Mick Barker, partner at Stephen George & Partners looks at how architects often branch out into other creative occupations
As specialists in commercial property, we sometimes find the clients are less concerned about the little details and are happy to let you just get on with the interior finishes and fittings. We’re currently working on logistics projects in Russia, and with a tight deadline it matters more to get the job done, rather than who has ownership of interiors.
However, furniture design is something often carried out by Architects, as both activities are concerned with aesthetics and functionality. A chair, for example, has to be constructed from materials, just as a building does. It might be on a smaller scale but it doesn’t require any less commitment to create something that works as a piece of art while performing its function.
Some architects focus more on residential properties and their limit of control can be challenging. For a project that is deeply personal, such as someone’s home, it can be difficult to manage their own design ideas as Architects and those of the clients, especially when they are a couple – who might just disagree with each other!
Just switch on an episode of Grand Designs and you often see an architect pulling their hair out at their client’s inability to see their “vision”. Architects need to know when to let go, in my opinion, and to let a project be exactly what it was designed to be – lived in.
Norman Foster is known for this, apparently not being happy with interior colour schemes that do not conform to his chosen aesthetic – generally greys! Of course his creations are applauded internationally, and it does show a skill in persuading other people to adhere to his design guidelines. Many successful architects are adept at this; you don’t just need to be a skilful and imaginative designer, you need to be able to take the client along with your vision, the art of persuasion.
Many architects are well known for their alternate endeavours, including Frank Lloyd Wright and his love of Japanese art; Charles and Ray Eames and their graphic design projects; and even Le Corbusier, who is often quoted: “Chairs are architecture; sofas are bourgeois”.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh, heralded as one of Scotland’s most influential creative figures, is perhaps the best example of working across mediums with the Glasgow School of Art. So many different elements inside the building were designed by Mackintosh himself, and they all work together perfectly. It’s no surprise a fire earlier this year prompted such a panicked attempt to save as much as humanly possible.
Some architects lean towards furniture design because it’s all of the stuff that goes into a building – it’s inevitably connected. Saying that, you don’t see too many architects branch out into clothing; I certainly wouldn’t try that!
We work alongside landscape architects too and I suppose there’s a crossover there as well. They’re concerned with form, finishes and functionality too. I might not know much about plants, but when the ambition of creating spaces for people to live is the same, I could definitely have a good go at it.