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Five things in five minutes: what inspires me?

April 2, 2018 \ Studio
by multiple authors

Sarah Jane was next in our series of 40 Voices, where she presented ‘5 things in 5 minutes’, a quickfire visual run through of things that encapsulate her approach to architecture and design.

Five things in five minutes: what inspires me?

Drawing and Graphics

For many architects, drawing is the way in – the first thing that they can remember doing as a child that relates to what they do now. Drawing is a field rich in variety, content and meaning, even just within the niche of architectural drawing, from the atmospheric watercolours of Basil Spence and Steven Holl through to the fine line drawings of Nigel Peake, through to the connected but distinct field of graphic art, with its sometimes strong geometries and patterns, reminiscent of the first diagrams of a new architectural project. How drawing can represent feeling, experience or even a brand is further developed in artwork created for music, demonstrating the close intangible link between drawing and the senses.


It can be challenging as an architect synthesising all of the constraints of a project – functional, technical, administrative – into a strong, memorable form, and you can end up looking with envy on projects that are pure sculpture, with less of a web of key considerations. An oft mentioned seam of inspiration for architects is large-scale sculpture, architectural in scale, of Eduardo Chillida and Richard Serra, for guidance in moments of difficult in synthesising these myriad constraints into a compelling architectural whole. Particularly interesting in these examples is the use of materials to represent their qualities as well as their atmospheric concept sketches which represent the ideas.


A key part of our approach to design is the idea of ‘genius loci’ – the idea, Roman in origin, that places have a spirit, a key idea in architectural education – we are taught to identify, respect and design in accordance with the ‘genius loci’ of our sites and cities. A significant figure for us in the Scottish context is Patrick Geddes , the biologist, geographer and pioneering town planner whose ideas of ‘conservative surgery’ were crucial in the preservation of the pattern of Edinburgh’s Old Town at a time that it was under significant threat, an attitude we keep close in our minds as we work in that and all of our other contexts today.


One of the most satisfying parts of the job of an architect is the myriad ways in which people are involved in what we do – from client briefing, to collaborative design, to user engagement, through to those who use the buildings and spaces post completion. Getting to know clients and stepping into their shoes to really understand the requirements of their project – for every project is distinct – is a unique part of the architects job, and one which, when done well, greatly adds to the richness of the design of our projects.

Sound Box

Sometimes one project and a piece of writing can make a significant impact on our interests and trajectory. One such piece of writing is Thinking Architecture and one such project is the ‘Sound Box’ pavilion, both by the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor. The Swiss Pavilion was designed and constructed for the Hanover Expo in the year 2000. This project, canonical for many architects studying and working at this time, fuses aspects of swiss culture into an elegant pavilion of stacked larch and pine timbers, held together with no mechanical fixings but instead clamped together with outsized galvanised steel rods and compression plates. A project which has stayed long in the memory of architects who were fortunate enough to see it at the time. In conjunction with the sentiment of Thinking Architecture, this built form can be said to be an exemplar exercise in a holistic approach to experiential and sensory architecture in the fusion of materiality of the structure, sound, smell, touch and light. Again interestingly the drawing work describing the building expresses this in a similar way to the sculptors drawings.

A Dream

February 26, 2018 \ Studio
by David Paton

We rode the wave of optimism, with set squares, Rotring pens and scratching of razor blades and of course hope and ideas.

1995Five things in five minutes: what inspires me?