Have you always wanted to pursue a career in architecture?
In primary school, a friend told me he wanted to be an architect and put forward such a strong case for the profession. As an eight year old, I was sold!
What has been your greatest influence and source of inspiration?
Architecture and the built environment have been my inspiration. They combine evolution and creativity, continuously providing new ways for human life to respond to the current needs of the time. There is great interest in learning how and what our predecessors achieved with some remarkable feats without modern technology. From the structure of the Pantheon in Rome, which is over 1000 years old, formed with early concrete technology and is still intact today, to Brunelleschi and the Duomo in Firenze with the incredible achievement of height and volume based upon stone building technology. Then there’s the contemporary Renzo Piano with natural forms and Mario Botta with vigorous new imaginings of form, space and landscape, which all offer modern equivalents. Sources of inspiration abound!
What has been your most notable project to date?
I’ll never forget the Towers Hotel in Johannesburg, which now lies as a mothballed hulk, whereas all subsequent projects have been more modest in scale and ambition. From my recent works, the project we undertook for Inspire at Aberdeen Beach Boulevard was particularly interesting since they were an early client seeking to reflect sustainability and whole lifecycle costs in the project. Also, because the building was to be a training and resource centre for the charity, the building colours, patterns, lighting etc., had to be given particular special consideration to be beneficial to children on the autistic spectrum. We are delivering what will be an excellent children’s hospice here in Aberdeen for a local charity, Charlie House, with a great aspiration to provide an inspirational and comfortable environment for the children and staff who will use the facility. So, watch this space.
How do you approach your projects?
All commercial projects have a unique set of requirements and constraints. Before developing a solution or answer to the brief, you need to understand what those are. Knowing what’s wanted and what the parameters are is a good beginning.
What do you think is the greatest challenge for designing in sustainability?
Sustainability is an admirable ambition, and many projects seek to demonstrate their buildings are net zero. Still, we currently lack consensus on what sustainability is and how we measure it. We must be all working toward the same aims and with the same methodologies and true consistency to have confidence in what we are achieving. UK Net Zero Carbon Building Standard has taken some time, and its first draft will be released later this year, but it is a step in the right direction. What we need now is for the industry to work together to achieve consistency in truly measurable sustainable construction.
What is your favourite building and why?
We have many buildings that are truly remarkable achievements. However, one I had previously found difficult to comprehend – but when I visited, I was utterly amazed by – was the Sagrada Familia by Antoni Gaudi in Barcelona. Its structure and effortless fluidity, which its masonry construction has achieved, are incredible. The genius in many of Gaudi’s buildings demonstrates clever structural solutions that have been previously untried.
What do you think is the greatest challenge for architects today?
The global environment, the local environment and the user environment.
What do you think is the greatest challenge for architecture students?
I would say it is keeping pace with technological advancements and a growing list of performance requirements and being able to interpret both successfully to achieve excellent solutions.
What advice would you give to newly-qualified architects?
Never stop learning and remember that there is no one fixed solution for anything. Constantly challenge what is being prescribed.
What can we expect to see from you over the next year?
• Successful delivery of a community project
• Successful commencement of the Charlie House Aberdeen children’s hospice
• Successful outcomes through helping clients who struggle to overcome statutory barriers.