Friday, July 26, 2013

architecture+retirement: mixed emotions

We were round at Hannah+Fee’s house the other evening and they were asking me some basic town planning+building regulation questions about a potential extension they were considering for their house. It was only then that I realised that, even though we were talking about very basic matters, I no longer had such information immediately to hand (actually, I was never very good at the “technical” aspects of architecture!).
I retired from architecture in 2005 and, apart from the odd occasion, haven’t really missed it.
However, I have to acknowledge that, watching the BBC’s brilliant Imagine programme on Richard Rogers (actually, I’d originally watch part of it when it was first screened in 2008), did give me a yearning for the old days of working with clients and members of our office in pursuit of architectural elegance and excellence!! This is clearly a somewhat romantic view of my former life, but we did produce some (not all!) significant projects. 
Richard Rogers is now 80 years old and a truly inspirational figure (well, for me at least – and very much so as someone who is prepared to stand up to the Prince of Wales on the matter of architecture!). He studied at the Architectural Association in London, before continuing his studies in the States at Yale (together with Norman Foster and, indeed, his first wife Su Rogers).
From the beginning, he was very much a follower of the Modern Movement and drew inspiration from the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe (weren’t we all!).
Yes, the Imagine programme did make me rather nostalgic for the exciting, frustrating, dynamic, scary world of architectural practice…
Clearly, despite the economic downturn, I would have secured a better retirement financially had I continued (and not eased down “to spend more time with my family” and work with young people in education for six years!), and yet retiring when I did has provided me with a wealth of simple joys I would never have realised…
Moira+I may not have built our own dream house… or toured the world… or enjoyed exotic holidays BUT these simply cannot compare with the joys of watching your grandchildren flower in their early years at close hand (they’ll be teenagers being you can blink!).
Sometimes, I feel like a bit of a cheat or a fraud.
I don’t currently undertake any voluntary work on behalf of charities or local groups (although I do sign a lot of petitions and write to politicians on occasions!)… some of my friends put me to shame in such matters. At the moment (as well as the huge grandchildren+family element of my life), my time is enjoyably spent: walking on a daily basis; finding things to sketch or photograph each day; and making up for all those comparatively non-reading years by reading a book every week… plus more time for music, concerts, theatre, the cinema and spiritual values (oh, and cafes!)!
If the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) hadn’t insisted that retired architects still had to maintain their annual hours of CPD (continued professional development) – how ridiculous is that(?) and, believe me, I wrote several letters before finally giving up in despair(!) - then perhaps I might have retained a regular involvement in architecture in some capacity.
As it is, I’m simply a retired architect who loves his current life… so I can’t complain.
Photo: Pompidou Centre, Paris by Piano+Rogers (photographed on our visit in September 2011).
PS: I LOVED the fact that Rogers was still DRAWING when it came to producing his design concepts (there was a scene in the programme when he was sketching out of doors at his house in Tuscany!)… all too often, it seems to me (old school that I am!), some young architects apparently don’t think that an ability to draw is important these days.


1 comment:

Alice said...

That last comment sums your perspective up so well: a retired architect who loves his current life. That is a brilliant, precious thing and wonderful to be able to say. Love you. xx