Allan Corfield Architects. Meet the team – Iga
Our ‘meet the team’ series focuses on our company and the people who make it great! We know that entrusting someone with the task of building your dream home is a very difficult decision to make. Therefore, we believe that you should get to know each of us and find out what makes us tick! Our reputation for great service is due, not only to our qualifications and experience – but our passion.
Today you will find out more about Iga, one of the most experienced Chartered Architects in our team.
In this week ‘meet the team’ article we spoke to Iga, who has worked for ACA for almost 4 years now. Iga started her adventure with Architecture in Poland where she was awarded a Bachelor degree in Architecture and Urban Planning. During her gap year, she visited Scotland, and fell in love with the country; making the decision to continue her education at the Glasgow School of Art.
She first joined ACA in 2012 when our company had only 3 employees, but then moved to Glasgow to work on the bigger size residential development projects as a Project Architect. However, after one year Iga decided to come back to ACA where is now one of the senior Architects in our team.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO MOVE TO SCOTLAND AND STUDY ARCHITECTURE?
I always had a desire to change/improve my surroundings which started when I was a teenager with a need to redecorate my ‘tired’ room, and finish reconfiguring the whole flat for my parents. Although not yet architecture, this did help me to formulate what to study, and progress as my day job later on.
Apart from the desire to influence the environment, my hobbies included drawing, photography & travel with a particular focus on consideration of the specific ambience/character of visited places. I also enjoyed observing people and how they interacted with their surroundings. All of which, I guess, culminated in the decision to Study Architecture.
My adventure with Scotland started on my gap year. Similarly to my friends who were venturing to other countries to seek out foreign experiences (something which was not too common for Polish students at the time), I had decided to take a chance, and after a 38 hour bus trip ended up in the South of Scotland in a lovely place called Rockliffe in Dumfries and Galloway where I had arranged my first job placement. At the time, Poland was not a part of the European Union and as well as obtaining a visa, I had to sit the English Language test and pay quite a lot of money for the privilege, which did prove worthwhile from the moment I arrived at this beautiful country.
To sum up, the reasons why Scotland? Apart from the will of practising the language I started to learn when I was 11, it was the landscapes and the cliché romanticised image of ‘bonny Scotland’ that I was eager to see. The first part of my studies was in a Polish Polytechnic where I completed a Bachelor in Architecture and Urban Planning. My favourite professor mentioned the high standards of teaching architecture at the Glasgow School of Art. Having recalled this, during my gap year I decided to continue my studies in the country and obtained my Part 2 degree in Architecture, which I followed with a Masters in Architecture.
WAS ARCHITECTURE THE FIRST CHOICE FOR YOUR CAREER?
I had considered other courses including Polish Literature, Cultural Studies, Fine Art and even attended exams to study Psychology. None of them, however, sat right with me, when I imagined doing it as a day job.
I think the moment that I made the decision to study Architecture was when one of my friends came to visit me after another refurbishment of my room, asked if I had considered Architecture. It was like a light bulb moment and led me to research the varied career paths that architecture offers. The course and potential career options proved the most attractive to me and what I could imagine myself doing as a day job.
YOU HAVE BEEN A MEMBER OF THE TEAM FOR A WHILE NOW, TELL ME HOW LONG HAVE YOU WORKED FOR ACA AND WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT THE COMPANY?
I joined ACA in 2012, which was the year I qualified as a Part 3 Architect. At the time, there were 3 other people in the office including Allan, and the small scale suited my aspirations to grow with the company. Initially, I was attracted to the type of projects and progressive way of thinking about utilising new building technologies to create sustainable homes for self-builders that Allan was in the process of establishing, but I quickly got infected with Allan’s enthusiasm for supporting self-builders and creating forever homes that are out of the ordinary.
The company now has a round number of 12 people and the energy and enthusiasm towards the projects as well as sharing everyday personal stories are very addictive resulting in a ‘happy’ office environment.
This allows us to share knowledge and learn in an open environment which I think is beneficial not only to the office but to our clients and is reflection in our end product – the design. Thanks to this openness, there is a great sense of honesty in the execution of the projects and the relationship with our clients, which is invaluable.
Apart from the satisfaction of working on Self Build projects, working with people who are supportive to one another is a real find and particularly enjoyable.
ACA IS NOT THE FIRST COMPANY WITHIN THE ARCHITECTURAL INDUSTRY THAT YOU HAVE WORKED FOR, WHERE DID YOU WORK BEFORE YOU JOINED ACA?
Prior to continuing with my Masters Course, I had done a work placement with Highland Council where I had an opportunity to work on a Highland Housing Expo. Although I enjoyed the opportunity I quickly realised that the structure and administration of the Council was not for me and I ventured to join a private practice in the Moray area. Due to the great opportunities to work on varied projects I was interested in, from extensions, bespoke homes including master-planning for plots of houses, through to work on listed buildings and commercial work involving distillery developments, I settled in the practice for 5 years.
I was very lucky to find a placement with ‘Future Plans’ Architects and Planners at the time of the Economic Crunch of 2007/2008 where most of my fellow students were forced to seek employment further afield and not necessarily in their desired area of architecture. While with the practice, I was able to finish my Masters and set up my Part 3 examination to become a fully qualified Architect and build my way up to become a Practice Associate, but most of all gained an all-round planning and procurement experience, particularly in the field of the Self Build market.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO JOIN/RE-JOIN ACA?
