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A good crew

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MacCormac Jamieson Prichard @ 30

For me, the exciting moments in MJP's evolution have been the commissions that have extended our repertoire of building types.

The Bristol Arts Faculty competition in 1978 was our first university client (it was rumoured afterwards that our name had been shortlisted in error); while Spitalfields Market masterplan came from Fitzroy Robinson five years after publishing theoretical strategies for the site for Italian television, worked up in Venice after heavy grappa evenings with Bob Emerson of Arup.

Our Southwark Station commission came through Roland Paoletti who was living in one of our houses in Shadwell Basin.

That serendipity, and peer respect, account for most of our shortlistings; it is surprising to some that many of our clients have been other architects. The disappointments of not building schemes such as Robinson College, King's College Library, Tonbridge Chapel and the Berlin embassy are rationalised by regarding ideas developed for each as a rehearsal for the next. I was asked about 15 years ago what my architectural preoccupations were - I hastily replied landscape, layering and light, and those generators are still recurring themes.

Personal satisfaction comes from working across a range of building types and scales, nurturing individuals and steering clients and consultant teams to achieve ambitious outcomes. Leading projects that involve huge changes for large organisations, such as moving the Cable and Wireless College, creating the cultural quarter for Durham City, and converting Ballymun from a satellite dormitory into a town, is a responsibility wider than the design of the buildings.

Working in other regions, on islands and on civic projects constantly reminds me of the importance of empathy with clients and users and the trust they need to have in us to guide them somewhere new.

The practice has always had a flat hierarchy with ideas from everyone cultivated under the direction of Richard MacCormac.

Project teams have been a good breeding ground for Part 2 students, who often work closely with partners on new leads because others are locked into existing projects.

Design and management have much in common (one organises spaces, the other people) both need clear leadership and a defined goal. The Monday at home principle facilitates the regime of workstage reviews attended by colleagues (more formal than the pub and coffee counter); it is the place to exchange ideas and experiences and guide project teams in a supportive manner.

We use many analogies and metaphors to rationalise our design ideas.My basic instinct about management is that I only want to work with people with whom I would be prepared to share a lifeboat - who know where they are going, can row hard or are good company. Our company has a fine crew!

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