MoA invited the directors of MATT + FIONA to share their personal journeys into architecture with us.
I loved art and drawing as a child. I also enjoyed the challenge of designing and making. I’ve always been curious about people. What makes us tick, the stories we all carry. Architecture seemed to be a way to combine all of these loves.
The focus of architecture at university in the early 00s wasn’t enough on people, so I wanted to steer my working roles in that direction. If I am really honest there also wasn’t enough happiness; my days of undergraduate study were marred by an eating disorder. So I’ve strived ever since to make architectural education more fun (and by that I mean a space in which mistakes and experimentation are welcomed as the process by which we learn), more relevant to everyone and more open to enjoying multiple influences rather than a singular vision.
Volunteering with children while completing my degree, teaching and then working in the learning team at architecture education charity Open-City – where I met Matt – opened my eyes to how you can often have more agency when you’re in the margins of a discipline, rather than centre stage. This appealed to me then and still does.
It is something very special to be able to help children take what is in their imagination and make it a reality. Why does the world need to look the way a few individuals have decided it should be? Why can’t we all question the status quo? It is a privilege to be able to do so with such a diverse range of voices. I am always learning.
Concurrently and unforgivably in this day and age, social mobility continues to go backwards, particularly in the creative industries. Until I see this tide change, I will be driven to undertake these rather mad but wonderful builds – and hopefully raise aspirations, build skills and open up new avenues for the next generation.
I’d love to have more time. Matt, Lucy, Tilly and I all have multiple jobs. That is good – it keeps things fresh and you definitely don’t get bored – but it is also born out of financial necessity. It would be amazing to have more time to devote to this initiative and to maximising the value it can offer. More time to draw, paint and make would also be fun, and to test out new models for collaborative practice, design and making.
Project – Room For Art
I remember the moment on a beach, aged 13, when I decided I wanted to become an architect: At the time it seemed to be the form of artistic expression that could most profoundly be experienced by others. My Careers Adviser closed down that ambition because my maths and physics were below standard. I went to art school to study sculpture, but soon realised I was not a fine artist. An inspired tutor saw my potential to collaboratively, creatively problem-solve and enabled my application to the Macintosh School, Glasgow in 1992.
My architectural education at the Mac and the Bartlett tutored me in the creative and technical processes of designing buildings as an individual author. Nothing prepared me for the reality of architectural practice where the process of making architecture is a collaborative, shared process where negotiation, and sometimes compromise, are generally critical to success.
I do what I do because I can see the profound and positive impact my collaborations bring to others. By sharing the skills I have gleaned over the years, I am able to empower and enable those I work with to positively shape the places in which they live, work and play.
Much of my time is spent being reactive and consumed by the morass of decision making and agitating that required to bring our projects to life. One very small positive to be gained from all our recent isolation, is the real benefit that having mental space to reflect, brings to thinking creatively and strategically. As the world speeds back up I will cherish this space and defend it from being eroded. I hope to think more, do less and make better.
Project: Made In Oakfield
Watch Matt and Fiona’s interview with Melissa Woolford, Founder and Director of MoA.
You can find out more about MATT + FIONA and their work by visiting their website mattandfiona.org