Architecture Masters – An Archive

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In 2017 I setup the Architecture Masters podcast, which later became the podcast for the London Festival of Architecture. The podcast ran for over three years.

There were relatively few architecture podcasts around at the time. But despite the name, it was never really intended to be a podcast about architecture. I was more interested in the people behind the architecture.

The episodes are posted here as a more permanent archive. Many of the architects will have moved on from the work they were doing at the time, or their studios grown or changed – but hopefully the episodes stand as a bit of an oral history of the profession at a certain time and place.

In 2018, with support from the British Council, I travelled too Rwanda, Ethiopia and Kenya to record episodes there as part of the 2018 London Festival of Architecture with its theme of identity.

In the beginning, all the episodes were recorded in the studio or office of the architects involved. I felt this was important. Not only was it more enjoyable for me to be shown around their studios – I think people talk more freely and openly in their own space.

I was really grateful for the time people gave up to record the episodes, and the trust many showed in telling quite personal stories – often of failure and struggle. In return I laboured over the editing for hours – trying to do justice to the stories they were telling.

In 2020 when the pandemic struck, I pivoted the format to record remotely. In those early days of zoom, the audio is was little less crisp, and the editing a little looser as I rushed to get episodes out. But hopefully those episodes too tell a different story.

By late 2020 there were many more architecture podcasts around providing opportunities for architects to talk about architecture. There are still precious few where architects are the subject not just the speaker.

** July 2023 – Episodes are still being uploaded to the archive **

Nairobi Design Week – Episode 26

For this week’s episode we talk to Adrian Jankowiak and Julita Bhagat, Co-Directors of Nairobi Design Week – an organisation with a mission close to our own hearts, promoting design – in all its disciplines – to a wide public audience.

This episode was recorded in Nairobi, the first in a series of episodes we’re bringing you from East Africa to explore identity and architecture. Identity is the theme of this year’s London Festival of Architecture.

Originally from Poland, Adrian studied Industrial Design at Loughborough University before going on to work for as an industrian designer for various multinationals. He worked in many developing countries before going to Kenya.

Kenyan national Julita meanwhile is currently studying Human Centred Design at the Nairobi Design Institute.

We spoke a little before this year’s Nairobi Design Week, which took place in March. In a busy café in the Kilimani neighbourhood of Nairobi I started by asking Adrian about the founding of Nairobi Design Week.

Association of Ethiopian Architects – Addis Ababa – Episode 25

On the programme this week we speak to Meskerem Tamiru, President of the Association of Ethiopian Architects.

This episode was recorded in Addis Ababa as part of a series of episodes we’re bringing you from East Africa to explore identity and architecture. Identity is the theme of this year’s London Festival of Architecture.

Meskerem studied architecture and town planning at the Addis Ababa University School of architecture where she graduated as an architect in 1993. After graduation Meskerem initially worked as an architect on the expansion of the country’s University sector. In 2008 she established her own practice, Meskerem Tamiru Consulting Architects which now specialises in project management.

The Association of Ethiopian Architects was founded in 1991 and now has close to 2000 members.

Meskerem was elected in August 2017 at the organisation’s General Assembly to serve a three-year term. The association has a small staff based in Addis Ababa.

For this week’s episode I joined Meskerem in her office in Addis Ababa’s Bole neighbourhood.

Cave Bureau – Nairobi – Episode 24

On the programme this week we speak to the architects Kabage Karanje and Stella Mutegi, two of the three founding directors of Cave Bureau in Nairobi.

This episode was recorded in Nairobi as part of a series of episodes we’re bringing you from East Africa to explore identity and architecture. Identity is the theme of this year’s London Festival of Architecture.

Kabage Karanje (right) Stella Mutegi (centre) and Owen Wainhouse (left)

Kabage was born in Nairobi and later studied in the UK in Loughborough, in Brighton then at the University of Westminster. He subsequently spent six years working for 3D Reid in London before returning to Nairobi where he worked for a number of practices before going on co-founding Cave.

Stella studied architecture at the University of Newcastle, near Sydney in Australia before returning to Kenya where she worked for a number of practices before ending up working in the same firm at Kagabe – some years later they were both made redundant which spurred their founding of Cave.

