Richard is an experienced architect with multi-sector experience, now working within our education studio.
If you weren’t in this career, what would you be?
Househusband, soldier, nurse, monster-maker, composer… my art teacher insisted I should go into either forgery or art conservation. All these options were imagined at different stages of life, but in reality, I believe I was destined to be an architect. It wasn’t a particular aspiration, it just seemed to suit my natural interests and abilities – the drawing, the making of things, the science and engineering, the placemaking and social interest. I just got lucky?
What’s your favourite project you’ve worked on to date?
I have been lucky to have worked on many types of building, in many different places. Though I have a particular interest in acoustics and music/performance buildings, the project that stands out is the last school I worked on in the Welsh Valleys (my home). There was a real community need for this building, it was a difficult hillside site, complicated phasing scenario, with a tight budget – so, little opportunity for any architectural ‘glamour’. But, it was such a caring and aspirational school. We held each other’s hands through the process and solved the problem together. This was very rewarding and is an experience, that I wish to repeat going forward.
Interesting fact that nobody knows about you?
My right leg is longer than my left leg – which has an important back story, not just related to having grown up on a hill side. At 13 years old, I broke my leg very badly on a school skiing trip ( …in Cardiff). I was unable to go to school for the best part of a year, as I was deemed a danger to myself and others in my plastered, wobbly state. I slowly progressed from bed, to sofa, to wheel chair, to crutches, to legs, acquiring an ever expanded relationship with the world. I was intermittently educated and socialised by my teachers and pupils, but would otherwise draw and construct most of the Airfix catalogue. This period of my life fundamentally contributed to who I am.
Saxophone solos, the lids of sardine tins, ketchup, PE teachers, ‘the Archers’, skis…
Best building in your city?
As a younger person, I would have sought to cite something aesthetic, but as an adult I have to choose something that gives pleasure to myself and my family. To cheat, my favourite building is the St Fagan’s Folk Museum, just outside Cardiff. It’s a menagerie of relocated and reassembled historic buildings from all over Wales: from the Iron Age to the 20th Century; domestic, ecclesiastic, industrial, a haunted castle. This is where students from Welsh School of Architecture start their education – each allocated a building to study for a week. This is the (free) parkland setting where I regularly wander with the children and where I learn something rather interesting, every time.
Best book you’ve read?
Tricky, but I’ll say ‘MacDonald and Salter, Building Projects 1982-1986’, which consists of beautiful black and white drawings of free-form buildings. I have lots of books – they have become something of an ‘albatross’ in these days of web-based things, but in those pre-web days when I was first acquiring knowledge, books were often the ultimate output of so many young, idealistic and yet-to-be-built artist/architects. I could equally choose things by Lebbeus Woods, Peter Wilson, John Hedjuk, Enric Miralles and Carme Pinos.