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Dr. Rachel O'Grady

ARCSR PhD in Architecture 2011-15

Lecturer in Architecture, Queens University Belfast

Rachel is a Ph.D candidate within the Architecture of Rapid Change and Scarce Resources department at London Metropolitan University. Working with an Agra-based NGO, she has spent three years researching the urban condition of Tajganj’s bastis through live architectural projects and events. A background of professional architectural practice informs Rachel’s work.


She currently coordinates Stage Three of the BSc in Architecture with Steve Larkin. She is a lecturer at QUB and part of the research group Recomposing the City. She is also the co-founder of OGU Architects. Over the past five years, Rachel has worked extensively with the Indian NGO CURE using collaborative projects to examine the creative potential of reviving architectural ‘heritage’​ in the city. Her ongoing project The Buksh Museum of Hobbycraft received an ASF-International Honorary Mention Award. Rachel studied architecture at the University of Cambridge and then London Metropolitan University where she later completed a PhD as part of the Department of Architecture of Rapid Change and Scarce Resources (ARCSR): this is when her relationship with CURE began. Before the PhD she worked for London architecture practices Wright & Wright Architects and Penoyre & Prasad LLP.

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ARCSR Alumni Profile

What does your day to day role involve?

Teaching, researching and practicing architectural design.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

My job is constantly challenging, I am constantly learning, and there is a lot of variety.


Did you have to undertake any additional qualifications to get into your chosen career, if yes please describe your route.

My PhD with ARCSR qualified me for my current job.

Do you think your ARCSR experience directly assisted you in obtaining your current role and career path?

Yes, completely.


What did you enjoy most about the course?

The Held experience made the course unique and allowed a much deeper engagement than other courses that offer similar qualifications.


What are your professional ambitions?

Complete my Part 3 professional qualification win architecture so that I can fully divide my time between academia and running a practice. I intend on bringing my practice and academia ever closer together in order to become specialist in civic engagement through architecture.


In your opinion, what are the essential skills for you career?

Using drawing as a communication tool, as well as verbal and written communication. Teamwork, especially with people in other related fields, and clients. A functioning knowledge of how to communicate with people in construction, especially on the building site.


If you are undertaking research, what sort of research is it?

Research into architectural methods that provoke civic engagement.


What is your best memory of ARCSR?

There are too many! Fieldwork in India, especially doing live projects.


What advice can you offer to new ARCSR students?

Remember that you are in this research group to learn from the way that other people make architecture in different contexts, and from the creative and constructive exchange between different cultures of making. Think about what you are hoping to learn, not what you are hoping to gain (this isn't a course you take just so that you can tick a box and get an office job, it is a course you take to learn about the world you live in).


And finally, tell us a bit about what you are currently working on at the moment.

In my capacity as lecturer at Queen's University Belfast, I run an undergraduate studio called 'Civic Stage' that looks at architectural interventions in the city as though they are set design, anticipating the performances of civic life. This year the project was sited in Derry. I am talking to the City Council about exhibiting some of the student work in the hope of starting a conversation with the council around the students' research. I also lead the Stage 3 technology course. I am in the process of putting an exhibition online about a pavilion my practice designed that was built in Belfast in 2019. I am also writing a paper comparing work that I have carried out in India with work that I have carried out in Northern Ireland. I am the cofounder of an architecture practice called OGU architects, we are currently bidding for public projects in Northern Ireland, most of our work is currently residential.

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