The practice they founded, with long-time friend Balmoi Abe in 2014 and draws much of its reference from the cave – mankind’s earliest architectural environment. Much of their work too references region’s status as the cradle of humanity.

The city, they say, like the caves are dynamic and complex, both having changed over time, albeit with varying geological time times.

I joined Stella and Kabage in a shared meeting room just above their office – the office’s beautiful polished concrete walls proved too acoustically taxing for this podcast’s array of microphones.

Triad Architects – Nairobi – Episode 23

On the programme this week we speak to the architects James Gitoho and Charles Ndungu, directors at the Kenyan architecture firm Triad Architects.

This episode was recorded in Nairobi as part of a series of episodes we’re bringing you from East Africa to explore identity and architecture. Identity is the theme of this year’s London Festival of Architecture.

Triad Architects was founded by New Zealander Amyas Connell with Scotsman Graham McCullough in 1963.

Amyas Connell travelled to England in 1924 and later studied at the British School at Rome. He subsequently established one of the most influential but short-lived modernist British architecture practices of the 20th Century, Connell, Ward & Lucas.

James (left) and Charles (right) with photo of Amyas Connell on the wall.

After the war, in 1946 Connell moved to Tanganyika, now Tanzania, and later to Nairobi. Connell was invited to design the iconic Kenyan Parliament building in 1963; and won the RIBA Bronze Medallist in 1964 for the Aga Kahn Hospital.

The practice now has a wide portfolio of work across Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda.

James trained at Nairobi University and joined Triad in 1981, going on to become a Director 1988. Whilst Charles joined in 1995 after also studying at Nairobi University, going on to become a director in 2003.

The practice has worked with many foreign firms including with John McAslan + Partners on the Kericho Cathedral and Squire & Partners on the British Council’s Nairobi offices.

Following the retirement of the last non-native Director, Tim Vaulkhard 2013, the practice is now run entirely by Kenyan directors.

I joined James and Charles at the office where the practice has been based since 1965, where I started by asking about the size of Triad Architects today.

Jennifer Dixon – Episode 22

Our guest this week is the architect Jennifer Dixon, Architecture Leader for the global architecture and engineering firm AECOM in the firm’s EMIA region – Europe, Middle East, India and Africa, where she leads a multi-national team of over 500 architects.

AECOM provides design, consulting, construction, and management services to a wide range of clients around the world. The firm traces its roots back to the 1920s in Kentucky as the Ashland Oil and Refining Company. From where the company grew into one of America’s largest road construction firms – using the by-products of oil refining to produce bitumen. The company went on to become one of the pioneering integrated construction, engineering and architectural firms in the US.

In the late 1980s a change in corporate strategy led to the spinoff of the of the non-oil side of the business that would become AECOM. In 1990 the company changed its name to the AECOM Technology Corporation – with the acronym standing for Architecture, Engineering, Consulting, Operations and Maintenance. AECOM became a publicly traded company in 2007 and now has annual revenues of over $18 billion and nearly 90,000 employees around the world. More recently the firm acquired consulting engineers Faber Maunsel and quantity surveyors Davis Langdon.

Jennifer joined AECOM in 2013 to grow the organisation’s architecture business in Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa which was then relatively small – at least compared with the firm’s architecture businesses in its other regions.

Jennifer originally studied architecture at the Mackintosh School of Architecture in Glasgow and at the University of Westminster in London. She subsequently founded Dixon Hughes architects with her partner David Hughes, with the practice later merging with Austin-Smith:Lord where she worked extensively in the Middle East.

I joined Jennifer in AECOM’s London offices near Aldgate, where I started by asking about the origins of the architecture business within AECOM.

Steven Charlton – Episode 21

Our guest this week is the designer Steven Charlton. In 2008 – in the midst of the global financial crisis – Steven launched the Middle East office of Pringle Brandon, the architecture and corporate interiors firm founded in London by Chris Brandon and former RIBA President Jack Pringle.

