Hugh Broughton Architects

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Learning from: Group Effort

Published in Architecture Today, 20 June 2015

Collaboration lends strength and solace to architectural practice, says Hugh Broughton, in Architecture Today's regular column 'Learning from'.

I studied at Edinburgh University from 1983–1990 in the only year group that was taught by Izi Metzstein from start to finish. Harsh, critical and more than occasionally demoralising, the education that we enjoyed with him was also inspiring, hilariously good fun, and totally supportive, encouraging exploration whilst in equal measure relishing your own regular downfall. As much of our learning was conducted in the pub as it was in the studio where we discovered more evidence of his generosity, rapier wit and irrevocable ability to cut to the chase, whatever the subject. The lessons learnt were innumerable and often indefinable, but what was clear was that if we wanted to become good architects we would need to rely on clarity of thought, rigour and sheer hard work as we travelled on a journey that would be shared with many other people.

Eschewing the philosophy of Original Thought, I also learnt that architecture is created through an amalgamation of knowledge, precedent, emotion and above all collaboration. The spirit of this collaboration can take multiple forms. Like many others I have been lucky to work with some great engineers, consultant teams and of course clients. I have also shared a studio with numerous talented architects, contributing creativity, insight and extraordinary hard work in equal measure as we strive for an original reinterpretation of age-old solutions to ancient challenges.

These traditional architectural relationships are then overlaid with other forms of influence. My father’s passion for the natural world fuelled my own interests in the fusion of man made and natural environments. This paternal influence subliminally led to our entry for the Halley VI Antarctic Research Station competition, whilst my seven-year-old son’s passion for Thunderbirds gave birth to the solution. To develop an approach with the clarity of vision needed to overcome competitors of enviable talent, I turned to my former employer, Jamie Troughton, who was by then an occasional collaborator with our practice on schemes north of the border. Matching Izi Metzstein for generosity, he coached our young team through the competition process to ensure that we could match our competitors in communicating ideas and innovations with clarity, wit and an occasional touch of the dramatic. 

Halley VI Antarctic Research Station

Halley VI Antarctic Research Station

The daily joy I get from practicing our profession comes from the constant recognition that I know so little and have to learn so much from so many different sources. Every project presents new challenges and demands its own carefully crafted response. But if ever this thought weighs me down I seek solace that there are always people around us ready to help, guide, teach, cajole and encourage us along the tightrope to achieving something half decent.