Resonations #2 Love and Skill

‘When love and skill work together expect a masterpiece’

John Ruskin


As a student in the late eighties I spent a long weekend at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales learning the self build methods pioneered by Walter Segal in his innovative resident led housing scheme in Lewisham. Over the course of four days a disparate group of people of all ages and backgrounds from all parts of the UK (and a couple from mainland Europe too if I remember) came together to build a shed like building with a timber post and beam structure, joisted floor and roof and woodwool slab walls. We would typically attend classroom based sessions in the mornings and then after a delicious lunch in the on site restaurant, we would get out the saws and screwdrivers for a practical afternoon of building. Learning and working together towards a shared goal gave us not only a sense of achievement, but also real fun. For a boy from Wigan more used to meat pies than the 100% vegetarian fare in the restaurant, my digestive system was also being introduced to new things, and I was not the only one. Our physical exertions after lunch were accompanied not so musically by a series of parps and barfs that often had us all helplessly in stitches.


Fifteen years later I was in Edinburgh managing a forty strong team of architects working on the Scottish Parliament project. Our Lead Designer, Enric Miralles, described the process of procuring a building as an ‘extended conversation’ which started between client and architect, and grew as engineers, quantity surveyors, council planners, joiners, stonemasons, plumbers and electricians all became involved. The Parliament project itself was not without its problems and seemed to attract an almost daily onslaught of negative media coverage. And yet that united the design and construction team in an ‘us against the rest’ mentality that undoubtedly contributed to the success of the project. Everyone involved in the project was inspired to go the extra mile, whether as a reaction to the media coverage, because of a belief in the function of the building or a desire to deliver the deceased Miralles’ vision.


The best buildings share that common goal. Where a joiner is inspired to do their best as much as an architect. Working together, giving love to the project as well as skill.


Illustration Scottish Parliament MSP Bay Window sketch by Enric Miralles