Furneaux Stewart covers all aspects of design, but as architectural director my main goal is to expand the company's broad design base into architecture. The design disciplines we work in are architecture, graphics, film-making, museum design and live events.
What's a typical day like?
No day is typical. We work across disciplines in the firm, so I could be working on a presentation film for a Bentley car conference in the morning and designing an exhibition for a museum in the evening.
You retrained as an architect after having qualified as a structural engineer. Why?
I felt that architects were closer to the start of a project, inspirationally, than structural engineers, who are usually brought in after the designs are in hand. I'm trying to address that at Furneaux Stewart by making sure that when we work on an architectural project, we bring in all the disciplines, such as engineers and cost consultants, at the beginning, to start work on a blank canvas.
What's the most interesting project you've worked on?
It has to be the Rainforest House Project, a simulation of the Brazilian jungle in Germany, which is being exhibited at Hanover Expo 2000. We won it through a competition, which always makes it a bit more exciting. The project was very demanding, but it gave me the opportunity to work with a strong team. I wanted to make sure visitors were acclimatised into the hothouse atmosphere of the rainforest. We created an entrance that explained the subject and then visitors were transported to the forest by an airship made from a lift.
Do you often work abroad?
We have found that German clients will come back if you do a good job. Volkswagen was the main sponsor of the Rainforest House project. Then it approached us to design a new pavilion at its Autostadt [car theme park] in Wolfsburg.
What's your biggest achievement?
Apart from my children, it's probably making the decision to change from structural engineering to architecture. Pinpointing a particular building or project isn't easy, because on every project you learn something you wished you had known before. It's encouraging to know that you haven't peaked yet, and that there's still room for improvement.
How can the industry improve?
I teach at Greenwich University on the architectural diploma course. I think it's important to give something back and help developing students who want to break into the industry.
What's your favourite building?
I have two. The Colonia Gull is a beautiful church by Gaudi outside Barcelona. It's a true example of organic architecture. The other is Lord Rogers' Channel 4 building. It is quirky, but precise. It's basically about mixing people and technology.
What do you do to relax?
I like football and support Wimbledon. What I really enjoy, though, is fishing and the peace associated with it. Once you experience that, you don't care about actually catching anything.