Architect in Profile - Chris White

Chris White has been with CPMG Architects for the past 18 years and became an Owner and Board Director in 2016. As the lead for CPMG’s London studio, he is delivering the strategic vision for growth, with a key focus on residential, commercial and aviation projects.

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Chris White

is AN OWNER AND A BOARD director at CPMG Architects

Please tell us a bit about your career background.

A born-and-bred Nottingham lad, I grew up in the inner-city area of New Basford and attended the Forest Comprehensive school in the mid-to-late ‘80s. I developed a keen passion for sports but also enjoyed the academic side of things, particularly English and art. Since then, I have always lived in Nottingham other than during my studies at De Montfort University and a year spent living, working and playing cricket in Adelaide, Australia. I’m also the proud dad to my 13-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter.

Have you always wanted to pursue a career in architecture?

In truth, no. I originally wanted to train as a sports journalist and was always intending to go to college and study A-levels. However, as I was a really enthusiastic art student, my school organised work experience at a local architecture firm, which led to my decision to pursue architecture as a career.

I didn’t do very well with my GSCEs and walked out with four. That was one less than was necessary for me to do three A-levels, which was the minimum needed to apply for architecture courses in those days. My teachers supported me on my next steps, helping me to complete a fifth GCSE at the same time as starting my three A-levels, for which I remain grateful. After this, I was off to university at De Montfort once I secured the results that I needed.

What has been your greatest influence and source of inspiration?

I came close to missing out on university education, but the support I got from my family gave me the inspiration to prove that they were right to believe in me, and that drove me on to fulfil my potential. This is something that continues to drive the work I do today.

Architectural influence and inspiration come from a variety of sources, but I’ve always liked compositional architecture. I like Mies van der Rohe, Tadao Ando and Carlo Scarpa – a pretty diverse collection, but all interesting in the composition of their buildings.

What has been your most notable project to date?

The most enjoyable project I’ve worked on is the Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT) for Birmingham Airport. There is something both niche and, dare I say, iconic about air traffic control tower design. Many may not agree, but I think they are strong signifiers of the airport and, as the most vertical element of any airport, effectively becomes a key aspect of its identity. This project also opened up my eyes to the possibility for a more fluid contractual arrangement between the consultant team, contractor and client. With a dual role on both the client and contractor side, the project was successfully delivered collaboratively – as in truly collaboratively rather than a word used to create the illusion of working together.

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

Managing the client’s expectations from a budgetary perspective. The current drive towards net-zero-carbon buildings is a fantastic initiative and one that should be applauded, supported and driven by all industry professionals.

This drive also needs to realise that it often requires an uplift in capital expenditure. We have seen on several occasions that the brief asks for a building to be net-zero carbon, yet the budget isn’t robust enough to deliver that requirement. Understanding the cost implications and ring-fencing the necessary budget to deliver the project objectives is important with the longer term cost and environmental benefits clearly defined – and will be critical to the success of any project.

What can we expect to see from CPMG over the coming months?

We have recently moved into our own purpose-designed studio – a refurbished bank building – and at the same time transitioned our IT services to provide greater resilience and efficiencies in how we operate. We have invested in the business and our people during the pandemic, and we look forward to securing more projects on our specialist sectors, primarily as we are good people to work with and have a skillset to back that up.

Our expansion into London and Birmingham will continue to drive the business forward and create sustainable growth in buoyant markets; aligned with our national success from our Nottingham HQ, our ability to nurture young talent paints a positive and bright future for the business.

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