I was recently invited to contribute a piece for Alan Jones + Rob Hyde new RIBA book ‘Defining Contemporary Professionalism’, For Architects in Practice and Education. This is a short piece of my journey through architecture so far.
This piece is on the positive advantages of life with Dyslexia in the world of architecture, which is a celebration of 30 years of my personal journey through the eyes of a dyslexic, entrepreneurial, creative brain.
Challenges and failures teach us a lot about how to respond to life-defining early experiences. This learning helps our development, teaching us to think laterally and create different opportunities by changing the status-quo and questioning systems which have the potential to work at odds with us.
I have personally struggled with Dyslexia throughout my academic life, however, I consider myself very fortunate to have been given a unique opportunity at age 16; offered an apprenticeship in 1989, working with two inspirational architects in South Devon, who have since become life-long mentors. This motivational and supportive experience network inspired me to further my education, become an architect and subsequently pursue my passion to help and educate future architects.
Despite my many failures at a young age through the struggles of dyslexia , I have worked in private practice for twenty years, however I still, live in fear of being exposed as an ‘imposter’ in my professional field – sometimes joking that I, gate-crashed the profession”. I do feel these experiences have provided a unique appetite and insight into the profession, as someone who is ambitious and seeks to disrupt the traditional preconceptions of the industry.
I whole-heartedly subscribe to the notion that it is fundamental to immerse oneself in the positive struggle in one’s own life in order to fashion a successful outcome. I have had time to positively reflect on these experiences through being chosen as one of 12 RIBA Role models in the UK. Which hopefully, will act as a catalyst to inspire others. As my personal ambition increased dramatically when I was encouraged by others. This experience has informed how I have taught in schools of architecture during the preceding 12 years. I have developed a broader understanding of people’s inherent potential, noticing those important defining characteristics and encouraging them, so that we do not loose them from the profession.
In a challenging world, architects from a fast range of diverse backgrounds, must gain access to the profession. We must be nimble, flexible and find innovative ways to maintain our position as creative leaders, able to change course at a minute’s notice. We need to become the leaders of future practice and create new models of architectural practice. I have just this year launched my own practice, which is defined on the core principals of ‘Practice – Teaching Research.
I see a unique opportunity through both academic and practice-based research, to investigative new ideas surrounding design, process, and narrative. As a result of my experience’s and involvement in academia and practice, I have also recently co-founded a group with my long term mentor Roger Tyrrell, CHORA http://www.chora.uk.com
CHORA is designed to occupy the void which exists between creative practice and academia, historically considered as distinct and exclusive. CHORA strives to fuse these territories, responding to our contemporary globalized context, responding to the economy’s demands.
If the currency of the future is creative ideas, CHORA seeks to encourage, facilitate and support the conjunction of Praxis and Research within a single entity, and through innovative processes, encourage rigorous and informed creative pathways that are intelligent and responsive to current and future societal demands.
As an architect and teacher working in a micro practice, I have had to learn how to innovate in practice, delivering projects to meet our clients’ challenging budgets and briefs.
By combining practice and academic research we can allow ourselves to experiment and test through conceptual design and delivery processes, whilst retaining the traditional understanding of architecture and redefining the nature of our industry
The future of creative practice in the 21 century is going to be defined and led by 18-21 years olds, born between 1997 – 2000, who are currently studying in schools of architecture. These men and women have incredibly positive skills, drive, empathy, passion and outlooks on life, (I witness this every week in studio). Which will no doubt give rise to a better world with their impact. But it is essential, we encourage people into universities, regardless of class, gender, sexuality and ethnic background. The success and future of architectural practice, will be defined by young people who have a unique set of experience’s, that will give rise to a positive impact on the built environment and beyond!