Q&A corner – Norman Hayden poses the questions to David Holford Wright

Why did you become an architect?

I always loved sketching and drawing as a child, tinkered with old car engines at weekends and could be found often taking things like radios and old gadgets to bits. Lego was my favourite toy by far. I also had a love of maps, science fiction and real science and technology that continues to this day. I wanted a job that would challenge me continuously, where I could draw and design things. Architecture was, therefore, an obvious career for me.

What do you like about it most?

The job allows me to continue to do what I enjoyed doing the most – understanding new concepts and creating new things. Each project also brings its own unique challenges to meet, so it’s a job that is not your standard 9-to-5. I love learning new things and, with ever-changing legislation and technological and material science improvements being made, there’s always more to grasp.

What is your proudest achievement and why?

I’ve been fortunate to work on many different project types and sectors – from healthcare, MoD, retail, office and commercial and leisure projects. But my proudest achievement has to be in the education field with one of the first primary school projects. The look of wonder, surprise and delight on the faces of the children and staff when they left their old cold, damp and tired CLASP building to experience the bright, airy and exciting new school was something I will never forget.

What’s your biggest challenge currently?

The continuing challenge is to create wonderful, hopefully surprising but always delightful, spaces, while facing the reality of pre-determined client ideas and sometimes limiting cost constraints. Specific challenges at the moment are promoting the business, building relations and seeking opportunities in sectors, especially education, that are new to the Simons Group. At the same time, there is the need to support  projects, such as the turnkey project for us at the North Lincolnshire Shopping Park, involving Simons Design, Developments and Construction, shortlisted for two RICS Awards. I assist our Construction Team, with tender bids for a number of discount foodstores and production information for the new Odeon Cinema and Retail Units at LXB Stafford. I’m also helping the Design Team get to grips with the technical requirements of the Principal Designer role brought about by the CDM Regulations which came into force last year.

What single change/innovation would make an architect’s job simpler?

A better method of obtaining new opportunities. The current long-winded and time consuming approach to completing RFQ’s (Request for Quotations) and PQQ’s (Pre-Qualification Questionnaires) could be improved upon by a standard form for obtaining architectural services (ideally based on the universally-recognised RIBA plan of work) that is more concise and more appropriate than PAS 91. A standard fee scale would take away the guesswork and devaluing nature of our business.

What’s your favourite medium?

I love 3D CAD drawings, love the simplicity of SketchUp and am currently learning BIM using Bentley AECOsim. But pen or pencil and paper is still the quickest, most natural, medium that can communicate more than a thousand words.

What can we learn from foreign architects?
I still believe that what we do in the UK in terms of quality, safety and wellbeing in our built environment is something we should be very proud. The novel way foreign architects tackle their own climatic conditions and topography is always refreshing, and with our country becoming generally warmer but with greater climatic swings, there’s always more to glean from our international counterparts.

What will the next “big thing” in the industry?

We’re living in exciting times, with the next level of BIM Technology, utilising latest environmentally sustainable, low carbon embodied, energy-saving solutions for buildings are obvious key changes facing the industry. I can envisage a wonderful future where the drawing board/computer interface becomes more immersive in an interactive 3D walkthrough environment where building elements, fixtures and fittings can be drafted, assembled, rotated, stretched, distorted and created using interactive goggle/glasses and gloves in the next 10-15 years and holographic “design” rooms (a la Star Trek – Next Generation style) in the next 15-20 years.

How can you see an architect’s role changing?

More mature architects are realising now that we have inadvertently allowed our profession to become diluted, with many specialists taking on many design and administrative processes that architects previously and naturally undertook.

This is partially due to buildings becoming more complex, but is also because some in our profession prefer the front end concept and feasibility “design” stages above the sometimes more challenging aspects of undertaking product information “design” and job running. I am fortunate to have maintained a good understanding of all stages of the RIBA plan of work, and I think if our profession is to be highly valued, we have to be prepared to undertake all the less glamorous aspects of the job.

Are there limits to the part technology can play?

We are still a way off from technology being able to “think” for itself, which is no bad thing. So, tech is limited at present to how quickly information can be imputed by humans, which is invariably slower than we can use our minds. All of us have at times been frustrated waiting for images to render, print, or download. Future tech is always improving these aspects however, and if in the future, as described above, the process becomes more intuitive, speedier and crucially more fun to execute then the sky, quite literally is the limit (unless we work for NASA or ESA.

What are your hopes for 2016?

Having fun with those we work with, focusing on the projects in hand, maintaining and strengthening existing client relationships and hopefully obtaining commissions in the exciting new sectors Simons is starting to explore.