Joe Morris heads up his practice, but knows that collaboration is the way to good architecture. He answers ADF’s questions


My journey to architecture was relatively casual, without a clearly defined goal, but one which has been shaped through experience and opportunity. Initially studying art at foundation level in Leicester, before exploring Landscape Architecture, I eventually came to being at the University of Greenwich between 1989 and 1993 achieving a first class honours degree, studying alongside many talented designers who today work at many of the leading contemporary practices.

Joe Morris, director of Morris + Company

Following a conventional journey through university at undergraduate and postgraduate level, and subsequently obtaining professional qualifications in 1999, I can’t pin point the personal moment when I felt that I understood specifically why I was doing what I was doing. I find this continuously fascinating, and to some degree, a relief. It continues to enforce my ethos that nothing is fixed, events shape experience, and one’s life is continuously evolving, all of which can be taken as positive growth. At this juncture, I’m very aware that my role within my practice and to a broader extent, is to seek methods of agency to influence positive change and action.

The hardest part for many of my peers and indeed the wider field of architecture is the moment when you realise that you need to let go

WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT IT MOST? Architecture equips those deeply immersed in its culture and processes to observe, in an evolved way, a distinct set of tools which empower one to see intangible things in a tangible way. Ideas, concepts, questions, and observations play out in a symphony of layered thoughts, diagrams, strategies. A sort of spatial and

interconnected spectrum of visual stimulus, one which comes with a special code which might be indecipherable to others, but is easily interpreted by the skilled architect. I recognise that this skill set is what can add value to a variety of conditions, not just within the field of architecture.

WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF YOUR JOB RUNNING A PRACTICE? Over the course of a fifteen-year journey of facilitating a practice, I have increasingly nurtured the roles and agency of others. Practice is hard flown solo; it is equally hard in a group dynamic. But ‘shared’ concern, neurosis, ambition and fear is a far more supportive and positively engaged environment in which to work. Thus, in many ways, the hardest part for many of my peers and indeed the wider field of architecture is the moment when you realise that you need to let go, that negotiation and collaboration are the essential components of successful and rich work. This was not hard on a personal level, but it is hard to convince others of the same. Architecture is often emotionally charged and personal, with complex and conflicting attitudes evident in much of the decision-making process. But it is important to create space for success and failure in equal parts along the journey.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR MODUS OPERANDI AS AN MD? This is a question I’m more comfortable being asked of my colleagues. My self perception and that of others is likely to diverge, and this is perhaps interesting. I consider myself to be compassionate, empathetic, nurturing, understanding, supportive and accessible. I place all of my trust in the will and power of people and ideas to trump prejudice and dogma, to realise potent opportunity, to enrich through output and experience etc. Being self-critical, it could be levelled that I am easily distracted, overly idealistic, massively optimistic, often unfocused, too stretched, repeatedly late and leaving things to the last moment. Obviously, the balance of myself and the team make for a perfect recipe of brilliant, thought-provoking work.


Wildernesse Restaurant, Sevenoaks © Jack Hobhouse

I cannot accomplish anything without others, and thus my greatest achievement is having been one of a team which has honed an environment in which the values, skills and expertise of others can


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