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AJ100 2010 interview: Gavin Henderson, Stanton Williams

‘We won several major competitions and have projects abroad so we’ve managed to retain all our staff’

How have you coped with the last year?

Things were quite difficult because projects slowed down or were put on hold, such as a residential scheme in central London and a new town hall that was part of a wider regeneration scheme. Luckily we won several major competitions and have projects abroad so we’ve managed to retain all our staff.

Have you made any changes in the way that your practice operates?

We took measures to operate more efficiently, focusing on making the most of the way we work together creatively as a team. Having the right conversation at the right time can unlock a design issue more e„ ectively than simply having a larger team on the project; it’s also about having the right material to discuss. In order to design effectively we work with physical models a lot and to facilitate this have employed a dedicated model maker. We also continue to review all our o ce systems, especially the way we monitor costs and resources, to ensure we are working efficiently.

Are there any sectors in which you see particular hope?

Curiously we are working on more cultural projects these days, but I doubt that is a trend.

What is the most exciting project you are currently working on?

This is difficult as we are lucky to have a range of exciting and challenging projects. We have five major projects on-site - the University of the Arts at King’s Cross, Sainsbury Laboratory at University of Cambridge, Eton Manor wheelchair tennis site for London 2012, Hackney Marshes sports facilities and Wiltshire District Council offices - and it is very interesting to see them taking shape. We also work on two projects abroad (Grand Musée d’Art in Nantes and Stadtmuseum Berlin) that are extremely stimulating.

What do you think your practice will be like in fi ve years’ time?

Probably around the same size. I hope we will continue to build on the very strong team we have within the office.

What is the greatest challenge facing the architectural profession?

The increasing marginalisation of the architect’s role in the construction process and the proliferation of management at all levels in the design process. During this recession we have seen the impact of fee-cutting too -
in the long run, this can only undermine architects and the quality of work the profession offers.

If you hadn’t been an architect, what would you have been?

As a child I wanted to be an archaeologist, excavating evocative remains of cities. When I realised how far life as an archaeologist deviated from my ideal I decided to design the buildings instead.

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