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'Believe in what you do, enjoy it, and make a bit of money’

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[THIS WEEK] James Pallister attends the presentation of the Resourceful Architect competition

A fortnight ago the AJ published the six shortlisted entrants to the RSA/Architecture Foundation Resourceful Architect competition (AJ 12.05.11). At the presentation day last week, Joe Swift of the Redundant Architects Recreation Association wooed the judging panel and won the top prize of £2,000.

Sitting on the judging desk was Argent’s David Partridge, architect Fernando de Mello Franco, planner Peter Bishop and educational entrepreneur Sophie Haworth, with participatory planning pioneer Nabeel Hamdi in the chair.

Swift described how his glorified desk rental scheme in a warehouse in Clapton had blossomed into a social hub, providing workspace, respite, recreation and a good supply of power tools to a growing band of precariat architects, designers and makers.

It was nice to see Swift’s slight exasperation when quizzed by Haworth about the strategic potential of ‘roll-out’ and ‘scaleability’ of his project. Couldn’t she see that they had done it just for the sake of doing it! Still, she has a point. There’s an art – and, for those interested in feeding ourselves, a necessary one – to turning an energetic passion into a self-financing project, and part of that is about embracing the concepts behind these ugly words. Equally this very analysis can render good ideas stillborn. Swift seemed to have the balance right, caught on the cusp of thinking about the grand plan and next month’s rent, but with a keen sense of why they started doing the thing in the first place.

Hamdi closed the day with some good advice to young architects, resourceful or otherwise: ‘It’s no use sitting back complaining – if you don’t like the rules then it’s your business to change the damn things! Believe in what you do, enjoy it, and make a bit of money doing it.’

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