When Ian Caldwell became Director of Estates at Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine in 1993, he was not impressed by his South Kensington surroundings. The tired, run-down 1960s campus, home to one of the world's foremost academic institutions, was badly in need of investment.
Today he surveys a very different scene from his office in John McAslan & Partners' new library extension: a renaissance is taking place at Imperial, masterplanned by Foster and Partners in 1992 and pushed forward by Caldwell since his arrival. Foster's impressive Biomedical Sciences Building is due to be handed over in April. At the far side of Exhibition Road, a new college Health Centre, designed by Bill Greensmith, has opened in Sheppard Robson's 1960s hall of residence. Numerous other projects are in the pipeline. French landscape designer Alain Provost has prepared a new design for the Queen's Lawn; designs for a sports centre by Arup Associates with halls of residence above by MacCormac Jamieson Prichard have reached detailed design stage; off campus Hawkins Brown is refurbishing Silwood Manor in Ascot, designed by Alfred Waterhouse; at Putney jmp will add an extension to the college boathouse . . . and so on.
Caldwell's background as an architect - he trained at Strathclyde - strengthens his position on two fronts: it gives him a persuasive voice in dealings with his academic colleagues, and it also ensures that the college gets quality and value from its architects. Caldwell pushes for the appointment of architects he considers capable of responding to 'a highly intelligent client who asks deep and searching questions'.
Caldwell's career moves have honed his management skills. He admired the effective management procedures used by his early employer, the now defunct Property Services Agency. In 1989 he joined management consultant Touche Ross, and for two years he was Estates Director at Sheffield Hallam University before his appointment at Imperial.
Caldwell speaks enthusiastically of the challenges, frustration and stimulation that his work entails. The frustration springs from the inevitable lack of funds, to the point where he now derives as much satisfaction from securing backing for a project as from the pleasure he takes in the building itself. He enjoys the company of his academic colleagues and his admiration for the work undertaken at Imperial inspires his determination to provide it with the best academic facilities for the next century.