Pringle Brandon subsequently merged with America’s third-largest architecture firm Perkins+Will in 2012 – with the London and Dubai offices becoming known initially as Pringle Brandon Perkins+Will, and later simply Perkins+Will. Steven grew the Dubai office from two people to over 100 members of staff.

In November 2017 Steven returned to London to become Managing Principal of Perkins+Will’s now 130-strong London office with the clear aim of repeating his success in Dubai and growing the architecture side of the business.

In this week’s episode we about talk the names of architecture firms and the legacy of their founders. We talk about how things change when you double the size of your office, then double again.

We talk about corporate interiors and large scale architecture. And we also hear about Perkins+Will’s latest acquisition of the Danish architecture firm Schmidt Hammer Lassen.

I joined Steven at Perkins+Will’s London office in Aldgate, where I started by asking about his move back to London.

John MsAslan – Episode 20

Our guest this week is the architect John McAslan.

John was born Glasgow and later studied architecture at Edinburgh University before following his father to the United States where he worked for architecture firms in Baltimore, Maryland and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

He returned to London in 1980 to take up a job at Richard Rogers’ practice. Four years later he and then colleague Jamie Troughton left to start their own firm, Troughton McAslan. Following Jamie’s return to Scotland, in 1996 John went on to found John McAslan and Partners – as the practice is known today

The practice has delivered a huge body of critically acclaimed work around the world. And was recently longlisted with Triad Architects for the RIBA’s International Prize for Kericho Cathedral in Kenya.

But the practice has also delivered a large body of award-winning work in London, including the Roundhouse, Friends Meeting House and the new Western Concourse at Kings Cross Station to name just a few.

John McAslan + Partners was named World Architect of the Year in 2009 by Building Design magazine and John was awarded the CBE for services to architecture in the 2012 Queens New Year’s Honours list.

I joined John in his practice’s London office just off the Euston Road, where I started, perhaps unavoidably for a podcast, by fawning over his Scottish accent.

Rashid Ali – Episode 19

Our guest this week is the architect Rashid Ali. Rashid grew up in Hargeisa in Northern Somalia and then in Manchester in Northern England. He went on to study architecture at Greenwich University and Bartlett School of Architecture, as well as City Design at the LSE. He subsequently worked for Karakusevic Carson Architects – and then at Adjaye Associates – the practice which had been recently founded by David Adjaye – where he worked on a number of high profile projects including the Stirling Prize nominated Idea Store Library in London and the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Denver.

After five years at Adjaye Associates he left to pursue a number of other projects including teaching, research, architecture and urbanism – all encompassed by his practice, RA Projects.

The practice – now know as Rashid Ali Archiects – works on a range of scales and typologies, from one-off houses to cultural centres and exhibition design – and also research work in London, Somalia and across Africa.

Rashid was shortlisted for the Young Architect of the Year Award in 2008 and again 2011. In this week’s episode we discuss the practice’s work on Fin House in London for fashion designer Roksanda Ilincic; we talk about the difficulties and benefits of balancing teaching with practice, as well as the practice’s increasing range of work back in Hergesia in Somalia and across Africa.

I first met Rashid when his practice, then known as RA Projects, took a place in the RIBA Incubator for emerging practices which I had just launched.

For today’s episode I started by asking Rashid what’s in a name – and how RA Projects became Rashid Ali Architects.

Ben Derbyshire – Episode 18

Our guest this week is the 76th President of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Ben Derbyshire was elected by the Institute’s 44,000 strong membership in August 2016 on a platform calling for change – both in the institute and across the profession. After a year serving as president-elect, he succeeded Jane Duncan as President in September 2017.

Ben’s career in practice started in 1973 when he joined Hunt Thompson Associates as a year out student. After returning to university to complete his Masters Degree, he came back to the practice permanently in 1976 and stayed ever since, rising to become managing director and now chair of the practice.

The practice, now known as HTA Design is perhaps best known for its award-winning housing, residential and regeneration work.

For this week’s episode we join Ben in the President’s office at the RIBA’s HQ on Portland Place.

