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16 VIEWS


ASK THE ARCHITECT


Jo Wright, director of architecture for the UKIMEA region at Arup, answers ADF’s questions on her inspirations and challenges


WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO BECOME AN ARCHITECT?


I enjoyed studying physics, maths and art and I relished the breadth of skills that architecture requires. With hindsight, I had very little knowledge on which to base the decision – it was mostly instinct!


HOW DID YOU JOIN ARUP? I spent the first 25 years of my career at FCB Studios. When I was looking for a new challenge I had conversations with a number of practices. I studied at Bath under Ted Happold and Michael Brawne, who had based their multi-disciplinary approach on Arup’s – that’s to say where architects, designers, planners, engineers, consultants and technical specialists collaborate under one roof to deliver “total architecture.” With this background, I had a real sense of coming home when joining Arup.


Jo Wright of Arup


WHAT IS THE SCOPE OF YOUR ROLE? My role is to lead architecture in the UKIMEA, which is one of Arup’s five global regions, with studios in 16 locations. We have a longstanding base in London and are currently looking to establish teams across the region, building on Arup’s established locations.


Arup is engaged in some extraordinary projects globally, from a cultural centre in


the foothills of the Himalayas, to a new public transport network in a major Middle Eastern city. Closer to home, we have pioneered a new model for integrated social infrastructure in west Wales, bringing together healthcare, education, business incubation and wellbeing.


HOW HAS THE PANDEMIC AFFECTED YOUR WORK AND WHERE ARE YOU NOW BASED?


I have been working at home – a few miles outside Bath – for the majority of the time since March 2020. I feel incredibly lucky to have a dedicated workspace with a fabulous view of my garden. In terms of work, we have adapted to an extent I’d never have predicted, and have continued to win and deliver some amazing projects. The pandemic has accelerated our adoption of flexible working and this will remain core to our culture. Every aspect of our work, from design review, bidding to delivery, appraisals and training, can continue remotely. As a global practice, some aspects even work better!


Our team has been amazing in supporting one another and there is a real upside in fostering much stronger connections with the rest of the global team.


, it has transformed outcomes and demonstrated new approaches to the design of sustainable healthcare facilities. This was achieved by extensive engagement with staff and parents whose babies had been treated in the past – their input was fundamental to the success of the project.


WHAT IS YOUR PROUDEST PROFESSIONAL ACHIEVEMENT? I feel very lucky to have worked on some incredible projects, which have been recognised as innovating in their design, sustainability and user experience. If I had to pick just one, I’d choose the Dyson Centre for Neonatal Care at the Royal United Hospital in Bath. Though just 600 m2


WHAT’S YOUR BIGGEST CURRENT DESIGN CHALLENGE?


The Dyson Centre for Neonatal Care, Bath © FCB Studios


There are too many to count – but the common thread that runs through every area of our work is to question if a building is always the answer. As much as we love the challenge of a blank sheet of paper, we recognise the imperative to be frugal with finite resources, to embrace the principles of the circular economy, and to reuse in preference to demolition.


WWW.ARCHITECTSDATAFILE.CO.UK ADF SEPTEMBER 2021


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