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20 VIEWS


rise to the surface and not be suffocated by any one other.


WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE IN CHANGING THE PRACTICE’S IDENTITY? Duggan Morris Architects had, over the course of more than a decade, delivered a number of highly reputable buildings and projects. While remaining truthful to the idealism that the practice did not purport to a singular signature style, I had become more aware that contemporaries and collaborators considered that our work had become instantly recognisable. While this creates obvious benefits, my concerns remain that it is also a constraining and limiting factor. Commissioners and patrons seeking one’s practice out for a repeat of something successfully achieved before is one of my larger concerns.


The rebrand therefore represented an opportunity to reinforce this approach. However, the challenge was to do so without alienating an established network of supporters, clients and so forth. The rebrand was thus carefully choreographed, slowly, openly and with warmth. The ‘+Company’ being the key; architecture is a pursuit best done with others.


WHAT SINGLE CHANGE OR INNOVATION WOULD MAKE YOUR JOB EASIER? Repeal Article 50. Remain in Europe.


DO YOU STRUGGLE TO SWITCH OFF? HOW DO YOU DO THIS? This is a question with changing significance as my career has evolved. Presently I see no division between my life, my work, my travels, my leisure. Architecture has created rich opportunities which I may have otherwise missed. I am on the eternal busman’s holiday. I am continuously motivated to apply my thought processes to contemporary concerns both through practice and in general.


HAVE YOU COME ACROSS ANY INNOVATIVE MATERIALS OR USE OF MATERIALS RECENTLY? No. The procurement of buildings, the specification and detail of materials and the methods of building are relatively primitive. At a recent summit about collaboration, architecture and developer Roger Zogolovitch of Solid Space suggested that if we were to transport a Roman centurion 2,000 years from the past to a modern


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construction site, he would, on the whole, comprehend in detail everything that was happening; bricks being laid, concrete being poured into the ground, cement, timber, buckets, scaffolding and cranes. But the same Roman would be utterly lost by the complexity of our civilisation. Therefore in Zogolovitch’s words, it is clear that architecture and buildings need to explore, take risks, innovate and experiment tenfold more than we are doing at present. To me the big issue remains that we


glorify, objectify and eroticise buildings and their materials rather than being compelled by the stories of their inception, to construction and use. This would mean we engage more fully with the intrinsic ‘value’ of everything in a more rigorous way. For example, I believe it’s no longer acceptable to fetishise the sensual quality and texture of a concrete wall without fully comprehending the origin and source of all the base ingredients, and to be able to recount their story. What has it meant to quarry the base materials? What energy has been expended to cook the cement soup? How far has it had to travel? What natural resources have been lost?


ARE UK PRACTICES GOING TO STRUGGLE TO GET THE BEST STAFF FROM OVERSEAS IN FUTURE? In short, yes. Brexit will have a long-term damaging legacy for our towns and cities. The obvious one being the imposition of borders and territories which obstruct the movement of ideas, skills, culture. Close to 60 per cent of Morris + Company’s staff are from other European or international countries, but as a nation and profession we have lost untold rich reserves over the last two years with many Europeans leaving the country as it becomes increasingly mired in internal rhetoric. But this issue sits lower in the psyche; the deed has been done. The UK public has cast its vote, and regardless of how Article 50 unravels, leaving with or without a deal, electing via a second referendum or indeed ‘remaining’, the bond with Europe is broken and this will leave a deep emotional scar, of lost trust, of conceit, of nationalism and betrayal.


WHAT WILL THE NEXT ‘BIG THING’ BE IN THE INDUSTRY?


I turned vegan almost two years ago. It was a flip-of-a-coin sort of decision, motivated not by any political conditioning, but more as a response to a strange itch or irritation buried deep, that contemporary society conditions us all to accept the hidden


Wildernesse Mews retirement living © Jack Hobhouse


horrors of human existence as normal. It was a peel-the-curtain-back, unplugging- from-the-matrix epiphany – an ‘Oh my god, are you serious?’ moment. Is that what the egg industry is hiding? Is that what happens to put milk on the table? Are rainforests really being destroyed to feed cattle to make burgers? The insanity – and absurdity – of it all is maddeningly shocking. But it needs you to want to look at it. You and I need to make a change if we accept that the natural world as we know it is worth fighting for. To this end, I’m less interested in the ‘next big thing’, but more focussed on how to turn this issue around? How do we start to tackle these hugely complex issues? And how does architecture and construction slot into this cataclysmic conundrum? One question for our profession, for instance, is whether we continue to build in brick with the 100-year life span in mind, or do we take radical steps to tackle the environmental crisis now, building in a way that absorbs carbon, which would result in a new future-gazing architecture?


TECHNOLOGY OR DRAWING? It’s not an either or. Technology, and drawing, and making, and watching, and talking, and walking, and so on.


HOW CAN YOU SEE AN ARCHITECT’S ROLE CHANGING IN THE NEAR FUTURE? The cynical response: less and less important, weakened, distanced and stripped of agency. The optimistic one: the architect at the table with scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, innovators and creatives engineering an empathetic future version for our species.


ADF MAY 2019


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