Ken Shuttleworth – Episode 17

Our guest this week made a name for himself working under someone else’s name. For nearly 30 years Ken Shuttleworth worked at Foster & Partners where he led on the design and delivery of such acclaimed buildings as the HSBC Bank in Hong Kong, as well as both 30 St Mary’s Axe – better known as the Gherkin – and City Hall in London.

In 2004 he decided to make a break and leave Foster & Partners. After mulling over a flurry of other job offers he eventually decided to start his own practice. Or rather to start his employees’ own practice. The practice he founded was setup as an employee-owned business – similar to the John Lewis Partnership chain of department stores in the UK – where the shares are held in trust for the benefit of the employees.

Ken continues to make a name for himself – though again still not under his own name. Make Architects, the practice he founded, now employs over 160 people from their offices in London as well as Hong Kong and Sydney. They have produced a huge legacy of buildings ranging for the Copper Box arena for the London 2012 Olympics – to Rathbone Square a vast new development of residential, office, retail and public space in the heart of Fitzrovia.

We joined Ken in his London office where I started by asking why he decided to call the practice Make Architects, rather than perhaps more obviously Shuttleworth & Partners.

Christina Seilern – Episode 16

Our guest this week has led something of a peripatetic life. Born to an Austrian father and a German mother, Christina Seilern grew up in Switzerland before moving to the United States with the intention of studying biology at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. But she soon dropped biology and switched direction to study architecture at MIT and then at Columbia University in New York.

After working for a number of smaller practices, in 1997 she took on a junior job in the model shop at Rafael Vinoly Architects where she rose quickly through the ranks, going on to become a Director – working on major projects including Princeton University.

In 2000 she relocated to London where she was charged with opening Vinoly’s new European Office, steadily growing the office over five years from just her, to a staff of more than 50.

Christina won and oversaw a number of major jobs for the practice including the Curve Theatre in Leicester and 20 Fenchurch Street – better known as the Walkie Talkie – in London.

In 2005 Christina left Rafael Vinoly to setup her own practice as Studio Seilern Architects. For this week’s episode we join Christina in her practice’s light filled offices in West London.

Tatiana von Preussen – Episode 15

On the programme this week is the architect Tatiana von Preussen. Tatiana originally studied architecture at Cambridge University in the UK. After a year out working for the architecture firm Stanton Williams, she moved to New York to attend Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture to complete her Masters.

After graduating in 2007 she stayed on in New York, landing a job at James Corner Field Operations, the landscape architecture firm and project lead for the New York Highline – along with the architecture practice Diller Scofidio + Renfro.

In 2009, amongst the turmoil of the Global Financial Crisis that was decimating the construction industry, Tatiana returned to the UK with Catherine Pease and Jessica Reynolds to setup their own practice vPPR architects.

The practice shot to public attention for one of their first building the multi-awarding winning housing project Ott’s Yard in Tufnell Park, north London – a complex and overlooked infill site where the practice also acted as developer.

Tatiana and her two co-directors have gone on to win numerous awards, including the RIBA London Emerging Architect of the Year Award in 2015 – and were shortlisted the same year for the RIBA House of the Year.

We joined Tatiana in her practice’s studio in Bethnal Green for this week’s episode.

Annalie Richies – Episode 14

On the programme this week is the architect Annalie Riches – one half of the multi-award winning architecture firm Mikhail Riches.

The practice, founded by Annalie and her partner David Mikhail – are known for their considerable track record of beautifully considered housing developments.

Annalie originally studied architecture at Sheffield University before moving to Paris where she found work at RFR, the architecture and engineering practice founded by Peter Rice, Martin Francis and Ian Richie.

After two years Annalie returned to London to continue her studies at North London University, now The Cass School of Architecture, where she studied under Peter St John of Caruso St John Architects (who won the 2016 Stirling Prize).

In 1998 Annalie and two friends Silvia Ullmayer and Barti Garibaldo bought a plot of land and designed and largely self-built their own housing development at Whatcott’s Yard – the site of former garages in North London. The scheme went on to win an RIBA Award and the Architects’ Journal First Building Award.

In 2013, Mikhail Riches won the RIBA’s Award for London Building of the Year for Church Walk in London, where the practice had also acted as client and developer.

