John Avery tells Building about art deco, procrastination, and a black Blüthner piano


What has been your biggest career challenge to date?

Co-ordinating a multilingual team across four countries to deliver the design for a complex waterside, infrastructure and mixed-use development in Dubai. 

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be? 

Architects could be much better at explaining how the design process works. 

Why did you choose construction as a career?

My school was a crumbling early 1970s mega-structure that inspired my curiosity about the spatial qualities and practical challenges of modern architecture.

National Bank of Oman

Source: LOM

What are you most proud of working on?

The National Bank of Oman’s head office in Muscat (pictured above) – we had a wonderful site, a committed client and a great team of architects, whom I was proud to lead. 

What’s the most helpful advice you have been given?

If you’re stuck creatively, stop worrying and just try to have fun.

What’s your favourite building in the world?

The Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, a late art deco work by Victor Horta where I spent a lot of time as a child.

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

Don’t just look at pictures – you can only understand buildings by getting out there and visiting the real thing.  

Who do you most admire in the construction industry?

The late Will Alsop, who was in his prime during my early career and reminded us that architecture could be fun. 

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

Westminster Underground station.

Which famous building do you most dislike?

I’m not a fan of the Blavatnik building at Tate Modern – too much architecture, not enough art.

What’s it like being you?

Architecture can be hard work, but I have always been immensely grateful to earn a living from a creative practice. 

What is your best quality?


What trait do you most dislike in yourself? 


And in other people?

Describing with words when a drawing would do.

Do you have a life philosophy?

Work hard, eat well and be curious. 

Name three things that you like

Maps, aeroplanes and apple trees. 

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

Playing jazz funk keyboard. 


Source: Shutterstock

What’s your most prized possession?

My black Blüthner piano.

Early bird or night owl?

Very much a night owl.

What’s your favourite food?

Prawn tempura.

What would your superpower be?

Incredibly good hand drawing – I very much don’t have this skill at present.