Glenn Swann, associate at sports & leisure specialists LK2, tells ADF about the firm’s aspirations and how technology is helping to shape the profession today.
WHY DID YOU BECOME AN ARCHITECT?
I’ve always been creative, so the idea of using that creativity and imagination to go beyond just the visual and influence the built environment seemed like an ideal career choice. It’s always satisfying to see ideas and designs brought to life.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT IT MOST?
One of the most rewarding aspects of this industry is creating spaces that have a real and lasting influence on people’s lives.
It’s also an industry in which you never stop learning, as every new project brings with it new challenges.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF YOUR JOB?
The biggest challenge has always been balancing the architectural aspirations of a project while keeping a keen eye on financial proceedings.
It’s difficult, but very pleasing when the final outcome is favourable.
WHAT IS YOUR PROUDEST ACHIEVEMENT AND WHY?
I’ve been working in architecture for 30 years, and have never ceased to be proud of numerous aspects of individual projects.
The best moments are when you feel personally that a scheme could not have been bettered and receives gratitude and praise from your client.
For example, the Buttermarket Shopping Centre in Ipswich was a huge success for us. The project involved the regeneration of a failing shopping centre – the team had to come up with an innovative solution and in the end we delivered a mixed use retail and leisure centre, creating a vibrant, revitalised destination.
WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE CURRENTLY?
The biggest challenge is always to win the next job and to ensure a steady flow of
interesting work into the office. It’s a fine balance between delivering satisfying results which lead to repeat business whilst also attracting further opportunities.
WHAT SINGLE CHANGE/INNOVATION WOULD MAKE AN ARCHITECTS JOB EASIER?
Architecture isn’t easy and we should not strive to simplify the process. In fact, the more complex the project, the more potentially satisfying the outcome.
WHAT’S YOUR CURRENT FAVOURITE MATERIAL FOR DESIGNING BUILDINGS?
For designing, I prefer just a black fibre tip pen and tracing paper. When it comes to constructing buildings, I’m still a great lover of traditional materials but used in a contemporary manner.
However, I am always open to innovative ideas in technology, which is ever-changing. For example, there’s a newly launched design and presentation tool based around combining the use of virtual and mixed reality, allowing experience of 3D design
by creating hologram versions of models. It’s fantastic as clients can now potentially view scheme proposals in real-world environments.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM OVERSEAS ARCHITECTS?
All architects, overseas or otherwise, should learn from each other. At LK2, we see no reason why architects cannot pool their resources and work together. We are working in collaboration with others in such a manner, including overseas.
WHAT WILL THE NEXT ‘BIG THING’ BE IN THE INDUSTRY?
If I knew that, I’d be doing it! Joking aside, as a progressive practice we are always searching for that unique quality that puts us a little bit above the rest in order to attract exciting and innovative projects.
We’re currently evolving our ‘STREETLAB’ concept, which is a new model which will increase values and extend the life and vitality of existing retail parks. Using this concept will enable us to create cohesive retail, leisure, entertainment and community destinations.
HOW CAN YOU SEE AN ARCHITECT’S ROLE CHANGING IN THE NEAR FUTURE?
Architects should attempt to put their egos behind them and collaborate more in order to share ideas and skills. We can all design buildings, but we all have differing methodology and techniques that could be shared to our advantage.
IS IT A MISTAKE TO PUT TOO GREAT A FOCUS ON TECHNOLOGY WHEN DESIGNING?
Not at all, technology is there to aid the architecture process not inhibit it. There are no limits to the role that technology can play at the design stage of a project.
DO YOU THINK THAT CLIENTS HAVE AN ACCURATE IDEA OF WHAT YOU DO?
Some do, some don’t – it really depends on the client. Commercial clients have a better understanding of our roles and services, whereas individual private clients do not have the sufficient knowledge of the profession and the service on offer. I think it’s nothing that good education by the architect can’t resolve.
WHAT ARE YOUR HOPES FOR 2017 AND BEYOND IN TERMS OF YOURSELF AND YOUR PRACTICE?
The plan is to just keep pushing forward to the next level. Staff numbers have doubled over the last few years and we are continuing to progress in a positive manner. We also have a number of concepts based around the integration of retail with sport and leisure that we are working on with a team of leading specialists in their individual fields. Overall it’s currently a really exciting time for me and the LK2 team, and we’re looking forward to further success in 2017 and beyond.