If I am asked by an aspiring teenager whether a career in architecture is a good idea, I first consider the inevitable frustrations and disappointments, and the more lucrative alternatives of management consultancy or the law (or indeed, most other professions).
Then I think of the individuals who have populated my 28 years in architecture, most of it spent at MJP, and answer 'yes'.
It is a job which requires you to engage with other people's lives, making places that fulfil needs and enrich. It allows you to enter other worlds - to understand how a college, a tube station, a museum or a chapel works, and what it means to the people who use and own it. There is the satisfaction of creating a building that is well done, and appreciated by the people it is for. You engage them in your ideas and the world of architecture, just as they have shared their world with you.
The process of designing and building is long and there is always a brooding sense that the number of projects you will see to completion can be counted on the digits of your two hands - and perhaps those of one or two friends. But the time allows you to develop a comradeship with everyone involved: the client, the consultants and the contractor. Together you embody a vast range of experience and opinions. You will, hopefully, come to understand and respect each other, culminating in the mixed satisfaction, relief and sadness at the completion of the work when you go your separate ways.
And then there are the colleagues. In my 17 years at MJP, a procession of intelligent, talented and interesting people have made their mark and moved on. MJP's buildings, and indeed its culture, are the accumulation of their efforts and commitment.
I do have one area of dissatisfaction with architecture: that there are so few women, particularly of my advanced age. The numbers have hardly changed since I qualified more than 20 years ago.Moreover, the RIBA's and ARB's statistics show that while the number of women entering the profession is relatively high (42 per cent of students in 2002), the number of chartered architects is low and falling (only 11 per cent in 2002).
Something in the culture of the profession or the industry puts them off. Tradition would have it that the construction industry is macho and the building site no place for a woman. For my part I have found contractors and site staff to be straightforward and courteous - more interested in finding solutions than in whether women should be architects. It seems to me that the problem lies more within the profession, and as such, is within our power to solve. I hope that MJP will play its part in solving it.
As we look back over 30 years, we also look forward to the future. Should your daughter wish to become an architect, tell her it is never easy, always interesting and sometimes truly inspiring.