If you've ever walked through Terminal 4 at Heathrow airport, you've experienced first-hand the architecture of British design practice Scott Brownrigg. Offering architecture, interior design, urban design, town planning and masterplanning services across all major sectors including office, hospitality, sport and leisure, advanced technology, education and defence, the award-winning practice is in the Architect's Journal AJ100 top 10 and for many years running has been listed in the BD World Architecture WA100 as one of the top 100 design firms in the world. With a heritage spanning more than 100 years, Scott Brownrigg is known for timeless, sustainable design with a motto of enriching lives through the built environment. With nine offices globally, we are pleased to chat with architect Victoria Savage from the Cardiff branch for our Voice of an Architect series, where she explains why she believes good design can change lives.
What is your favourite building and why?
The Pantheon in Rome. Legend has it that the original Pantheon was built as an homage to none other than Rome’s founder Romulus, however, it had to be rebuilt at least twice because of destructive fires and lightning over the years. The Roman wonder as we know it today has been dated back to 120 AD and the design accredited to (then) famous Greek architect Apollodorus of Damascus, commissioned by Emperor Trajan, but then finished for his successor Hadrian. Over the course of my university studies, I had seen copious images and visuals of the Pantheon’s dome and interior and so couldn’t wait to see it first-hand. Having visited Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona two years previously, I was expecting a similar rigmarole of barriers and staggered entry, however, our arrival at The Pantheon involved nothing of the sort as we were swept along into the visiting crowd. As a result, the juxtaposition of the bustling city square outside compared to the tranquil and reverent atmosphere inside was even more pronounced. I was taken aback to be suddenly standing in the centre of this iconic interior and my gaze instinctively travelled upwards where it remained transfixed upon the jewel in The Pantheon’s crown: its 143ft diameter dome, justifiably boast-able as the uncontested largest unsupported dome in the world. It was literally breath-taking and I remember gasping in delight at the sheer beauty and splendour that emanated from that simple and subtle yet utterly sublime space. To the concern of my family, I was hit with a wave of emotion and wonder that I have never again experienced and wonder if there will ever be an architectural experience as raw and unexpected to equal those memorable few minutes utterly caught up and captivated by the spatial harmony that I suddenly came face to face with.
What is your favourite project you have worked on and why?
Since joining Scott Brownrigg, I have been part of the Education Team and so, with the exception of a brief secondment to a residential project, for the majority of my time I have enjoyed working on secondary schools at various locations in the UK. My favourite would have to be the Great Western Academy in Swindon, as I was privileged to be involved with the latter stages of construction and client engagement, which made attending its official opening last October such a rewarding and thrilling event. We really felt able to capture and bring to life the school’s vision for their pupils and the heart of their learning ethos. The building is easy to navigate and utilises both indoor and outdoor breakout spaces as well as providing spacious learning resource areas and sporting facilities, enhancing its usability for engagement with the local community, too. Getting such positive feedback from their Headteacher absolutely made my day and reminded me why I trained to do the job I do.
Do you have a favourite quote?
“Unless The Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain.” King Solomon’s Psalm 127, the Bible
What is the most satisfying part of being an architect?
Being able to help people on whatever level: schools mean school places for learners; hospitals mean places to get better; homes mean places to make memories and build family life. Breaking this down even more to an emotional level, the creation of beauty evokes delight, and achievement of harmony brings peace and comfort to the soul.
How would you describe your design philosophy?
For as long as I can remember, I have never been drawn to a particular style or typology of architecture. Instead, when asked what my favourite type of building to design would be, I have always replied, “One that helps people.” It is this emotive architecture that I believe in and I am passionate in the power it has to change lives - it is the benefit made by good design that counts. Equally, as a Christian, I personally believe that God has given us stewardship over the earth and all its finite resources; it behoves us to take our responsibilities to the next generation seriously and be aware of how our professional decision-making can be of the most sustainable nature. As architects we should stay reliably informed so that our designs take matters of ecology and sustainability into consideration from the very moment of conception.
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