mage: Peter surveying the lie of the land near Builth Wells, Wales (meanwhile, I make him a coffee)

Thoughts for the Weekend & this Week’s Links

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Know Your Place.

I found out yesterday that a friend has died. Sadly, I had lost touch with him in recent years. He is the fourth person I have to report the death of this year. In 2009, we did what Peter called ‘Consultancy Camping’ in empty shops, a ‘new national movement.’ We primarily did it to save money on hotels as we were given the shops by the Welsh government for a week in various towns across Wales to hold community workshops. But it also helped us get under the skin of a place. We were tasked with teaching local distinctiveness under the banner of Know Your Place. We designed a series of fun tasks that local people completed by observing and recording what they valued about their town.

The empty shops were supposed to be the focal point for these workshops, but they were empty for a reason. In most towns, nobody wanted to come in. We had pre-booked workshops with various groups that worked well. Still, Peter was determined to engage with ‘the local community’ and often set off with a pile of worksheets and a fold-up table into the town centre and held court. Where most would have given up on a useless course, Peter always looked for a way to solve a problem. He wasn’t a designer in practice, but in mindset, he very much was. There was always a way to do something better. He’d make Oliver and I record feedback and reflection videos at the end of each day. He was hard work and fun. It is an unusual and insightful video archive I have of this man’s enthusiasm for continued improvement, teaching and learning. Last night, I dug out the old hard drive they are stored on. It was a nice way to remember him after the sadness of hearing his passing. He had been a Royal Naval officer, and along with a brain the size of a planet, it stood him well in his work afterwards. When confronted by something not quite going to plan, he would often say something like, ‘Don’t worry, previous military training has come in very handy.’

Around this time, we worked together on many projects. The design of the Adventure Playground in Somerstown, Portsmouth, resulted from extensive community workshops involving Peter. We became pretty good at turning up at a school, community group or business gathering armed with a vague idea of what we would do and flying by the seat of our pants for two or three hours. We taught teachers at INSET days. We flew to Bologna and ran workshops on local distinctiveness in Italian. I’ve no idea how we did that. I don’t speak Italian, I am sure Peter didn’t, but we somehow managed. He was fearless. His enthusiasm to get the job done, do it meaningfully, and continue to learn was an inspiration. Previous military training certainly came in handy, and Peter’s training continues to be ‘very handy’ in my work and teaching. I am so sad I won’t see him again. But, in Peter style my reflection and feedback is make sure you make the effort to see friends you’ve not seen in a while as soon as possible.

This week’s web links are at half-mast and include a Georgina cottage with a fine sofa, an article about an architect, and a nice simple extension to a New York townhouse. Feel free to let me know if you have any comments or suggestions at carl@carlarchitect.co.uk.

All the best

Carl's signature

This Week’s Links:

David Chipperfield is a British architect who has built very little in the UK.

He even designs briefcases, which will make a comeback in 2024.

An Elegant gut renovation and modern rear extension of a New York house.

Georgian cottage in Highgate with a floral sofa that I would not think I would like until I saw it.

I am surprised I had not heard of  Newgrange in Ireland. It looks amazing and is definitely worth a trip someday.

Use spaghetti to make a risotto. It’s worth a try. It only takes 15 minutes.


Main image credit: Peter surveying the lie of the land near Builth Wells, Wales (meanwhile, I make him a coffee)

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