Allan Corfield Architects. Meet the team – Jenny
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 Jenny, our new Architect who runs our newly established ACA South office, based at the National Self Build & Renovation Centre in Swindon.
Jenny joined ACA after 4 years with pHp architects.
Jenny has a wide range of academic, professional and employment experience. This includes 7 years in a medium sized practice, 3 years as an independent consultant and finally as a Project Manager/Architect for a variety of retail and food & beverage projects within the New Orlean’s office of a 430+ person practice.
Jenny is based at the NSBRC and oversees the growth of ACA in the South of England.
What inspired you to pursue a career in architecture?
I’ve always had a keen interest in maths and visual arts. When I was quite young, my parents extended our house and I remember staying up listening to the conversations they would have round the dining table with the builder and following the builder around the job site asking questions and documenting the process. Fortunately, all the builders were extremely patient with a very inquisitive little girl.
You have extensive experience in architecture. I understand that you obtained your license and started your career in the USA, then moved to the UK. Have you observed any differences in practising architecture between these two countries?
The planning process within the UK is much different from the US. In many jurisdictions in the US, you are permitted development rights as long as your design falls within the published development maps and criteria. You would only need to apply for specific approval if you were proposing something that derogates from those published criteria.
There are also quite a few differences in project delivery and construction methods, but those are more technical differences than process differences.
Alongside your role as an architectural practitioner you also have academic experience? Could you tell us a bit more about this?
My primary role as an adjunct professor was to teach Professional Concerns at undergraduate and post-graduate levels at Tulane University.
This is a course that teaches the business side and the practice side of the profession. The subject matter ranged from how a project is run to how an office is managed and how to market oneself when looking for work. It’s quite a vast (and important) range of topics. Not dissimilar from many universities, the course materials had not been updated for some time when I was asked to teach the course.
As students of architecture always are more intrigued by a design problem, I tried to format the class so that every set of topics could be considered within a design context for which a creative solution was required. It was a lot of fun to develop relevant materials and to teach, and in hindsight, I think I learned a lot as well.
You have experience of working on both commercial and residential projects? What do you like about each and do you have a preference?
My favourite commercial projects have always been for the non-for-profit/ mission-driven clients where there is a great deal of client education required. For the majority of those clients, a building project is something that is done very rarely throughout the life of the organisation, so it becomes a very personal experience.
Perhaps the same thing draws me to residential design projects. In residential projects, you have clients who are using their own money, have strong ideas and may have no construction experience. In both cases, it is a very personal relationship that you build with the client.
Why did you decide to work at ACA?
As mentioned earlier, I really enjoy the personal interaction with clients that comes with residential design, and I relate strongly to the environmental and educational ethos of the practice. Additionally, in the position that I held in New Orleans before making our move to the United Kingdom, I was involved heavily in the Business Development of a start-up office within a large national firm.
Allan presented me with a similar opportunity for the ‘ACA South’ office as I am working from the National Self Build and Renovation Centre in Swindon.
Do you have experience in the Self Build sector and what do you like about it?
I don’t have any previous experience within the Self Build sector; however, it is, in my opinion, the most important sector within UK homebuilding. It’s really empowering to the individuals who pursue it, and if done with the proper guidance, the result is a very high-quality home that meets the individuals’ requirements.
As part of our expansion to the South of the UK, we opened an office at the NSBRC, which you will take the lead in running. Do you know how much involvement you will have with the rest of the team based in Scotland?
I work closely with the team in Scotland. Although I am based out of Swindon, we operate as a single office which is important to the continuity and quality of our work.
What, in your opinion are ACA’s strengths as an architectural practice?
Every practice should endeavour to deliver good design and good value for the client. This varies depending upon the specifics of the client and their project goals, but ACA also seeks to deliver this within a unique business model. That is really appealing to be. The process of self building can be quite overwhelming for individuals who are typically doing this once in their lifetime.
In the short time I’ve been at ACA, I’ve been really impressed how calm our clients remain even through the most difficult situations. I really believe this is a testament to the educational induction our clients go through as part of the ACA design process as well as our team’s technical awareness.
If you weren’t working in architecture, what would you be doing?
That’s really a tough question as I have so many different interests; however, it would have to be a combination of weaving and writing. When I was working freelance, I had the capacity to also help run a fibre arts studio outside of New Orleans. I’ve missed not having quite as much time for weaving and creative making in the last few years, so I think I’d like to tap that part of my creative side a bit more.
Do you pursue your architectural interests when you are not at work in any way?
I guess I do that primarily through our garden. We’re fortunate to have a nice sized outdoor space that was a blank canvas when we moved in. So, my husband and I have enjoyed learning quite a bit more about British planting as well as figuring out how to best divide the space and create interest throughout.
It’s a work in progress, but it probably always will be and is much easier to re-shape than a built structure.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
With a young family and two energetic dogs, there’s not much down time, but we try to spend as much of that time outdoors as possible. Spare time is spent on long walks and cycle rides as well as pottering around the garden.
Read more about our team members in our Meet The Team series below: