Simon grew up in Whitley Bay, then completed his Part 1 studies in Architecture at Newcastle University. He worked locally before heading up to Edinburgh College of Art and University to complete his Part 2.
I’ve always been keen on sketching and drawing, and when I was growing up my dad was always doing DIY at home and I took a keen interest in trying to help and understand how things went together. I managed to get some early work experience within an architectural practice and this lead me to study it. I knew that the profession had different routes which I could follow and I’ll always be learning.
What I like about architecture, and particularly working for GSSArchitecture, is that we get to see projects at all stages from initial concept, detailing and through to construction. This means we get to interrogate a brief, prepare concepts and designs but also have a focus on how it will be detailed so it can be built and delivered. No two days are the same and we work in a variety of sectors and sizes of projects which keeps your brain ticking. The complexity of projects means you are constantly learning and challenging yourselves.
My own favourite project is the National Innovation Centre at Newcastle Helix (Science Central). This project houses two very different end user groups in the National Innovation Centre for Ageing and the National Innovation Centre for Data and is part of Newcastle University. The client brief, form of the building and the detailing has been both high quality and bespoke and the learning curve for us all in the practice has been great to be a part of.
I’ve also been involved in projects for injured serviceman and medical injury cases, which was such a rewarding experience to see what difference even the simplest of adaptions and creative solutions could do to people’s day-to-day lives that we often take for granted.
My favourite project by another architect is the Santa Caterina market in Barcelona by Catalan practice EMBT. I love travelling and visiting food markets - this project is essentially just a roof with a food market below, but I love the way the roof is designed, full of colour and shape. It shows what can be done on a surrounded city site and is a creative reuse of parts of the old building. The traders and public go about their business in the bustling market which is full of character - such a difference from supermarkets.
The biggest challenge I’ve faced was getting through the last recession. I was studying for my Part 3 and we were working restricted hours in the office to not have to make any redundancies. It was hard for people joining the industry as work was scarce and opportunities were limited. We were still working around the clock to deliver projects, and while it was hard going it taught me some very good lessons in the importance of having both a diverse portfolio of work but also how important the individuals within the team around you are for the success of the business and keeping each other going when times are tough.
Some of the best ideas come from informal discussions in the office about places we have visited or personal experiences from life outside of the office. Architecture is a people industry. We design buildings and places for people and communities from every walk of life whilst working with teams of other consultants, contractors and clients. You need different life experiences, knowledge, views and diversity within your own workplace and profession to constantly keep moving and stay relevant.
Simon Rennison-Rae, GSSArchitecture