SPOTLIGHT ON.. Greg Willis
Education: Nottingham and Cambridge Universities
Date of joining Associated Architects: July 2002
Currently working on: 134 Edmund Street - offices St Martin's Gate - Residential/Retail conversion of existing offices
Best thing about my job: The people and exciting workload
Where I live: Harborne
Time to get to work: 10 mins
Advantages of living/working in Birmingham : I moved from London to Birmingham in July 2002, having studied at both Cambridge and Nottingham. It has been exciting to be able to live and work in such a vibrant city with so much potential. In the short time I have been here I feel very settled and have acquired a keen and personal interest in the physical and cultural development of the city.
I can't say I miss the hour and a half commute across London, as I now enjoy living only 10 minutes from the city centre and work.
In a successful and established firm I have been pleasantly surprised at the level of encouragement and enthusiasm offered for new ideas. In a relatively short time, it is great to be considered a valued member of a creative team, and enjoy a greater level of professional responsibility. I have just finished working on 134 Edmund St, the creation of a new 12-storey office development and conversion of two Grade II-listed buildings, and am currently involved with St Martin's Gate, the renovation of existing office space within the city centre, into apartments and retail space.
When was it founded and by whom?
Associated Architects was founded in 1968 by three lecturers at the Birmingham School of Architecture.
The practice has continued to evolve over the years and in 2003 it was converted into a Limited Liability Partnership with six directors: Paul Lister, Ian Standing, John Christophers, Matthew Goer, Warren Jukes and Adam Wardle.
The practice has always been based in Birmingham. It was started in a small studio in Duke Street, now a part of Aston University, before moving in 1976 to St Paul's Square in the Jewellery Quarter. After executing numerous projects contributing to the regeneration of the Jewellery Quarter, the practice moved to its current premises in Chamberlain and Martin's Grade Ilisted telephone exchange in the city centre in 1998 - a move that reflects the practice's position in the commercial and cultural life of the city.
What type of work does Associated Architects do?
The practice has a broad range of work in sectors including education (from primary schools to universities), arts, offices, retail and housing, with experience of large-scale mixed use schemes, much of which has been won in competition. Urban design, regeneration, work with listed buildings and masterplanning have been at the core of its work since the early 1980s, since when it has won 17 RIBA Awards, demonstrating a long-term commitment to quality.
How many qualified architects are there in the practice?
The practice has 21 architects, five graduates and seven technicians.
What is the age profile?
Employing a high proportion of graduates, many of whom stay in the early part of their careers, the office has a young bias; it does also value its core of older members of staff and management, who provide very valuable experience and a mentoring resource.
Are younger architects expected to specialise or are they given the opportunities to work on a variety of projects?
All staff work on a variety of projects, but while most value diversity it is inevitable that some come to specialise as they progress - this is entirely a matter of choice. Generally project architects remain with a project from inception to completion.
Are there many internal opportunities for promotion?
The practice is continually evolving and expanding. At present there are directors in their early thirties. It is common for good candidates to be promoted to associates in their late twenties.
What is the policy on CPD?
The practice is totally committed to CPD - a director has been a member of the RIBA regional CPD committee for more than 10 years. The internal programme is coordinated by one of the associates, who audits formal requirements and records, and helps the staff achieve their targets.
What other training and development takes place?
We value our staff and aim to give everyone the opportunity to reach their full potential. That requires proper development and training.
We assess this through our appraisal system so that individual and practice needs can be matched, and every member of the office is assigned an independent mentor to help with development issues including RIBA Part 3 programmes. No AA candidate for Part 3 has ever failed!
Is it true that you overwork your staff?
We work hard, but don't expect long hours as part of the package.
We monitor all staff and the directors have a monthly overtime report: if staff are working too long we take steps to correct that. We have a flexible working policy in place, good holidays including a summer tour (Prague in 2004), and a variety of social events including Tai Chi.
Which CAD systems do you use?
We run a PC network throughout the office on a Microsoft Windows XP Pro operating system.
Drawings are produced on AutoCAD and 3D Studio Viz, with Photoshop and QuarkXPress for desktop publishing. Each workstation has Microsoft Office Professional.
If I want to apply to work at Associated Architects, how should I go about it?
We welcome talented young professionals looking to further their career. If anyone would like to work on exciting and stimulating projects they can write or email details of their achievements so far to:
w. jukes@associated-architects. co. uk