I designed and built a boat stand which allowed you to work on your boat individually and to be able to rotate through 360 degrees with no help required (I sailed and windsurfed a lot at the time). The design won a Design Council Design Award nationally and I will always remember the trip John and I made to London from Knutsford (a big event!) together towing this thing to Alexandra Palace to receive the award. I will forever be indebted to the teaching, friendship and mentoring from my college days.
So what to do? I was reading books like Small is Beautiful by EF Schumacher and The Waste Makers by Vance Packard to name a few and these were hugely influential. So I decided to become an Industrial Designer.
That came to a juddering holt when I discovered I needed to do an art foundation course at the local college which meant one more year at home. So I went to see a friend who had just started studying Architecture at Sheffield University. What a weekend we had! He showed me the projects, the work, the studio, his architecture friends, what a clique! And he showed me a future. And he said one very important thing. He said ‘become an architect and you will learn to design everything! It doesn’t have to be a building that’s just the start!’ So I did. And I have ever since, that was 1989.
I studied at Oxford Polytechnic and loved it. I am privileged to love what I do and yet in many ways it was a bit of pot luck along the way to find that right place. Starting a career in architecture wasn’t about the buildings I loved, the great cities I admired, the architects I respected; it was about ordinary people making their mark on my life – the friends, teachers and books I read. It was a desire to change something, create, make and craft things and to make the world a great place and better for all. Throughout my career I have designed and worked on many beautiful buildings and with some fantastic people but why I became an architect was a journey of discovery and exploration and it started with building the suspension on my model race car at 1/12th scale.
In this video interview, Julian Gitsham spoke to Melissa Woolford of MoA on his invention of a boat stand and being innovative in architecture. He also expanded on how thinking differently as architects could help society as a whole, and the changes an architect could make and influence.