James Taylor on running a London studio through covid

James Taylor

What has been your biggest career challenge to date?

The last few weeks dealing with the impacts of covid-19 have been pretty intense. The positive in all this is that is has been great to see such amazing examples of comradery and togetherness within the studio.

Why did you choose construction as a career?

I love the physical reality of things and making things for people. I am most happy making something, and I see design as the vehicle to get there.

What have you worked on that you are most proud of?

There are big office buildings going up the City I am proud of being involved in, but I’m really pleased with the impact of the work we are doing in the studio to nurture a unique environment that creates great architecture and interiors for our clients and have fun doing it along the way. 

Most helpful advice you were given?

The poster above my desk at home says “work hard and be nice to people” which a good friend gave to my daughter when she was born - it’s standing the test of time.

What’s your favourite building in the world?

Curved architecture isn’t my normal cup of tea, and it is a bit of a cliché as it’s so well known, but Corb’s Chapel at Ronchamp blew me away. Form, light, space, and atmosphere all wrapped up in one little masterpiece.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in your profession?

Ask questions. Find out what you are good at and add value. 

Who do you most admire in the construction industry?

Geoff Harris at Nuveen. He knows what makes a good building, has an eye for detail and quality, and is a top chap to boot.

What famous building do you wish you’d worked on?

The Seagram Building in NYC by Mies Van de Rohe.

What’s it like being you?

Busy! I am working on a couple of office projects in the City at feasibility stage, which I juggle with keeping the studio running. We are running weekly covid meetings on top of our normal studio processes to keep agile on our response to what clients need as well as government guidance.

What do you think your best quality is?

I think I’m pretty patient - I like to think I’m good at trusting people to solve problems and bring their value to the table.

What’s a secret skill we don’t know you have?

I can still just about pop an ollie.

What would your superpower be?

Time travel - just to jump ahead a few decades and see if we are all going in the right direction.

James Taylor is London studio chair at Woods Bagot