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Allan Corfield Architects. Meet the team – Sean
Our ‘meet the team’ series focuses on our company and the people who make it great! We know that entrusting someone with the task of building your dream home is a very difficult decision to make.
Therefore, we believe that you should get to know each of us, and see that our reputation for great service is due, not only to our qualifications and experience – but is also our passion. Today we are presenting an interview with Sean, our Architects Assistant.
Sean gained an Honours Degree in Architectural Studies and a Postgraduate Diploma in Advanced Architectural Design and worked at several Architectural practices, being involved in a variety of large commercial and small domestic projects over a number of years. When the recession hit and Architectural positions became scarce, an opportunity presented itself to work as Surveyor.
Sean attended University part-time to obtain an Honours Degree in Quantity Surveying whilst working. Being involved in residential projects as a QS made Sean identify a keen interest and enthusiasm for housing. Sean then embarked on a self-build project for himself designing and managing the build.
Sean met Allan for the first time at a meeting to finalise the SIPS kit for his house. Impressed with the meeting, Allan offered Sean a position within the ACA team as a Part II Architectural Assistant with the intention of working towards Part III and becoming a Chartered Architect.
After one and half years in our practice, Sean has proved himself to be a talented and skilled asset to the team. He is the life and soul of the office so we can safely say that he contributes a lot, not only in terms of his architectural expertise but also to the positive atmosphere and ethos of ACA. We would like you to get to know Sean better, and we are happy to present you this interview.
YOU HAVE BEEN A MEMBER OF THE TEAM FOR A WHILE NOW, TELL ME WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT ACA?
Unlike many of the practices I have been a part, the work environment at ACA is pretty relaxed and friendly. This, along with continual team discussion and collaboration boosts productivity and makes the practice an enjoyable place to work. I like managing my own projects and enjoy both the responsibility and sense of achievement this brings.
ACA IS NOT THE FIRST COMPANY IN THIS INDUSTRY THAT YOU HAVE WORKED FOR, WHERE DID YOU WORK BEFORE YOU JOINED ACA?
Prior to joining the ACA team, I graduated from Caledonian University with an Honours Degree in Quantity Surveying and practiced as a surveyor for three years. This provided me with an alternative construction industry perspective and broadened my knowledge and experience. Quantity Surveying has given me costing skills that are often useful when advising clients on self-build budgets and not something generally considered an Architect’s forte.
Before this I worked for a small practice that focused on residential projects, providing my first experience of private domestic clients which I enjoyed. I had worked for several other practices on commercial projects, but I find domestic more interesting. During the recession, I worked on site for nearly two years as a general labourer. This was a great experience I learned a lot from. I feel all design team professionals should spend a bit of time doing physical labour on site. It makes you appreciate the hard work the tradesman put in on site to actually construct the building.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO JOIN ACA?
I was introduced to ACA during the construction process of my own self-build project. Allan was on hand to assist with SIPS kit detailing. After a friendly and helpful meeting, he suggested I join the team to gain my Part 3, allowing me to become a chartered architect. The ACA and SIPS Industries teams seemed like a good group of people and there was an energy and passion when they discussed projects. A few months later I decided to switch back to architecture.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE STRONGEST ADVANTAGE OF ACA?
Personal relationships are a particular ACA strong point. Each member of the team builds a strong, personal rapport with clients that is vital when carrying out a self-build project.
Creativity and product knowledge are strong within the practice. Each member of the team offers different design vision and skill sets resulting in a diverse working environment, guaranteeing no two projects are the same. We are always looking for new and creative solutions to meet the client’s brief. As sustainability and environmental impact become ever more prevalent, products and technologies are continually evolving, which keeps things interesting.
DO YOU LIKE WORKING IN DESIGNING RESIDENTIAL ONE-OFF HOMES?
I particularly enjoy working on these types of projects as they are fast paced and personal involvement is high. With large commercial projects such as schools, office buildings or shopping centres it can be easy to become lost within a larger design team. With Self Build, the progress is noticeable and you can soon see your hard work taking shape.
There is a high level of satisfaction with this kind of projects. I think a lot of this comes from the personal investment in the build from both myself and the clients who are spending their hard-earned money. That level of involvement and individuality is often lacking in commercial projects.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT SELF BUILD?
As my own self-build project nears completion I feel my own experience has bolstered my interest in this type of architecture. As a kid, I would imagine what it would be like to design and build interesting houses. The self-build house is in many ways the ultimate type of architecture. I am a firm believer in architecture that engages with the building’s occupants or users whilst enhancing their experience.
Buildings can look fantastic, but if the people using them do not enjoy living there, I feel the design is not successful. Creating someone’s home is very personal and will enhance the clients’ lives for years to come. Clients engage with the design process in a personal way which makes my job more interesting. There is also satisfaction in being able to help realise someone’s dream home.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO BE AN ARCHITECT? DID YOU CONSIDER ANY OTHER CAREERS?
When I was younger I became enchanted with the idea of becoming a pilot. I felt a natural excitement and an element of glamour surrounding the profession and the idea of controlling an aircraft. Over time I realised that this would mean long periods of time away from my family. A job in the construction industry was always considered. Several generations of my family have been involved in construction in one way or another for decades.
As I continued to play with toys such as Lego and K’nex whilst attending various art and photography clubs I realised that perhaps a career in design as part of the construction industry would be a better idea. After attending a few university open days I made up my mind to study architecture and the rest, as they say, is history!
CURRENTLY, YOU ARE A PART 2 ASSISTANT ARCHITECT, WHICH MEANS THAT YOU ARE SOON TO BE A CHARTERED ARCHITECT. TELL US HOW YOUR CURRENT RESPONSIBILITIES DIFFER FROM WHEN YOU WILL BECOME AN ARCHITECT?
Since starting at ACA my responsibilities have steadily increased with each project. I am currently working on a large project of 6, bespoke eco-flats in the south of England, a stark contrast to the extensions I started out on.
This increased responsibility will stand me in good stead as I undertake the part 3 examinations. When I become chartered I expect responsibilities to continue to increase. I expect to be tasked with some more difficult projects such as those with planning difficulties or a particularly difficult site.
DO YOU PURSUE YOUR ARCHITECTURAL INTERESTS WHEN YOU ARE NOT AT WORK IN ANY WAY?
When travelling I enjoy experiencing different kinds of architecture and have a particular interest in the transport architecture which formed the basis of my honours degree dissertation. My partner and I like visiting art galleries and cultural centres in the UK and abroad. These all feed into my inspiration for design and detailing that is put into practice daily. Many people assume Architecture only comes from architectural experience. But in reality, virtually everything we do and are subjected to, influences the creative process and shapes the buildings we produce.
TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR FREE TIME?
Over the last year, my free time has been taken up almost entirely by my new-build project! We were keen to do as much as possible in a bid to keep costs down and also to ensure we were part of the process throughout. We were certainly involved, but Brexit has done it’s best to stretch our limited budget!
Tasks have ranged from applying the membrane to the SIPS kit, battening the roof and fitting external doors and windows all of which have been a steep learning curve! As the build is (finally) coming to an end I hope to have more free time.
Family has always been important to me. I have a close relationship with all of my family and extended family. They have been invaluable during the build, eager to help and join in when required (and sometimes when not required!).
I enjoy mountain biking at numerous sites across Scotland, travelling and exploring new places in the UK and abroad and spending time on my car. I also enjoy attending car shows and visiting production factories again in the UK and abroad.
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