The rising stars of Britain’s commercial property industry have been recognised at the British Council for Offices’ (BCO) fifth annual NextGen Awards ceremony. We talk to one winner in particular – Shauna Bradley of Glenn Howells Architects.
1. Shauna, congratulations! Tell us a little bit about yourself, the work you do and what drives you?
While I always knew construction was a largely male-dominated industry, I grew up in rural Ireland with five brothers who taught me how to handle myself. I’ve always been creative with an active, problem-solving mind, so becoming an architect felt like the natural choice for me.
I see my role as a lifestyle rather than a job. I think about architecture all the time; if I travel, I plan my visit around the buildings I want to visit; if I buy a book, it’ll be an architecture book. My natural passion and general love for the industry is what pushes me out of bed and straight to work each day.
Everything in-between the start and end of the day varies on a daily basis – architecture is one of the few professions that is never static. As designers we are expected to try new things, explore different materials, and incorporate emerging technologies into every project. Therefore, I spend a lot of my time researching and testing.
2. How does your interest in wellbeing translate into your everyday work-life?
“I don’t think of it in isolation – I’m passionate about what I do. When you’re an architect, our ‘job’ is also our hobby and life can centre around that. I have great people around me both in and out of work, and am surrounding by a beautiful city which makes switching off easy to do. I love living in Birmingham, there are so many beautiful areas of the city to explore great architecture while being close to so many beautiful parks, canals and countryside.
“I recognise, though, that not everyone has the same experience – which is why I work hard to make sure feel supported at work, there at least I can help!”
3. Can you tell us a little bit about GHA’s People Plan?
“One of the biggest things that attracted me to GHA was the recognition from senior management that what we do is far greater than our formal training. That spirit is why we developed the ‘People Plan.’ It’s a programme that encourages all employees to learn from colleagues – their different strengths, backgrounds and experiences. It’s a programme run across all levels of the office and is a key part of the culture we work hard to create at GHA.
“For me, workplace culture has always been so important. I moved to Birmingham to work at GHA – I care about where I work, who I work for, the work I am doing and the quality of the working environment. The senior team has made an effort to build an environment that they would want to work in day-in, day-out and it shoes.
“The culture between each of our studios is inspiring to me. Every person wants to do a good job. The work can be demanding but everyone wants to deliver the very best for our clients and there’s a real team spirit, that we achieve that together.”
4. How can we support people in the workplace during this difficult time?
“My life philosophy is to give everything and everyone a chance, as you never know what might come out of it. I think that becomes more important than ever during these testing times – we should be kind to each other and help where we can.”
5. What will ‘the future workplace’ look like? And, would you want to work there?!
“There are so many under-utilised spaces in towns and cities at the moment, and I think there’s a real opportunity to develop these into creative spaces for work and for play.
“Workplaces don’t have to be square offices with identical floor plans on each floor. Adapting spaces that already exist, whether an empty warehouse, underpass or old viaduct, could really help us re-imagine the workplace as a resourceful, creative space tailored to the specific needs of the end occupier. As all of us in the industry use this year to reflect on what the office of the future looks like, I’d like to challenge all of my peers to think about new ways we can use ‘old’ spaces.”
6. What advice would you give young, aspiring architects about the things they can do to help support wellbeing?
“There is no rule book in architecture. We’re in an ever-changing and evolving landscape and design, trends and the skills we need to create these is always changing. This year has showed just how true that is. With so much change happening around us, my advice to any aspiring architect is to make the most of this variety. Think about how you access wellbeing as an occupier, and what you like. Unlike other professions there is no right or wrong answer – we have the freedom to challenge the past, so have some fun doing it!
“I’m really proud to receive the BCO’s Rising Star Midlands Award, and hope it encourages others to follow their creativity, too! ”
For more information on the BCO Next Gen Awards, follow this link.
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