This has been a very social week, with dinners and lunches with many people in London.
On Tuesday evening your grandmother and I had dinner with Cynthia Oakes, who had wanted us to meet her cousin Hattie, who is a journalist with Architect’s Journal magazine. Hattie has been a great champion of the sustainability agenda from the early days, and it turns out that a profile on Patrick Bellew and Jonathan Smales’s project for the Earth Centre was one of her very first commissions as a journalist. Hattie was so positive and encouraging about the dream of bringing together my passion for innovation and beauty in design with an ambition to measurably improve human well-being through architecture. We will see her again at the end of January, when she and her husband come for a long Sunday lunch at our house.
On Friday, Tanvir invited me to visit her at Insall Architects, where she directs restoration and conservation projects throughout the United Kingdom. Over lunch at the Villandry Café, we talked about the possibility of collaborating together on projects next year. She tells me that while her clients used to ask her office to do the conservation work and give advice for adaptive reuse and extensions, that increasingly clients are simply asking them to take on everything.
Her idea of partnering with young studios like mine is a beautiful idea. It brings together fresh thinking about design and technology with deep experience and understanding of historical architecture and details. This would be an enormous opportunity to learn, and also to have more conversations about the embedded wisdom that we find in vernacular design and details, and how that thinking can enrich contemporary design practice.
Vernacular and historical styles of architecture have an incredible sophistication of technical accomplishment, mainly due to the fact that they evolved through trial and error over hundreds of years. As we design in a contemporary setting, our technical details and material strategies are much more diverse and divergent. Many of the technologies that we use have not been tested for a generation, let alone a century. I believe that we can use computer programming and genetic algorithms to reproduce the deep evolution of style and solutions that historical architecture has traditionally achieved. Learning from Tanvir and her colleagues should help me along in that agenda.
With all warmest wishes, your grandfather. 7 December, 2014.