Talking Heads

/ Karen Pickering / Arts & Culture

Architecture is all about people - the people that we work for and work with are the most important aspect of any architectural project. They define it, shape it, build it, and ultimately occupy and use it. Some designers can lose sight of this and privilege the architectural object in and of itself as the absolute goal of a project, but it is important never to lose sight of the fundamental purpose - to provide agency, delight and utility to the people for whom it is for.

When counted, the number of people involved in the delivery of construction projects can easily roll into the hundreds, even thousands when you consider every person involved in the supply chain. From the stewardship of the forest from which your timber is sourced, through the working of the raw timber by the workshop, the distribution network of the supplier, the craftsperson making a building element offsite and the joiner fixing the element on-site, many more people than are immediately apparent influence the eventual realisation of a building project.

For our project at Theatre Royal we compiled a list of every person who we had known to have worked on the project, from the director of the client body to the apprentices on-site, a list of names that totalled over four hundred and provided a snapshot of the cast of individuals who had contributed to the making of the project. We felt that it was important to know and communicate this to illustrate that the project’s success was the sum total of an effort by many hundreds of individuals, and a far cry from the outmoded idea that architectural projects succeed owing to the ‘genius’ moment of a single individual.

In the delivery of building projects it can be momentarily forgotten that every one of those people is an individual full of creativity and ideas, from the client down through the design team, the contractor subcontractor and building users. In the context in which we work – our studio – we try to bear this in mind always, so that even in a moment where you are lost in the minutiae of building projects – the writing of a door schedule, for example – there is always an outlet for creativity.

As a response, this year we are asking every person in our office to inspire us each Monday morning with a presentation. We will share the thoughts provoked by these short presentations on our website and in our yearly newspaper that we distribute to our clients, contacts and in cafes, bars and galleries for people to stumble upon. In the past the format of these yearly newspapers has been project-focussed, considering architectural ideas prompted by the context of our projects and the projects of others. So an experiment this year we are turning this on its head, literally – talking heads.