Fiona Scott: architect at home
Jay Gort and I started our practice in March last year. It’s been just over 18 months. I was working at Adjaye before that and Jay was working at Superstudio.
We had been teaching together for a few years and we agreed we both wanted to start our own practice. We are both ambitious in a sense and we both felt we could make good architecture. We get on well and we are both interested in the same things which might be to do with our educational backgrounds or might not. But we are both interested in public space, concepts, materials.
I try not to work from home, it’s good to have some separation. I prefer to be in the office where I can concentrate more.
I live in Dalston in east London. I’ve lived here for about 19 months. I moved in just before we started the practice. We started up in my spare room initially, and the living room was the model room. Now we have an office down the road in Dalston.
I live in a three-bedroom flat that was built in 1951. It is in a block with a communal garden. I think a bomb dropped here during the war as six flats were built on the plot of what would have been some large houses. So we have plenty of space around us. The flats were originally built for policemen and their families. They have a kind of modest dignity to them that I find appealing. Plus the scale and layout are good.
It’s a council-owned block with a nice community. We plan to grow vegetables in the garden, though of course none of us have the time.
It’s a concrete frame building. When I moved in it was in a shocking state. It had been rented to a housing association for short-term accommodation for a number of years. There were no loadbearing walls and so my friend gave me a sledge hammer and I literally took out the walls myself. I recommend it to anyone, it was very satisfying. Then we put in a really nice reclaimed wooden floor that we bought on eBay. Putting in a really beautiful timber floor is the best thing you can do to a flat like this.
We opened up the living room space and we listen to records, play with the cat.
I increasingly find that getting up early is the only way to get anything done. Some days we go to Cambridge, as our first building is going on site there. I often work quite late and normally get home around 9pm.
The weekend is catching-up time. Saturday mornings are sacred, I’m normally exhausted so I’ll go to the café on the corner and spend my time over breakfast – read the newspaper from cover to cover. I will normally have Saturday off and work again on Sunday.
I really value free time, I don’t want to be working all the time. One of the things that drives me to work, I suppose, is the thought that we can build things up at our practise to where we are in a position to get more people.
At the moment free time is about trying to relax and de-stress and not get too absorbed in work. I swim a lot in London Fields Lido. I feel at the moment that my creative energy is pretty much taken up with the business. But that still means you can be receptive; I like to cycle or walk around, go and see shows.
We aren’t an international practice so we don’t travel widely for work. And we reserve our free time for holidays as much as possible, though I haven’t had much time in the past nine months. My boyfriend is from California so we go back there when we can. It’s an amazing place; the landscape is so huge and beautiful.
We read the AJ from cover to cover in our practice. We always have it in the office, I think most architects do. It gets passed around a lot. Especially at lunch or tea breaks.
We use the AJ to keep up with who is doing what and what is getting built. The images and the drawings are really, really important. We often use books and journals as reference points and study them quite carefully. We also look to AJ for tactical information; on budgets, construction materials, procurement, funding. It’s really important to us that we be well informed about what is going on in the industry and be able to make critical judgments.
I used to read a lot more literature when I was younger. Now, I like non-fiction things like pop-cultural theory by writers like Dave Hickey. Those books are broken up into articles that you can browse and dip into. I don’t know if it is just because I’m internet generation and I have no attention span, or because I am so busy, that this method of reading appeals. If I ca’nt sleep I’ll read poetry. That sounds as if I’m being pretentious but I’m not.
Sometimes I think it is good to keep up with the news and at other times I think that what is written is just complete rubbish. But on the whole I think it is important to know what is going on in the world and to see what you are doing in that wider context. At the moment my boyfriend, who is American, and I are obsessed with the American elections and the crazy cult of celebrity.
Fiona Scott is a founder of Gort Scott. She is one of the AJ/RPS urban design scholars.