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Friday Feature: JP

Jul 26, 2010

Who are you and what do you do?
My primary role is as the Director of Practice for the Vancouver office which involves much of the day to day running of VIA as a business in terms of tackling issues related to projects, budgets, legal and staffing as well as the computer systems and most general operational issues. I also head up (with Matt in Seattle) the mixed use and major projects sector. So I’m quite busy.

What made you decide to go into your field?
After a failed attempt to join the Royal Navy (not quite British enough apparently) and the Canadian Navy (“sorry we are full”)I thought what would be better than spending all day drawing (we were still on drawing boards then). Also I felt that I needed an occupation where at the end of the day I could stand back and see something tangible as the outcome of my work.

What did your family think of your chosen field?
They were all for it providing that I stuck at it. I had a habit of getting bored quickly. I also think that they were just pleased that I was going to college.

Who is the teacher who had the most influence on you and why?
There are two actually:

Tim Baker was both my Engineering tutor and my Professional Management tutor. He was great in turning what could have been dull subjects into ones that I found the most exciting. We always knew when Tim was going to talk about concrete as he would appear pipe in mouth, hands rubbing together. He taught me the importance of not just learning how to detail but to physically build stuff to understand the implications of my designs. I went on courses to learn how to build with brick, concrete and timber as well as roof building. I’ll never forget learning the “slump test” nor building my first brick arch with no mortar, taking away the formwork and seeing it remain standing even when I stood on it. I actually wrote to him after graduation thanking him.

David Green, one of the founding members of Archigram was my first post grad tutor. He taught me that if I believed in my ideas to stand up strongly and to not back down. Ironically and by mutual agreement I left that particular college shortly after mastering this.

What was the biggest hurdle you have faced or are facing along your educational path? (academic, financial, motivational, family or peer pressure, outside distraction, etc.)
Actually sticking at it. It’s a long and expensive process. I left a couple of times to work in related fields. I’ve done everything from exhibition and theme park design to detailing fire protection systems for Historic Royal Palaces in the UK all of which have been great experience.

What inspires you?
People that make a difference

What schooling is required for success in your career?
I went to college in the UK which involves a 3 year undergraduate degree in Architecture followed by a year working and then a further 2 years of postgraduate Architectural studies, a further year working then professional exams. Generally however it takes a bit longer. It’s a different process in North America and a MA in Architecture would be a good starting point.

What kind of people are the most successful in your field? Are there any specific attributes?
I rarely generalize about success as I think that it is entirely personal how you judge your own. Specific attributes however that can be advantageous are an ability to problem solve, be a great team player and communicator, recognize and embrace change and above all to do what you say that you will do when you say that you will do it.

What is the best advice you were ever given?
To listen more than I say and to facilitate rather than dictate solutions. Most often if a task that you set is not completed correctly (or how you had expected it)it’s because you have not communicated clearly enough. This was a real eye opener for me and I’m still working on it.

Is your field growing? (ie. is there room for new entries and is there career growth?)
I wouldn’t necessarily say that it is currently growing, like many fields architecture reflects the economy. As always however it is changing. The projects are generally getting larger due to economies of scale and more complex due to technological advances and financing constraints. Sustainability is only going to become more important but on a larger picture. Strategies around cars and parking will be key. Roles are changing to match and a new breed of Architect is emerging. The list of specialist consultants is increasing The “starchitect” is hopefully on his way out. Building Information Modeling (BIM) is leading the way for a more integrated design process. This collaborative approach needs to be embraced by anyone thinking of a career in Architecture.

What advice would you give someone considering a career like yours?
First drop the ego, there really is no place for it any more. I have seen too many professional relationships come to ruins due to over inflated egos, second is to get some experience before college if you can. I did and it was worth its weight in gold. Also get lots of different experiences early on in your career when you can. This will help you find your place. Architecture is a huge discipline with lots of different options, you need to find your own place not one that is selected for you.