In this week’s episode, we talk about learning and working in a foreign language. We find out the challenges and rewards of architects working as developers. And we hear about the practice’s plans for the renovation of the Brutalist Park Hill estate in Sheffield.

Eric Parry – Episode 13

Our guest this week is the architect Eric Parry. Eric was born in Kuwait in 1952 where his father was the country’s Chief Medical Officer, helping establish its health service. When Eric was ten, the family returned to the UK and settled in Liverpool.

Eric later studied architecture at Newcastle University in the early 1970s before going on to spend a year in Iran studying nomadic settlements.

Returning again to the UK, Eric studied at Hornsey College of Art, before going on to gain his MA at the Royal College of Art, and then on to the Architectural Association.

Eric began his professional career as a lecturer at Cambridge University – where he taught for 14 years. Alongside his teaching, in 1983 he founded Eric Parry Architects. But in 1997 he made a decision to focus principally on the business – which is now a 90 person strong practice based just off Old Street in East London. The practice has developed a huge body of critically acclaimed work, especially in the cultural and conservation sectors, and mainly in London. Much of his work has a strong focus on the materials used with a strong artistic influence.

In this week’s episode we talk about Eric’s early influences in Athens and Rome – as well as his interest in nomadic settlements. We talk about his work teaching and the move from academia to practice. And we touch on some of the practice’s most notable projects including the renovation – or renewal – of St Martin in the Fields church just off Trafalgar Square in London, as well as Pembroke College in Cambridge and One Eagle Place, just of Piccadilly.

And finally we hear about the practice’s recent plans for 1 Underschaft, which is set to become one of the tallest buildings in the City of London

Patty Hopkins – Episode 12

On the programme this week is the architect Patty Hopkins.

Patty studied architecture at the Architectural Association where she met her future husband Michael Hopkins. After graduating from the AA Patty ran her own practice whilst Michael worked in partnership with Norman Foster. But in 1976 the couple decided to start their own firm together – which went on to become the firm now known as Hopkins Architects.

The practice has gone on to design hugely iconic buildings such as the 2012 Olympic Velodrome, Portcullis House providing offices for Members of Parliament, to Lords Cricket Ground and Glyndebourne Opera House, to name but a few.

In 1994 Patty and her husband Michael were jointly awarded the RIBA Royal Gold Medal for Architecture, the profession’s highest personal award

Of their early work, their own multi-award-winning home in Hampstead, which they built for themselves in 1976, with its lightweight steel structure and glass façade is an early example of the modern and high-tech style for which they would become known.

Another of the practice’s early work was Fleet Infant School, in Hampshire. The practice was commissioned by Colin Stansfield Smith, then Chief Architect at Hampshire County Council. Stansfield Smith, Sir Colin as he later became, was largely responsible for turning Hampshire into a beacon of exemplary-designed state schools.

A few weeks before our interview, and quite by chance, Fleet Infant’s School was given a Grade II listing by Historic England. The school also happens to be where your interviewer first went to school.

For this week’s episode we spoke to Patty in her home in Hampstead, where they founded the practice, and where the couple still live.

Alison Brooks – Episode 11

On the programme this week is the architect Alison Brooks.

Alison was born in Canada and studied architecture at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. As part of Canada’s co-op system, during her studies she alternated between university and practice, gaining experience with many of Canada’s top architecture firms.

After university Alison left Canada and moved to London, initially on a working holiday visa. Her big break came when she found a job with Israeli designer Ron Arad, first on the competition – and later the delivery – for the Tel Aviv Opera House. Ron had previously made a name for himself with his design and production company One-Off, and later the One-Off Showroom in Covent Garden.

Alison went on to become a partner in the practice, Ron Arad Associates, where she stayed for seven years. But in 1996 she left to start her own firm, Alison Brooks Architects, which quickly earned a reputation for delivering award-winning housing schemes.

Alison shot to prominence in 2008 for her work on Accordia, a housing scheme in Cambridge, with Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and Maccreanor Lavington. The project went on to jointly win them the RIBA Stirling Prize that year.

