'Richard (MacCormac) phoned me, saying he had more work than he could handle and would I like to join him. I thought for about one minute, and said yes. David (Prichard) came on board shortly afterwards.' This is Peter Jamieson's account of the beginnings of MacCormac Jamieson Prichard in 1972. While acknowledging that 'Richard's influence is the driving force', Prichard describes collaboration between the three partners, and with the rest of the team as 'relatively seamless . . . underlying themes and preoccupations recur in all our work - materiality, quality of light'. The approach may be coherent, but the results are surprisingly diverse. 'Most high-tech practices have a reasonably recognisable product. What interests us is to deliberately invent an idiom for a specific project.'
Inspiration comes from eclectic sources - Soane, Kahn, Frank Lloyd Wright, a fragment of a blue tile from a Chinese temple, an Italian cemetery designed by Vanbrugh. Jocasta Innes is cited as an inspiration for colour schemes, particularly the red-and-ochre interior of the Ruskin Library (pp 27-37), while W R Lethaby's description of the architecture of Balliol as 'hard and smart' prompted mjp to design Balliol's new hall of residence (p 38) with bricks sharpened off to points - 'we've never done it before, and we'll probably never do it again'. Constantly 'inventing the idiom' is exhausting and 'probably not the most economic way of doing things' but the spirit of invention shows no sign of letting up - the imax cinema in the current design for the Wellcome Wing at the Science Museum (p 40) evolved from an early drawing of 'a very childish spaceship' which hovered inside the building.
With the Science Museum and an office for Paternoster Square, the practice is tackling bigger buildings than ever before. MacCormac feels that the lottery 'has opened everything up and increased aspirations', while Prichard identifies a 'cultural optimism' which has prompted 'a wave of urban design projects which are very different from what we've done before, and a very exciting scale to work at. Town planning has always been very reactive, but cities are taking control instead of waiting for developers to do things to them'. There may be a climate of change, but mjp is quick to acknowledge that it has always been blessed with receptive clients. 'People say you should never talk about aesthetics to an English client - it will lose you the job,' says MacCormac. 'Well I think you can, and I think you should.' Jamieson agrees: 'Otherwise you leave almost no professional mystery, and architects have been very bad at holding on to that.'