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Faces of Architecture: Peter Mouncey, FaulknerBrowns Architects

RIBA North East members showcase their diversity, skills, interest and backgrounds, highlighting how it has impacted on their careers within architecture.

26 March 2018

Peter wanted to study architecture from a young age. He studied at Canterbury and went to work for Hopkins Architects. Early on in his career he moved to Newcastle and fell in love with the region and its landscapes. Peter has an interest in sustainability and is widely involved in sustainability initiatives with Constructing Excellence and BSI. He represents an established generation of architects in the region who continue to try to break the mold for research, sustainability and Architecture.

Peter has an interest in sustainability and is widely involved in sustainability initiatives with Constructing Excellence and BSI. He represents an established generation of architects in the region who continue to try to break the mold for research, sustainability and Architecture.

It was my Art teacher at school who first suggested that Architecture might be something that suited the subjects that interested me (I took Art, English, Maths and Physics at A-Level), but it was the tremendous variety of different types of projects and ways of working that drew me in and has kept me interested.

I was born in Rainham in Essex, close to the Thames Marshes and on the boundary between the flat fields of Essex and the industrial areas on the eastern edge of London.

When I was studying at Canterbury in the early 1980s, I was excited by the integration of high-tech industry and technology into the design of buildings. The project that I most admired then and is still a touchstone for me is the Schlumberger Research Centre in Cambridge – which blends technology with a craft-based understanding of how to assemble materials and a creative solution to a difficult brief.

After studying and working in Kent, I moved to Newcastle in 1989 after spending a week on a National Trust volunteer project at Cragside. At that time I knew very little about the region other than it seemed to have a more interesting landscape and it offered me the possibility of buying my own house at a time when property prices in the south east were rising far more quickly than my income! I quickly came to love the area and the people – whilst I may not have the accent, a love of Newcastle and Northumberland now runs through me and I am proud to call this home.

After studying I went on to work at Hopkins Architects, whilst living in Newcastle, I commuted to work in London for more than 8 years. Here, I was fortunate to work with various specialist contractors, craftsmen and artists – developing design solutions based on a clear understanding of the properties of materials such as timber, cast glass and tension membranes. One of my favourites was the Alnwick Garden Pavilion and Visitor Centre, where we blended PTFE tension technology with ETFE inflation techniques and thin foil insulation to create an innovative design solution that I don’t think has yet been repeated anywhere else in the world. We incorporated things like a ground source heat pump and thermal rock store into the building to enable it to become more sustainable, but perhaps more importantly it has helped to further links with the local community and stimulate regional regeneration.

Outside of direct project related work on promoting sustainability, I am a member of the Constructing Excellence Sustainability Group and over the last few years I have been helping to write the various parts of BS 8895 Designing for material efficiency in building projects (we are currently working on part 3, dealing with the Technical Design stage issues)

I think that creating a more sustainable society is something that demands all of us to take individual responsibility when making our life choices – I now cycle more miles a year than I drive, I try to buy locally produced food and avoid unnecessary packaging, I am very energy conscious and I have an ambition to build a home to Passivhaus standards if I can find a suitable plot.

I believe every project provides us with an opportunity to learn something new about a particular building type and the things that are important to an individual client. These insights into someone else’s world and the challenges that we are set on individual projects provide the primer to being creative, and ultimately it is contributing to ‘making’ something that is valued by others that is the main reward

We increasingly live in a global community and I see diversity as enriching rather than threatening our lives.

Looking back over the last 50+ years, it is hard to believe how unfair things were for so many people. Whilst we have come a long way in my lifetime, there are still barriers to equality and social inclusion. As Architects, we have an opportunity and a responsibility to keep removing these barriers in the way that we work and in the designs that we produce.

In terms of equality, over the past 50 years I can’t think of a particular example that encapsulates the breadth and scale of changes and to a certain extent my experience of coming from a white middle class family has probably coloured my views. When I first became an architect we didn’t really consider accessibility as something that helped to make buildings more successful, and thinking about things like how to respect cultural diversity in the design of buildings is far more recent. So i believe we are still on that journey - whilst the scope and destination continues to evolve, we are still moving in the right direction.

Peter’s contribution is part of our Faces of Architecture campaign, celebrating the diversity of architects in the North East. If you’d like to get involved, contact Amy Tomlinson

Peter Mouncey, FaulknerBrowns Architects

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