Architect in Profile - Jack Whitehead

Jack Whitehead is this month’s exclusive Q&A profile. Jack is the newest Studio Director at multi-disciplinary design practice, rg+p, where he leads the Birmingham team. Here, Jack discusses his career journey, memorable projects, architectural influences and what’s in store for rg+p Birmingham.


Jack Whitehead

is the Studio Director at rg+p Birmingham

Tell us about your career journey. How did you get started in the field of architecture?

I embarked on my academic journey at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) in 2015, enrolling in the BArch programme. Little did I know this initial step would mark the beginning of a nearly decade-long association with the university, culminating in my current role as a Guest Lecturer. After earning a first-class honours degree in 2018, I seized the opportunity to join rg+p for my Part 1 placement in their Leicester studio. The experience was invaluable, prompting me to return to NTU under rg+p sponsorship to pursue the MArch course. My dedication paid off as I graduated with distinction.

Post-MArch, I relocated to rg+p’s Birmingham studio while undertaking Part 3 at Cardiff University. Once again, I graduated with distinction. It became evident that rg+p was where I wanted to build my career, given its ingrained culture of individual investment and a diverse project portfolio that promised continuous skillset expansion.

Were there any pivotal moments or experiences that solidified your decision to pursue a career in architecture and design?

There wasn’t a specific ‘aha’ moment for me; my fascination with buildings and the world has been a constant thread in my life. Growing up, my father, an Engineer, would take me to construction sites, unveiling the intricacies of the built environment. Simultaneously, I harboured a deep interest in the arts and creativity. It became evident that architecture was the seamless fusion of my passion for the technical aspects of engineering and the expressive world of arts. It’s a field where the nuts and bolts meet creativity, and that synthesis has been my source of inspiration.

If you hadn’t followed your passion for being an architect, what other career path would you have pursued?

Almost certainly a career in construction. From a young age, I immersed myself in that world, learning the different disciplines, job roles and personalities! Climbing the ranks on site, I learned the ropes through hands-on experience and discovered a distinct, alternative career path within onsite construction and building.

Who/what has been your greatest influence and source of inspiration?

My work ethic and approach to life stems from my parents, who are an enduring source of inspiration. They instilled in me the principle of being the hardest worker in the room, emphasising the importance of putting in the effort for every task. Their guidance resonates with the idea that tasks should not merely be completed but approached with a full commitment and a clear purpose.

Witnessing their dedication and diligence has shaped my perspective on the value of hard work and intentionality in everything I undertake. The lessons learned from my parents serve as a constant reminder to go beyond the surface and strive for excellence in every endeavour.

What’s been the most memorable project you’ve worked on?

One project that stands out prominently in my career is the revitalisation of Stonebridge House at Grantham College in Lincolnshire. This Grade II-Listed manor house, dating back to 1858, underwent a remarkable £3m restoration to transform it into a contemporary teaching space. Its rich history, serving various purposes from a private residence to a school, police offices and even a prison, added layers of complexity.

This project is special because it marked my transition into a lead designer role at a relatively junior stage in my career. Managing the project team, I navigated the intricate balance of preserving heritage elements while seamlessly integrating modern interventions. Overseeing the project from inception to completion and witnessing the historic building return to productive, modern use was not only a significant challenge but also an immensely rewarding experience.

Could you walk us through a typical workday in your current role?

I’m not sure there is such a thing! Becoming Studio Director in October last year has significantly expanded my responsibilities. On any given day, I could be overseeing project resourcing, ensuring the team’s wellbeing and individual development, meeting with existing and potential clients, mentoring trainees or collaborating with our operations and practice management teams for workplace compliance and resource optimisation – the list is extensive.

Recognising the potential diversion from my core role as an architect, I’m keenly aware of the need to balance these responsibilities and have come to appreciate the importance of being in the right place at the right time. Investing in a robust network has proven invaluable, helping me navigate the multifaceted aspects of my role efficiently.

Moreover, staying proactive in continuous professional development (CPD) and staying abreast of industry knowledge is a priority. This not only enhances my effectiveness as an architect but also plays a crucial role in my guest lecturing engagements at NTU and Cardiff University. These interactions not only contribute to my own growth but also allow me to identify and nurture the emerging talent in the next generation of architects, a role I genuinely enjoy.

What is your favourite building and why?

I don’t have a singular favourite building; for me, it’s about discovering enjoyment and inspiration in the unique qualities of each space I encounter. Every architectural creation offers something distinct and valuable. Instead of singling out one particular building, I find inspiration in various designs, and I appreciate the diversity that each space brings.

In your opinion, who is the greatest architectural mastermind of our time?

The architectural genius of our era must draw inspiration from icons like Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Eames. They were known, and still are, for their meticulous attention to detail, and have set a standard that transcends time. Embracing their legacy means approaching every aspect of design with a level of inspiration and care that goes beyond the superficial, understanding that true brilliance lies in the thoughtful consideration of every detail.

Looking ahead, what exciting projects or initiatives can we anticipate from you in the coming year?

In 2024, the horizon looks promising for rg+p Birmingham. We’re gearing up to complete the £2m interior architecture refurbishment at New Oscott Retirement Village, a significant project within the ExtraCare Charitable Trust’s portfolio. We are also excited by the prospect of transforming some of our neighbouring towns and cities with over 350 residential, commercial or industrial units currently in the planning pipeline. Collectively, these developments represent an impressive £100m+ investment in the West Midlands.

Meanwhile, on the studio front, we’re on the cusp of moving to a more expansive office space in Birmingham’s bustling business district. This will lead to opportunities for talented architects, architectural technologists and project managers to join our dynamic team. Overall, 2024 is poised to be a year of positive growth.

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