Chapter 1 of 24
John McAslan With Model Of Acton Training College
My first recollections of wanting to be an architect date, I guess like most people, from childhood.
I took a place to read architecture at the University of Edinburgh in 1972, although I knew very little about architecture at this point beyond an interest in traditional Scottish buildings and also a lively interest for the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his counterpart in Spain the Catalan modernist Antonio Gaudi. My commitment to architecture did not develop fully until I spent a four-year period intermittently working and travelling in the United States during university vacations between 1975 and 1979.
I worked first in Baltimore with a company called ATKL Associates who were a large communal practice in Baltimore. I remember being enchanted by that city and its brownstones, its cast iron buildings and its animated waterfront. I "travelled extensively in the north eastern part of America. I ended up in Boston, where I worked with Cambridge Seven, introducing me to the type of practice I hoped eventually to run, which consisted of groups of design teams operating in an open studio environment.
By late 1979 I felt it was time for another move. I had been briefly introduced to Richard Rogers in the USA and I returned to Britain to work in his studio, at the end of that year. During my three years at Roger's office I helped design and detail and supervise on site his PATS Centre Laboratory in Cambridge, as well as gaining the experience of working in an international office during a dynamic period. It was here too that I met my partner, Jamie Troughton who was a key member of the Lloyd's design team. Jamie left to form the practice in 1982, and I joined him six months later, early in 1983.
Architecturally, our ideas were already developing from an interest in the [international modernism I had seen in the USA, combined with a continued love of "history, to an understanding from Rogers' office of the potential in the use of high technology in architecture. Rogers' high-tech introduced us to a set of "influences. But we were developing a much tougher architecture than high-tech and particularly our background makes us ever-conscious of tradition, honesty, restraint, climate, materials, economy, practicability and solidity; which combines itself well with our continued interest in the opportunities which engineering offers to our architecture.
Slowly our work has evolved through its high-tech period (1984 - 86) and tentative experiments with modernism (1986 - 88) to a more direct modernist vocabulary.