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John Seager: 'Life isn't a rehearsal'

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The new chief executive of Siglion, John Seager describes client advice, his company’s mission and how architects fit with its ambitious plans for Sunderland in 2015

Explain your role and the setup with Carillion and Igloo.
I am leading on delivering the ambitions of Siglion and ensuring the company’s mission and objectives are carried out across the private, public and voluntary sectors. Igloo is providing development management, asset management and fund management expertise in a new joint venture with its long-term partner Carillion and Sunderland City Council.

What are you hoping to achieve in Sunderland?
Siglion will take forward development on five sites across the city, along with the management of a portfolio of investment assets.

Where does design fit into your plans?
Good design combined with a deep understanding of a place creates the best developments, where people want to live and work long term. Our approach in Sunderland is therefore design-led, bringing together a set of nationally recognised design practices with the best local firms to create a series of special, distinctive places.

What architects are working with you, and what is their brief?
URBED is the masterplanner, and initial proposals were put together with the help of the full architectural team, which is Arca, Ash Sakula, dRMM, Faulkner Browns, FAT, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, Fitz, Mae, MawsonKerr, Studio Egret West and xsite.

We have considered how the ages of commerce have influenced the city, and how the design of the past is informing this next regeneration, to help create a blueprint for the city’s future.

Are you looking for more architects as the scheme progresses? And how will you procure them?
Siglion’s first tasks include advancing the development briefs for the key sites, and we will be talking initially to the practices that worked with us in 2013/14.

What do you want from an architect? Equally what don’t you want?
We believe that large developments all designed by one architect - however good - tend to be dull and lack character and diversity. Our approach is therefore to bring together a team of architects, urban designers, landscape architects and ourselves as development managers to brainstorm a response to the site.

What could the government do for you in Sunderland?
Ensure the council has adequate funding to resource all of the planning applications we aim to be submitting in 2015!

What regeneration project inspires you most?
Argent’s King’s Cross London scheme stands out for its sheer scale of ambition and long-term addiction to design quality.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
A friend of mine said to me recently: ‘life isn’t a rehearsal’. I like that.

John Seager, CEO, Siglion

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