How to spot an Architect.

The bow-tie and round glasses are no longer a mandatory requirement of the RIBA, since the invention of the zip and contact-lenses, so how do you spot an Architect?

On a first visit to a building or site, we never know what we are to encounter and this lends a frisson of excitement to the project. As well as the ‘standard’ hard hat and boots, notebook, tape measure and camera, one quickly learns to bring all sorts of other things. We each have our own collection of odds and ends, and are likely to have a head-torch, some water and ‘wet-wipes’ a change of clothes, a screwdriver, knife, man-hole ‘keys’ crow-bar, string, compass, magnet, camera, chalk etc. All this takes space, so often we will be seen carrying some kind of bag or case. However, we are professionals, so it will probably be something that started off looking fairly smart, but very quickly became scuffed, torn and dirty.

It is often difficult to get access to all the parts of the building or site which need to be seen, but when arrangements have been made it can be a very exciting part of the job. At various times, we have been taken high up on ‘cherry-pickers,’ abseiled down walls, crawled through loft spaces, and waded through excavations. We have to ‘bush-whack’ through brambles and nettles, befriend dogs, fend off seagulls, avoid disturbing wasp’s nests. There’s no point in wearing ‘best’ clothes for this, so look out for worn out shirts. Trousers are a good give away – they will look smart from the knee up – but will show evidence of having been stuffed into ‘rigger’ boots.

If you see someone on a building or site who is inappropriately dressed for doing any manual ‘work,’ has a satchel, or clip-board, perhaps is measuring or poking things, it may be one of us. If you ask us what we are up to, you may get a straight answer, but often projects are confidential in the early stages. If you are informed that an audit of the very rare six toed sand lizard is being undertaken, that plans are afoot for a 12 – storey treatment plant for hazardous waste, or “please stand back, so that you do not contaminate the evidence.” It could just be one of us.. 

In June, we wrote about a project in which we found historic artifacts hidden within the putlog holes of a church tower. At that time, the project was ongoing and we were asked not to mention Long Bredy church by name. That project is now practically complete, we are very pleased with the conservation and repair of the stonework and the church welcomes visitors.