My ambition during my youth was to join the Royal Air Force, a space where academia is outperformed by vocational experience, to do, to try, to think and win as teams, to move through long grass with some camouflage paint on, and of course to wear a little beret; amongst all the wider and honourable implications there are of being in the forces.
Alas after visiting the RAF Cranwell as part of officer selection, my glorious and medal clad future was dismissed for medical reasons. I was not fit for war. My career path was going to have to swiftly realign to some other vocation.
As a graduate of Ravensbourne, my brother invited me to speak with his tutor, Architect and Professor Layton Reid, a maverick of the profession. Non-conformist in his approach to teaching, he led Ravensbourne through its glory years, and didn’t select people for the course because they were already good, but people who weren’t sure if they could be good. He gave me a position on the course, outside of UCAS points, outside of the rules. I owed him, and I paid.
I did anything and everything I could to support this new career. I achieved a first, I worked with Aberrant Architecture as Architects in Residence at the V&A Museum, and after graduation worked at Foster + Partners for a year. I worked with Gensler when I could over three summers, and secured a place at the Bartlett School of Architecture. I worked at MATT Architecture designing a large scale office scheme in Wimbledon, and co-founded my own practice ThirdWay Architecture.
I was never inspired just by looking at great architecture, my father took me to see Rome and told me to look at the architecture, like it was obvious what I should be seeing, but I could never quite relate to it in that way. What I learnt from the opportunity that Layton Reid gave me, was that, when faced with a problem in architecture, you do not have to be great, but you have to be honest, and you have to be vulnerable.
Architecture and the history of architecture is full of profound narratives and complex ideas that are impenetrable even for the most academic of us, of which I happily exclude myself. Being present, trying, and testing your experiences against the briefs that are set at school, to college, to university and beyond is all that you have to do to enjoy it, and to be good at it. It’s only when you bring ego to the table that it becomes hard.
Watch Petr’s interview with MoA Founder and Director Melissa Woolford below and on MoA IGTV Channel