to remain yourself. Don't be too much in thrall to lecturers or other people; find your own path instead. That way you will grow not only as an architect, but also as a person.”

Striking a balance

For Daniëlle, it started early: playing with Lego bricks as a child. “I had that combination of creativity and technology in me from an early age. At a certain point, those two things started growing together more and more." That rings a bell with Ted and Antoine too. Antoine: "I wanted to do something where art and civil engineering could meet. To make my mark by using my creativity." Ted says he always wanted to be an architect. “I was always drawing in perspective, things like that. After I graduated in structural engineering, I thought: let’s go for it."

The master's course Architecture offers concurrent education: a combination of working and studying. As a student, you work with themes like space, context and narrative in a challenging way. You learn to think freely and creatively and develop a new way of looking: as a result, you develop to become independently-minded professional with the knowledge and expertise to take a lead in shaping the relationship between people and space.

Thanks to the course, I know I need to be open to other possibilities. And how I can get clients to see those possibilities too."

Ted MatersAll three of the alumni found that combination between working and studying to be tough but valuable. Ted: “It took a bit of getting used to, yes. The first year in particular was chaotic. During the desk work, you are operating in a very practical mode, at a technical level. At the same time, during the course you are thinking freely and experimenting. As the course progresses, those two strands become more and more intertwined." Antoine agrees: “It is tough. You have to perform in your job, while at the same time being open to receiving new ideas. If you are a person with a vibrant social life, it can also impact on that. You can’t approach it in a half-hearted way. But if you are focused, you’ll get there.”
Ted Maters at his finals exhibition in 2020.

Ted remembers cycling home after a day at work and running through all the things he had to do that evening in his head. “You have to strike a balance”, he says. "But the good thing is that you really learn to switch between the practical and experimental sides. You naturally acquire an investigative attitude. Thanks to the course, I know I need to be open to other possibilities. And how I can get clients to see those possibilities too.

This proves to be a recurring theme in the working life of an architect: the balance between dreaming and doing. "You have dealings with lots of different people who all want something from you", says Daniëlle. "On the one hand, you need to be pretty robust and fight for your design. But you also have to be able to see the project through another person's eyes. At the end of the day, you are making something for people to use. So it is important to be able to see different perspectives."

At the end of the day, you are making something for people to use.”

Daniëlle Haasjes

Places with stories

Ted conducted research into architecture and autism. “I encountered a lot of obstacles while studying due to my autism. I took that personal experience and applied it to a broader societal context. The question I wanted to answer was: does architecture influence how young people with autism experience the world?" The result is a ‘stimulus regulating’ environment: a school building in which the autistic pupil goes through different forms of education step by step, and in the process is also given more freedom and becomes independent one step at a time. 

'Een schoolgebouw binnestebuiten', a model of the finals research of Ted Maters (2020)

Antoine graduated with a project on Aruba. He took a historical location on the island where gold was formally smelted and through his design changed the touristic objective to one of calm and contemplation. “The island can sometimes be very focused on tourism. This project offers a counterweight to that, giving space back to nature”. He uses the term contextual sustainability: reusing old technologies and existing structures. Looking at the opportunities which already exist, instead of knocking something down and starting again. Antoine’s graduation project opened the door to similar projects on the island.


a sketch of FUENTE, the finals project of  Antoine Bowers

Daniëlle’s research centred on the craft of the book. “I wanted to combine books with architecture. My project turned into an homage to the art of printing. It incorporates everything related the craft, whether it is writing, printing and binding or reading." As such, the end product is a book, not a building. “Architecture is the form of literature. As a reader, you step into the design and the story. I really see a book as a house for a story."


Models of 'boekenkamers', the finals project of Daniëlle Haasjes (2020)

What do you want to do?

All three architects agree that they gained a lot from the research. Ted advises future students to be open to experimentation. “That's hard in the first year. You have to learn to let go of a lot of technical baggage. Try to remain curious throughout the course." Daniëlle adds that it is important to continue gaining experience through your work: “That gives your designs more strength. And keep asking yourself: what do I think?”

Antoine agrees: “Try to look inside yourself. Why do you want to do something? In particular, explore who you are as a designer. Don’t try to be like someone else. It is tempting to look up to people, but sometimes a style that you admire won’t suit you at all. Give yourself the time to develop and determine your own path.”

Follow Daniëlle, Ted en Antoine

Visit Daniëlle's website

Check out Ted's website

Follow Antoine Bowers on Instagram

Curious about the master's course Architecture? 

Architects have direct impact and influence on society, and make an important contribution to it daily. As an architect, you have a part in improving people's lives and the world around them through creative, inspirational work. You keep the world liveable – for ourselves, for nature and for future generations. That is a substantial task to be faced with, and now more than ever, we must take things in a new direction. As an architect, you play an active role in that process.

Discover the master's in Architecture at ArtEZ