Architect in Profile - Vicky Hallam

This month, we dive into the creative mind of Saunders Boston Architects’ Vicky Hallam, who has always had a knack for design. Combining her love for science and art, Vicky first discovered her passion for architecture during her A-Level studies.


Vicky Hallam

is an Architect at Saunders Boston Architects

Please tell us a bit about your career background.

I have been part of the Saunders Boston Architects team for over 10 years, which has given me the opportunity to work across numerous sectors, from residential to education and community buildings. I am currently working as part of the higher education and laboratories team. Two of my biggest projects at the moment are laboratories, which are so interesting to design from a technology point of view. I enjoy working on projects that I can relate to and find community projects extremely rewarding.

Have you always wanted to pursue a career in design?

I have always known I am a creative person at heart. I enjoy doing anything creative in my spare time – from knitting to drawing or DIY around the house. So, I always knew that I would have a career within the design space. I first considered architecture when studying my A-Levels as I realised I was able to combine my love for science and art. Initially, I was most drawn to the architectural process, including drawings and models.

What has been your greatest influence and source of inspiration?

I don’t think I can pinpoint it to one particular person or building. I am very interested in people in general and how they use facilities. Still, I like to look beyond architecture and consider influences within social change, or even trends, such as working from home or political differences. I also draw inspiration from other areas of design-related industries, such as fashion.

What has been your most notable project to date?

I am so lucky to have worked on multiple projects, some of which I have been able to see through, from a seed of an idea to a finished building. One that I enjoyed working on a few years ago was a new local primary school, Buxhall Farm Primary School. It was a fun project because it was on an underdeveloped site adjacent to the green belt and, because it is a space for children, we could be creative.

How do you approach your projects?

It depends on the project and the client, but I always aim to approach projects practically and rigorously. However, with design, we need to have an element of joy, playfulness and fun, no matter the project. As architects, we should never lose sight of the joy of design.

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

It may seem obvious, but budgets are usually the biggest hurdle to overcome when incorporating sustainability into design. We can, of course, design what has been asked by the client and what is needed for the project, but we always recommend that sustainability isn’t an afterthought in the development process.

What is your favourite building and why?

I love colour and patterns; they can be underrated and underused in the UK. Considering the architecture in cities like Barcelona, buildings like the Palau de la Musica are decorated with stunning ornate tiles. Islamic architecture is also inspirational; beautiful mathematical structures consisting of handmade tiles that connect to form domes and patterns are like going inside jewels and gems. These styles and spaces excite me and easily make up some of my favourite buildings.

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

Architects can be pushed and pulled in many different directions; whether by clients, suppliers or legislation, there is often a juxtaposition about who we need to be aligned with. For example, when budget fights against sustainability or when planning fights against development. It’s certainly not a new challenge, but it can be relentless.

What do you think is the greatest challenge for architecture students?

The challenges I faced as a student are still very much present today, although there is an increasing rise in student debt combined with a cost-of-living crisis, which adds another hurdle. The education process is long and takes commitment. My advice for students is to not lose the joy and the fun of architecture during their studies. Keeping your design principles and doing what you believe in is important.

What advice would you give to newly-qualified architects?

After years of working in the industry, many new and exciting ideas come from university students and newly-qualified architects. It’s essential to gain real technical experience in the workplace, but equally, putting forward your fresh ideas is ok.

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

I’ve been working on two big projects, one finishing in March. The beauty of the job is that you never quite know what will come in six months or a year. Watch this space, I suppose!

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