The director at PRP specialises in later living projects and is a lover of contemporary architecture. She also has some “witchy powers”…
What has been your biggest career challenge to date?
It’s a long time ago now but I was lucky enough to design a primary school while studying for my RIBA Part 3 just a year after finishing at university. Straight after passing the exam and becoming an architect, the primary school started on site under a traditional JCT80 contract and I was the contract administrator. I was well supported by my managers at PRP but it certainly was a career challenge as the contractor went way over programme and quality became an issue. I definitely “cut my teeth” on the project!
If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
As a designer of later living housing and care environments, I would like to see national planning policies giving greater encouragement to the development of housing for older people, and for local authorities to create opportunities through specific policies and strategies to address older peoples housing needs. There is a severe shortage of suitable housing and choice for older people and strong action is needed to address it.
Why did you choose architecture as a career?
I think it was in my genes. My dad was an architect so I had an early introduction to the profession. He designed our lovely Frank Lloyd Wright inspired family home in Kent and took our family to see lots of great buildings and places. It was a natural choice.
What have you worked on that you’re most proud of?
It has to be Pilgrim Gardens in Evington, Leicester. The client from Pilgrims’ Friend Society was also an architect and very open to innovation and embracing all of the HAPPI principles.
The project is assisted living with apartments that wrap around a Japanese inspired central garden. An ecclesiastical colonnade at the ground floor and an open gallery to the first floor provide the circulation so that the apartments are all dual aspect with maximum light and ventilation.
All of the residents enjoy light-filled winter-gardens overlooking beautiful mature trees and private gardens around the edges of the site. The project has won several awards including Best Housing Project in the Building Awards.
Most helpful advice you were given?
In my 25 years at PRP I have learnt so much from some great people… it is hard to pinpoint anything specific. In the days of letters and faxes, my mum once told me to “touch each piece of paper only once”. While everything might be electronic now, her comment is still helpful to help me stay proactive and not put off until tomorrow what I could be doing today.
What’s your favourite building in the world?
Whilst I love contemporary architecture, of all the buildings I’ve visited, Gaudi’s projects in Barcelona moved me the most. I can’t wait to go back to the Sagrada Familia to show my children and to see how much progress has been made since I last went in 1999.
What single piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in your profession?
Keep your design concepts simple and clear. You should be able to draw your concept in a few strokes on a piece of paper the size of a stamp. A clear concept from day one is critical; the massing and elevations will flow from it and the design will be stronger and easier to communicate to the client, through planning, at design reviews and in presentations.
Who do you most admire in the architectural industry?
I really admire John Pardey. A great architect and a fantastic tutor and friend at Portsmouth University. As a former PRP employee John introduced me to the practice when I graduated and I have never looked back.
What famous building do you wish you had worked on?
I’ve always had a fascination with airport design … the excitement of travel, the scale, the complex flow of people and the logistics of planning for the aeroplanes. It would have been cool to work on one of the recently completed beauties: Marrakech Menara, Changi in Singapore or Heydar Aliyev in Azerbaijan.
Which famous building do you most dislike?
I’ve never appreciated the Pompidou … controversial, I know, because so many people in these articles include it as a favourite!
What’s it like being you?
110mph! I try hard to keep a good balance of work, family time, exercise and socialising so life is always busy – but fun and no two weeks are the same.
What do you think your best quality is?
I love people and I think (hope!) that I am empathetic and a good communicator
What trait do you most dislike in yourself? And in other people?
I can be oversensitive. In others I dislike competitiveness and too much ego
Do you have a life philosophy?
Not really but I once heard someone say “change can be scary, but routine will kill you”. It’s a great little line to think about when embarking on something outside of one’s comfort zone
Name three things that you like
Travelling with my husband and kids, entertaining friends and exercising lots
What’s a secret skill we don’t know you have?
I seem to have a knack for predicting outcomes … what might happen and likely reactions. My family call it my “witchy powers” but I think I am just grounded and empathetic.
What’s your most prized possession?
Not exactly a possession but I value family the most. My mum and dad totally rock and I have a great life with my husband and kids in our little home in Surbiton.
Early bird or night owl?
Night owl for sure. I am often the last one standing on a night out.
What’s your favourite food?
What would your superpower be?
My son and husband already subject me to too much Marvel, I will stick to my “witchy powers”!
Clare Cameron is a director at PRP