I also had an opportunity to ‘try my hand’ at the bigger size residential development projects while working with ‘ID Partnership’ in Glasgow. As a Project Architect, I was responsible for delivery of serval large scale mainly developer led housing schemes in and around Glasgow, with the help of the technical and Part 2 staff.
This experience allowed me to re-evaluate my aspirations and focus on the type of architecture and projects I wanted to pursue and resulted in me re-joining ‘AC Architects’ where I was given the opportunity to design and lead one–off energy efficient Custom and Self Build homes for private clients. This type of working environment particularly suits me as I do enjoy the independence in design as well as direct contact with clients resulting in a strong client/architect relationship and more personal project involvement.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MAIN ADVANTAGE OF ACA?
I think I included this in my answers above, but I would sum it up to the following:
- Variety of skills and experiences thanks to sharing of knowledge which benefits each project.
- Support from the director and colleagues – happy office environment leading to more productivity and quality results in project execution.
- Free hand and independence in designing and managing the projects which provide our clients with a single point of contact.
- Open office environment allowing for knowledge sharing and continuous development. Working with creative, problem solving focused people.
- Honesty, I think we have a strong commitment to each project and in difficult situations, the main drive is to be honest and work towards solving the issue.
- Flexibility to accommodate all of our client’s needs.
DO YOU ENJOY DESIGNING ONE-OFF RESIDENTIAL HOMES? WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT SELF BUILD?
In short – Yes, I love it.
The design process is particularly rewarding when you get to the point with the clients that apart from meeting all of their requirements, the house is a reflection of functional and well-proportioned rooms and overall, is pleasant to look at.
This is a part of the project I enjoy the most. You start from the basic arrangement layouts which are ‘tuned up’ with the client to create a functional place to live, custom designed for their particular needs, the way they use the rooms and their aesthetic preferences. I think I can comfortably say, that in the majority of our projects the final design is a combination of the client’s ideas and our architectural input, resulting in a bespoke home design.
I love to start with small hand sketches traced over the site plan which helps me think about the positioning of the main living spaces within the constraints of the individual site. From there onwards it’s developing the basic concept layouts in more detail to the point you are satisfied that the requirements have been met and the design is good.
I feel very privileged to work and design in Scotland and the UK which features some of the most amazing plot locations that provide inspiration for interesting design solutions, with the outcome of that place becoming someone’s forever home to enjoy.
DO YOU PURSUE YOUR ARCHITECTURAL INTERESTS DURING YOUR TIME OUT-WITH WORK IN ANY WAY?
I am a keen walker and like to take photos. Both of these activities are focused around seeing the old and new buildings… go figure. One of my favourite activities is to find the half-derelict structures and capture the moment when the play between the light and shadow creates an intriguing image and when nature takes over the structure, marking the passing time. I also like to evaluate how the particular buildings were constructed which is a source of constant learning.
While on holiday, I like to visit architecturally interesting places. I recently visited Krakow and found this very hip place with restaurants, bars, cafes and venue spaces within an old, dilapidating post-industrial site filled with factory buildings. What was striking, was the way the buildings and spaces were adopted and converted with minimal interference with the existing structures looking almost like a pop – up places rather than ‘manicured’, freshly refurbished and finished looking venues. The whole site looked like a working factory.
Apart from holiday adventures, I frequently visit The Lighthouse, Centre of Design and Architecture and other relevant architectural exhibitions.
I tend to read architectural blogs and journals for updates on new materials and legal aspects. I have also gathered a collection of architectural hardbacks and albums which has been fairly addictive and almost anytime I travel, I end up buying a title. From my recent visit to Prague I ended up dragging an enormous 3 kg album on Prague Architecture in my Cabin Baggage, an old title with beautiful sketches bought in a second-hand shop for £20 – I couldn’t resist it!
I like to keep my ideas about domestic architecture fresh and the most recent purchase was a book on Japanese House architecture. I am taken with the pure beauty and elegance of the design and principles of living in uncluttered space that the Japanese have managed to master.
HOW DO YOU SPEND YOUR TIME OUTSIDE OF WORK?
I spend a lot of time visiting new places with my camera. The places I go to see can vary quite dramatically depending on the mood and the weather! On my next adventure, I hope to visit Shetland.
I also enjoy trying out new recipes and experimenting in the kitchen. Apart from the health benefits, I find cooking very relaxing. I recently stopped eating meat but find the joy gained from cooking helps me to stay creative in my cooking\recipes.
As for current hobbies, I recently completed a short silversmithing course in Edinburgh. In addition to the jewellery design element, the silversmithing gives me the ability to work with my hands whilst producing a usable and unique piece.
I think the desire for working with my hands comes from the fact that the majority of time at work we spend in front of a computer. Following the notion of using my hands and at the same time doing something practical, I also enjoy refurbishing and reupholstering furniture and playing with paint.
Apart from practical stuff, I do like relaxing with my partner and cat, watching a good movie and lazing on a couch or a hammock in the garden.