Katharine Cary

Kat Cary 1BSc Historic Building Conservation

Katharine studied for the Foundation Degree in Historic Building Conservation at the Building Crafts College, run in conjunction with the University of Kingston, leading into the full BSc in Historic Building Conervation. She has since worked on some of the country’s most significant historic buildings. Katharine is currently project managing for construction firm Sir Robert McAlpine on the Elizabeth Tower project, otherwise known as the rather famous teller of time, Big Ben! Read more below on Katharine’s journey:

Why choose The BCC?

From castles and Palaces to barns, lighthouses and industrial buildings. I have always been fascinated by our built heritage. For me, studying a BSc Historic Building Conservation at the BCC was the only course for me. I loved the combination of academic and practical study the course offered. The HBC course ethos encouraged students to visit live construction sites, have a go at lime mortar plastering (which I was terrible at), as well as learn the academics of the history of architecture, conservation philosophy and the legal side of managing a construction project.

How was your time at the BCC – knowledge and skills of the tutors, etc., and the College generally as a place to study.  What were the particular highlights for you of your study there?

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the BCC. All the staff were extremely knowledgeable and supportive, making it an inspiring place learn. There were so many highlights studying at the BCC. One of my favourites was the trip to Venice, learning about the history of architecture in a class room is one thing –to visit a city and view real life, live conservation issues was incredible. I also loved the BBC site visits historic estates, including the roof tour at Hampton Court Palace and learning about the onsite work the Conservation Project Managers. Which in turn, inspired my career path after completing the course. I enjoyed the BCC so much – I returned four years later, to enrol on the evening introductory class in woodworking.

How was your time at Kingston and the top-up? 

I have fond memories of studying at Kingston University, so much so I returned in 2015, after being awarded the Academic Scholarship to study an MSc in Building Surveying.

How did your time at both set you up for the career that you’d imagined when you first enrolled onto the FdSc?

Starting out in any new career is a daunting prospect. The course at the BCC gave me the best first start in forging a career in the building conservation industry, both academically and professionally. As well as learning the practical and philosophical approach to managing a building conservation project, I visited some incredible construction sites, which exposed me to a whole host of possible career options and contacts within the industry.

Professionally, how has your career progressed since doing the course?

Since finishing the course I have been incredibly fortunate to work and manage construction projects in some of the most prestigious historic estates in London including, Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, St James’ Palace, Hampton Court Palace and The Palace of Westminster. I am a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and a Registered Project Manager (Building Conservation) with the Chartered Institute of Building. I also sit on the RICS Building Conservation Forum and have published articles in the RICS Built Environment Journal.

What is your current role, and how enjoyable is it for you?

In 2019, I decided to switch my career direction slightly from managing the ‘pre-construction’ phases of a conservation project, to physically managing the construction process on site. I am currently working for Sir Robert McAlpine – Special Projects managing the conservation repair packages at Elizabeth Tower, also known as Big Ben. I thoroughly enjoy my new role, managing a team of conservation stone masons, carpenters, plasters and gilders and seeing first-hand the incredible work they do. I feel privileged to be part of Elizabeth Towers next chapter, ensuring it can be enjoyed by future generations to come.