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A
Z
Make’s past, present and future
现在
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Make’s past, present and future

Our founder reflects on where we’ve been as a practice, where we’re heading, and some of the highs and lows along the way.

Looking back over the past 15 years, do you have a favourite Make project?

It has to be 5 Broadgate. I think the building was a game changer in terms of office buildings, and for the client, the sustainability agenda and the long-term legacy of the estate. I never set out for Make to design bland, nondescript buildings, but 5 Broadgate was divisive and has pushed the agenda. I’m very proud of what we delivered. I think it’s beautiful – there’s nothing else like it.

What would you say are the projects that ‘got away’?

I was incredibly proud of our competition proposals for the Lord’s cricket ground extension and for FC Barcelona’s new Palau Blaugrana – both would have been amazing to win. But the one I was most disappointed to lose was for Soho in Beijing. Our design was really ambitious and beautiful, a flamboyant archway with a superb facade, and I was sad to miss out on the chance to build it.

If you could change one thing about Make’s history, what would it be?

Probably the need for redundancies due to projects stopping. Our Makers are what make this practice what it is, and it never gets any easier making those sorts of business decisions.

How has the industry changed since Make was established 15 years ago?

The focus on technology is in an entirely different league now – we have VR headsets used as part and parcel of our project design and models run off the 3D printers overnight. We use BIM and Revit in design, which has streamlined the process, and we have modular and pre-fab construction, which was only in its infancy when we started up. Tech has opened up a wealth of opportunities. I still have my 0.9 Pentel pencil and sketch pad, though.

What would your advice be for someone starting out now?
My top tips would be:

  • Never take yes for an answer. I learnt this saying over 45 years ago, and the past 15 years have shown that it doesn’t wane as a fundamental principle of working in this industry. Question everything, especially the answers you get!
  • Develop a thick skin if you have opinions.
  • Build up a strong network of contacts and keep in touch with them. You never know where the next job will come from.
  • Keep tech at the curve of creativity. Invest, collaborate and partner up to keep moving forwards.
  • Step outside of your comfort zone. The learning curve is incredibly steep, but lack of preconceptions affords a huge opportunity for creativity, so use it!

After 15 years of Make, what do you think sets it apart from any other practice?

I think curiosity and being totally design-focused are the key to all our projects. Collaboration and giving back are also crucial. We do so much to embed ourselves in the industry and work with experts in other fields through initiatives like the Future Spaces Foundation, our new Exchange series and The Architecture Drawing Prize, and by mentoring for fantastic organisations like the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust. These ambitions stand outside of our commercial architecture work and enrich us deeply as a practice.

And of course the employee ownership model is so important in the way we set up Make. It’s one of the things I’m proudest of – that everyone is credited for what they design and produce. It’s fundamental to the way Make works, and I’m delighted that so many other practices have emulated parts of the model, having witnessed its success. That said, none have been brave enough yet to go 100% employee-owned!

There have been some infamous Make parties over the years – which one stands out in your memory?

To spare the blushes of our friends and clients, I’ll choose a Make-only party. There was a classic Christmas party in 2006, in a church of all places, in Birmingham. It was rather more luxe than our usual affair, but it still ended up with Make Band guitar solos from the pulpit and involuntary fancy dress outfits.

London’s party for 2018 was far less elaborate – we held it in our studio – but it reminded me of the early Make days. It was wonderfully innovative, with a crazy golf course made by our own modelshop and lots of bright costumes.

Any client-related howlers over the years?

We once pitched for a masterplan with a metal model that ripped a gash in the client’s mahogany board table! And another time we were at a major public exhibition with the client and council representatives, and the public realm board had the word ‘public’ spelt out in huge letters – with the L missing.

Where do you see Make in the next 15 years?

I think we’ll have some fantastic, profile-raising infrastructure projects on the books and hopefully more public places too. I hope to see more places, spaces and buildings that lift the spirits and change people’s lives for the better.

We’ve built 84 fantastic projects since we started Make, which is incredible and unbelievable, really – way beyond our expectations. We’ve managed to achieve ten times over what we set out to do. And it already feels like a wonderful legacy.

 

Article extracted from Make Annual 15.