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Ruth Reed: architect at home

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I became president elect of RIBA on 1 September which is hugely exciting. It’s a great honour and privilege. You hear those words used and it’s only when they are applied to you that you really understand what they mean.

I’m looking forward to it, am excited about it and nervous in equal measure really.

Once I become president I will be spending a significant amount of time in London. And RIBA will provide a flat close to Portland Place for me. I will still be teaching in Birmingham so I will be splitting my time between the two places.

I’m currently running the part 3 course. And I teach management practice and law at Parts 1 and 2 at Birmingham School of Architecture. I’ve been teaching second-year studio too. It wasn’t a completely blind step from practice to education but I was surprised how much I enjoyed it when I got here.

I’m partner in an architecture and planning consultancy. I have a governing role for the architectural side of the practice. And I used to be a planning inspector as a sideline to general practice.

I built a house in the country when I was in private practice but that was sold a few years ago. My practice at the time was largely predicated on people building their own homes, so going through the process myself was very helpful in being able to assist them as clients. Though I was quite hopeless as my own client – we brought it in on time but not quite on budget.

My house now is in an urban-regeneration area known at Attwood Green in Birmingham. It is largely flats but with some townhouses too, arranged around a large park community. It received a CABE gold award. I have one of the townhouses. The only thing I stipulated when I was looking for a house was that it had a garden, as that is central to my idea of relaxation. And though the development is very densely built, I have a sunny back garden.

It’s mixed tenure which makes it lively but not uncomfortable. I’m happy with the noise of the city. It sounds strange to say that if you’ve spent as much time in the country as I have, but I do find the noise quite comforting.

The joke is that I can’t live without trees – and this is quite true. I bought a house with a tree outside.

Outside of work I enjoy my garden, I’m a terrible potterer. I buy an awful lot of plants. I almost will boring plants to die so that I can justify replacing them. I used to have 3/4 of an acre to plant in but now I have to be very selective. And then I do all the usual things to relax; I read, I watch TV.

I will be starting to travel widely but I haven’t had enough chance to recently, I’m hoping when I do begin I can add my own time to work trips and get some additional benefit out of it. With the issues of climate change and the economy we are going to have to cut our cloth a little bit there I think.

I’ve subscribed to the AJ, on and off, all my career. I re-subscribed when I began to teach because I needed to use the magazine as a teaching tool.

I read the AJ for interest and I use the online news every day too. I keep all the back issues as a teaching resource. When I’m teaching project cost control, for example, we use case studies from the AJ from which the students can extrapolate out costs and when I’m teaching studio it gives me a good idea of what is current. It is the combination of the architectural design and the text, plus the details on costing that make it a very valuable teaching resource for me.

On the leisure side I buy the New Scientist. One of my daughters has gone into maths and astronomy, and my youngest is preparing to apply to medical school. So the New Scientist is for her really but I find the articles interesting - that must make me sound like a nerd. And occasionally I buy fashion magazines like Marie Claire or Vogue, just to window shop. Also Private Eye, The Guardian on Saturday and the Observer sometimes – my recycling pile seems quite big. For news I also look on the BBC website every lunchtime and I use iplayer to try to catch-up with programmes.

I read a lot on holiday. I become pretty anti-social for a while and just disappear into a book. And for that purpose I will pick up best sellers – I’m not doing it for intellectual reasons, just escapism. Occasionally I’ll find something I’ve always meant to read and take that on holiday. It’s not always appropriate; for example I remember trying to read ‘Wild Swans’ whilst on holiday in the south of France. Buts it’s the only chance I get.

Ruth Reed is an architect and teacher. She is president-elect of the RIBA

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