Notes from the Road

Thoughts about the world as I travel through it

Flower

Design

I have enjoyed a diverse career including architectural practice, CAD, marketing, consulting and strategy. Nothing has given me greater pleasure than design and engagement with the world in which we live.

I bring a synthesis of strategic thinking, compassionate humanism, and a passion for design to my design work. My goal is to practice architecture with competency, humanity and flair. Architecture is delightfully multidisciplinary—both a pleasure and a challenge. It is also a constant part of our human experience, for good or for ill.

Let it be for good.

I have always loved to make things. Meccano, origami, paper aircraft, sculpture, woodwork, electronics, boats, music and creative writing. The creation of objects and experiences that enhance life is one of my greatest sources of satisfaction. I originally entered architecture school because of this passion for making things, coupled with a deep interest in the mind and in the relationships between people and the environment they inhabit.

Driving south through New Zealand’s lake district, you will encounter a small stone chapel, built on a rise between the road and the lake. It beckons the casual visitor, and inside the visitor is delighted to see that instead of traditional stained glass, a clear plate glass window frames the view of lake and mountain. We are called to be grateful, to celebrate the beauty of the world in which we live, and perhaps to sit a while in the quiet, reflecting on this moment of sudden joy. We are led to this experience by the building: without it we would have the view, but no focus and no celebration of special nature of the place.

Working for Schlumberger’s Cambridge Research lab, I had the good fortune to have an office in Michael Hopkins’ purpose-built lab and office building. I remember thinking that this might be the best office I would ever have: a wall of whiteboard for my every idea, and a glass outer wall that opened onto a field of grazing cows. Across the corridor the vault of the tent structure, that covered the lobby, restaurant and main laboratory. A soaring roofline expressing the exhilaration of new science and the intellectual ferment of the place and the optimism of a growing and successful company.

These are just two buildings that have left a strong impression on me of architecture’s potential to change our experience of the world, and to uplift our spirit. Like all of us, I have also experienced the oppression of thoughtless, ROI-driven offices and housing, that fail functionally and emotionally, missing the opportunity to connect with the community and with the building’s “end users”.

I remember working with an architect early in my career whose goal was “to build buildings people don’t mind using”. At the time I didn’t understand the sophistication of this intent—he was a careful and compassionate designer who wished not to make a personal artistic statement, but to design for the real people who would use his buildings, in ways that met their needs without ostentation or fuss. I respect and admire this perspective, while aspiring to do more. We need to feed the spirit as well as the body – and architecture, well practiced, can do both.

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