This is the first of what will be a regular blog from MPA. For those of you that know me, you may be wondering why I should start to write now, and for those that know me well, you may be thinking I normally let people know what I am thinking so why do I need to blog.
These blog posts form part of our rebranding, and relaunch of MPA. I must admit to having been a little sceptical at the outset of this project, but for me, after 30 plus years in practice, it has been one of the most interesting and enlightening experiences.
The reason we started the process was relatively prosaic. The lease on our old studio in Bermondsey was due to expire at the end of the summer and, given the substantial rental and rate rises that were on the horizon, the decision to relocate was in some ways made for us. It was a wonderful location next to the river, and the ground floor meeting area was a particularly great space, albeit one which made the occasional visitor seasick! The problem with the location was the first floor studio which, quite apart from the low beams which could render any six footer unconscious, it never really felt conducive to the interaction and openness that we had wanted to achieve.
So, faced with a need to relocate, we decided that perhaps we should also look at the business as a whole, and use the opportunity to assess what we do and the way we do it. To help us do this we brought in the branding consultants BTL Brands. They are headed up by Stu Lewin, one of the most insightful individuals I have met in many years. The starting point for us was a workshop led by Stu which engaged with the senior team of architectural and administration staff to answer three basic questions; ‘what do we do?’, ‘how do we do it?’ and, perhaps, most interestingly ‘why do we do it?’
The first two are relatively straightforward. We make, hopefully, well designed buildings or interiors, and do this with the help and input of a large number of consultants and specialist contractors. When it came to the last question ‘why do we do it’, I must admit the answers we got were very interesting. There is, of course, the usual desire to create outstanding design and architecture, of which others will be the judge. However, what we also discovered within the team was the importance of the people we work with, both in the studio and in the wider professional team.
Of all the reasons why we do it, this is perhaps the most important. When we look back, we hope to remember projects as providing the best solution to the challenge set by the brief. Hopefully the result is fantastic ‘Architecture’, but what we remember most are the people who helped create it. For me, the people can make all the difference, including the blossoming of a new Part II assistant into a fully-fledged architect, the client who engages with the team and by his input challenges us to do better, and the contractor who not only builds what we draw but also works with us to create a built solution that is better than we had envisaged. My suspicion is that we can all make that list of people and relate them to places or projects.
Sometimes these people will make a great project, sometimes the people will make a difficult project bearable, but whatever the outcome, it is the people that you remember.
“Sometimes these people will make a great project, sometimes the people will make a difficult project bearable, but whatever the outcome, it is the people that you remember.”
Our branding exercise has, perhaps surprisingly, produced an outcome that shows a big part of what gets us up in the morning and brings us into our shiny new office. It is the desire to work with interesting people as much as it is to make great places. It is then perhaps no coincidence that our new brand message is, “Building lasting relationships between people and places”.
Damn, these branding consultants are good!