Architect in Profile - Suzanne Blair

Suzanne Blair studied architecture at Newcastle University, graduating in 2008 before qualifying in 2010. She spent her year-out placement at Ryder Architecture and then formally joined the practice after graduating. Suzanne worked there for 11 years, progressing through to Associate before joining GT3 Architects in 2016. Here, FC&A talks to Suzanne about her successful career in architecture.

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Suzanne Blair

Suzanne Blair Associate Director at GT3 Architects

Had you always wanted to pursue a career in architecture?

I didn’t spend my childhood dreaming of being an architect – I am not sure I knew what one was. However, I became more aware of architecture as a potential career path in sixth form as I developed an interest in design and art but also technical subjects.

What has been your greatest influence and source of inspiration?

I love to travel and find different cultures, places and people fascinating. Architecture in Scandinavia tends to be wonderfully simple and uses natural materials beautifully. Dutch architecture is often innovative and does urban planning extremely well, and the Chinese have some impressively quick construction methods. Pull out all the best bits, and we would have an impressive built environment and industry.

What has been your most notable project to date?

Working on Central Station in Newcastle was an honour as it’s a Grade I Listed station and incredibly iconic in my home city. It has gone through a continual change throughout its history, so to be part of its next chapter was fantastic.

How do you approach your projects?

People first. A building needs to be intuitive to use, easy to navigate and perform properly for the functions it contains. You have to put yourself in the position of every person using a building. That’s one of the reasons I joined GT3; its ‘people architecture’ vision fit perfectly with my own values.

What do you think is the greatest challenge for designing in sustainability?

Cost and lack of legislation. Sustainable buildings generally cost more in terms of capital costs but save money over the life of the building. A developer or house-builder won’t benefit from that lifecycle cost reduction, so why do it? That is where legislation is needed to ensure that buildings meet better minimum standards.

What is your favourite building and why?

I wrote my university dissertation on Gerrit Rietveld and the Schröder House in Utrecht. While it’s not the most impressive of buildings to look at, the whole house is built on the concept of flexibility, with moving walls and adaptable furniture. It was very much people-focused and designed around the owner, Mrs Schröder, and her lifestyle – very topical for today as everyone is trying to create workspaces at home.

What do you think is the greatest challenge for architects today?

There is definitely a lack of understanding around the design process and the role and skills of an architect. Architects are under constant pressure over fees and take on a lot of responsibility, liability and workload in coordinating and managing the wider team. Often, we aren’t valued for what we bring to a project and have to explain ourselves and why we need to carry out certain parts of our service.

What advice would you give to newly qualified architects?

Be a sponge! Although you spend a ridiculous amount of time at university, you still come out with a lot to learn – recognise that and absorb knowledge, experience and ideas from everywhere and everyone. Be willing to ask questions, listen to the answers and do not be afraid to mess up.

What can we expect to see from GT3 Architects over the next year?

Firstly, we’re looking forward to getting out of our sweatpants and back into the studio, but beyond that, we’ve spent a lot of time and effort refining our business structure and offering. A new operational structure, to ensure everything runs as smoothly and effectively as possible, alongside new skill, sector and geographical leads will come into fruition this year, and we’re all pretty excited!

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