She was shortlisted again for Stirling in 2013, for Newhall Be, a housing development in Harlow in Essex. The practice has also won the two other big RIBA architecture prizes, the Manser Medal for Salt House and the Stephen Lawrence prize for Wrap House.

In this week’s episode we talk about drawing the straight lines for petrol station canopies and, perhaps more rewardingly, the complex non-orthogonal curves for the Tel Aviv Opera House. We talk about Alison’s early experience measuring every detail of her childhood house and detailing every measure of a project by hand.

We talk about Canadian education and British housing. And we consider the benefits of winning work through competitions.

We joined Alison in her bustling office early one evening

Sadie Morgan – Episode 10

On the programme this week is Sadie Morgan.

In 1995, Alex de Rijke, Philip Marsh and Sadie Morgan founded the architecture practice dRMM.

Sadie Morgan (c) Andy Matthews
The practice has had an extraordinary few years, having been shortlisted three times for the prestigious RIBA Stirling prize, in 2010 for Clapham Manor Primary School, 2016 for Trafalgar Place, Elephant and Castle, and most recently in 2017 for Hastings Pier. I joined Sadie a few days after their third nomination, Hastings Pier, had just been named the winner of this year’s Prize.

Sadie studied Interior Architecture at Kingston Polytechnic where she met her future colleagues, before going on to the Royal College of Art.

The practice’s first built project was at One Centaur Street in London for Solidspace, the developer led by architect Roger Zogolovitch (previously the Z in practice CZWG).

In addition to her role as Founding Director of the practice, Sadie has taken on a wide range of other roles including Professor of Professional Practice at the University of Westminster; Design Panel Chair for High Speed Two; Commissioner on the National Infrastructure Commission; one of the Mayor of London’s Design Advocates, and many other roles.

In this week’s episode we talk about climbing mountains and cycling across countries; about starting practices, sailing boats and surviving cancer.

We joined Sadie in the practice’s offices near City Hall in London.

Roger Madelin – Episode 9

Many architects start their career dreaming of their perfect commission – perhaps the chance of creating an iconic building that defines a city.

Few architects though get the opportunity to totally redefine and reshape whole swathes of a city.

Our guest this week is not an architect but a developer, having made his name at Argent through his acclaimed urban regeneration work, initially at Brindleyplace in Birmingham and then through the vast transformation of Kings Cross in London. Kings Cross has become a defining example of bold well-managed urban regeneration.

In the early 1980s Roger studied Building Management and Engineering at university before entering world of work in the midst of a deep recession.

In 1987 he joined the fledgling developer Argent. Two years later he became a director, and went on to become Chief Executive in 1997.

He was awarded a CBE for services to sustainable development in the 2007 Queen’s Honours List. In 2010 he became an Honorary Fellow of the RIBA

Last year he left Argent to join the FTSE 100 developer British Land, where he’s leading the exciting transformation of 46 acres of land in Canada Water in South East London.

For this week’s episode we join Roger at British Land’s offices in Mayfair.

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Kate Goodwin – Episode 8

On the programme this week is Kate Goodwin. Kate studied architecture at the University of Sydney and also as an exchange student at McGill University in Montreal.

After finishing University, in 2003 Kate left her native Australia and moved to London. Following a brief stint temping in various roles including at the BBC, she started work as Architecture Programme Coordinator at the Royal Academy of Arts.

Over the intervening 14 years Kate rose steadily through the ranks going on to become both the Academy’s Drue Heinz Curator of Architecture, and Head of the Architecture programme.

In this week’s episode we talk about conceiving and curating the widely acclaimed Sensing Spaces exhibition. We talk about the Royal Academy’s 250th anniversary and David Chipperfield’s plans for the new architecture centre. We also find out about the upcoming Renzo Piano exhibition.

We consider what London has gained from Sydney and what Sydney has learned from Melbourne. And we talk about the interplay between art and architecture.

Finally we discuss gender in the field of architecture. We consider how a better built environment requires a better gender balance, not just amongst those who create architecture but also amongst those who are responsible for its commissioning, financing and planning.

We speak to Kate in the imposing and slightly intimidating General Assembly Room at the Royal Academy.