Voice 13 - Justin Fenton - Principles

/ Justin Fenton / Conservation

In our continuing ongoing series of office voices, Justin Fenton explored 10 guiding principles which have helped to map his architectural rite of passage, cleverly intertwining his autobiography as he did so. The list follows as he explained them.

Awareness - we don't operate in a vacuum of simply dealing with everyday issues. Every action has a broader context so whilst we have a sense of separation from the past, by imagining ourselves in the minds of the original makers and users we have a whole world out there to learn from even though we can't quite touch it.

Rigour - in the context of embracing these lessons of history, the past's main lesson is that with a rigorous foundation, we can build with confidence.

Craft - Justin's early employment in a slate quarry forged a sensibility for materiality. Whilst he hardly echoed our eponymous architectural hero breaking stone in the classic Ayn Rand novel the Fountainhead, there is a sense that early immersion in all the properties of one material substance became for him an anchoring attitude to shaping and making.

Compassion - In an unusual side ways move his next employment as a housing renovation grants officer, dealing with issues of folk who didn't have a lot of money was a great experience of a social rather than material reality in making people's lives better.

Commerciality - Relocation to Glasgow blended that material and social experience with the commerciality of city practice - enjoyably!

Perseverance - The McManus Gallery brought memories of the number of iterations we often have to go through to find the right answer. In another word the concept of determination is a quality of action that is not fundable, only by our personal desire to get it as right as possible.

Spirituality - What fuels perseverance is not necessarily that obvious, at St Andrews Cathedral in Glasgow it was clearer, we were helped by the artists we worked with, lifting our spirits to rise above the challenges of delivery of a special project.

Art - The artistic impulse is imbued in what we do as architects. An ancient utterance is that art should be understood as 'craft undertaken well'. In this instance the Scottish National Portrait Gallery restoration in making containers to house art was a privilege of our craft.

Technology - And a big part of that craft of making was found in the project of Literature Languages and Culture at Edinburgh University at 50 George Square, where how we embed the technological systems have come to the fore. Decisions on whether to cover up or reveal is resolved by accepting the need to work with both possibilities.

People - And finally understanding the chemistry of building delivery, no better brilliantly captured than in the restoration of the Glasgow School of Art work with its particular complexity of relationships, historical in the giant nature and memory of Mackintosh the original architect, the vigilance of an entire world community setting great store by its restoration, and its future users when the Art School returns to its home.

St. Andrews Cathedral