I was in my new favourite shop, Southsea Local, this week getting a coffee and some supplies for a summer lunch when the chap behind the counter said: “You’re an architect, aren’t you? You might know my dad.” I’ll save going into names here, but yes, it turns out I do. He ran a successful practice doing some large projects. “Is he still practising?” I enquire whilst eyeing up a citrus bun. It turns out he is but is working from home, having slowed down in what most people call their retirement years. We, architects, don’t often stop. He was doing small projects and enjoying it. “Good to hear. Pass on my regards.”
As I walked home, oat latte in one hand and a brown paper bag of supplies under the other arm (yep, no bin bags for life here), I started to think about my retirement years. Maybe I’ve got it all wrong. I enjoy doing small projects now. I love helping people with their homes. I’ve tried just about everything else – museums, airports, offices, and what I do now is right for me. Not that I’m taking it easy, you understand, eighty projects a year is not the stuff of slowing down. But I like working with people who are spending their own money on themselves; I like houses, especially older houses, and improving them for others to care for.
So, what have I got ‘all wrong?’ I plan to build a small market town when I get to retirement age. Think Portmeirion meets Cranborne. It will be like those little villages you come across on holiday, a place that isn’t all luxury, that ages well, that can take some dirt and fag butts in the crevices and still be charming. A place where you can get a coffee after 3.30 pm or a Milano-Torino, buy a book, sit in the shade and look across the water. It will have a smart hotel, a church (no Wetherspoon’s – it’s not for you) and a pub (ditto).
My imaginary town has been designed in my head for years, but it changes and improves as I learn. New experiences add new features, materials and uses. It will be a challenge for my retirement and not as easy as in the day of Sir Clough Williams-Ellis. Newts, bats, nitrates and nimbies will see to that. But nothing worthwhile ever got done without a push. We’ll need around 12 acres to make it worth doing, a sloping site and some water to make it interesting. If you have any suggestions for locations, drop me a line.
Everyone ends in different ways. Some slow down, some speed up, some go out with a bang (too young), and some go on (too long). Who knows how it will all pan out, but I plan to do something where my daydreams aren’t a frustrated vision of my promise.
Any comments or suggestions you can get me at email@example.com
Be seeing you.
This Week’s Links
Shop local – shop Southsea Local
Speaking of those little villages you come across on holiday