The backbone of our architecture is our thinking, but the pressures of everyday practice can often leave little room for reflection. Some years ago we felt the need to create a little extra space to allow us to articulate our architectural principles.
We wanted to do this in a way that was plural and inclusive, involving everyone in the practice. We had always had regular office meetings to discuss and review project work as well as general office issues, but without much discussion of principles.
An idea that emerged was to take one theme of importance ‘the word’ to discuss at each of our weekly office meetings on a Monday morning. The original intention was to record the discussions as a sort of manifesto. At first a short piece would be written on a particular theme and circulated to the wider studio at the end of the week to stimulate a discussion on the following Monday. These general architectural themes sometimes but not always connected to the current project work that was pinned up for discussion.
This process gradually took root and grew. People became used to the intellectual content of the Monday meeting, and with the emergence of our CoGs, responsibility for the word shifted.
Our business structure now has at its heart what we call ‘centres of gravity’ or ‘CoGs’ for short. These are clusters of people centred around those with expertise in a particular area. Many of us belong to more than one.
Each CoG began to present themes of relevance to their current work. The word discussed in the context of particular project work seemed to work very well as a way of exploring principles in practice. The content of these discussions began to be expanded into another aspect of our thinking which was developing at the same time. Our seminars explored certain subjects in more detail than was possible in the Monday hour, and opened the discussion beyond Page\Park .
With the implementation of a separate Design Review process, to allow detailed review of projects, we were freed to focus on ideas in our Monday meetings. The word assumed central importance.
Now we have a structure for our Monday word so that each CoG in turn presents their theme for discussion. With five CoGs this cycle lasts 5 weeks, and on the sixth week we have a ‘spare Monday’ where other issues can be explored.
So our ‘manifesto’ has evolved into a continually growing record of research and enquiry, within which our principles become embedded.