Boyle+Summers has further strengthened its senior team with the appointment of Christian Morris as director. With 30 years experience with local and national, award-winning practices, he shares some of his thoughts for the industry as we look forward to a post-lockdown dawn.
You’ve led and worked on some amazing award-winning projects locally and nationally. What were your highlights?
I’ve worked on some of the most prestigious projects in London for a leading London practice, including The Lanesborough Hotel and No 1 Knightsbridge, as well as major projects in Glasgow and on the south coast. At the turn of the Millennium, I left London and returned home to Hampshire, working for a regional practice.
In 2006, I set up a southern office for the practice I had previously worked for in London. In 2008 I became a Director and Head of Residential of the same company, the only publicly listed architectural practice. Following that I ran a small practice in Southampton for a while and then determined that joining up with a like-minded practice was probably a more expedient model. Tony Boyle and I had brief talks about working together in 2010, so it’s only taken a decade to put pen to paper!
I’ve been a judge on The International Property Awards Panel for 12 years and also sit on the Southampton City Council Design Advisory Panel. It’s not just urban and building design I get involved with but reviewing golf course architecture too. One of my passions away from the office is golf, so it comes as no surprise that I thoroughly enjoy being on the panel for Golf Monthly Top 100 Courses in GB and Ireland.
My personal highlights would be the masterplanning and vision study work at Lingfield Point in Darlington, Ryde and Cowes on the Isle of Wight. In terms of a favourite building project, one of my most rewarding was transforming the Grade II Listed Blackfriars House in the City, retaining the parts with heritage value and inserting a floating glass box into the building to create the City Crowne Plaza.
How do you think the Coronavirus will influence housebuilding design going forward?
I believe this period will change our economic, social, political and physical environments. The benefit to climate change is a massive opportunity. No surprise that emission levels have fallen off a cliff.
Our places of residence will now also become our places of work, unit layouts will therefore fundamentally alter. The technology works to enable us to work from home and it has generally been well received.
More spacious units will become the norm, driven by the greater location mobility. The importance of outdoor space will have an even higher priority. We will also need to build in the ability for neighbourhoods to lockdown more easily in future. There may need to be facilities locally that can be used as pop-up health facilities to keep clusters of people together.
The retirement living model may also change. The need to be close to facilities in densely populated areas may become less important. Car dependence may decrease if we are using them far less. I feel a research study coming on…
What are looking forward to most at B+S?
Meeting the team. I know Tony and Richard and a couple of the team, but it is always good to meet and work with new colleagues.
And, of course, I’m looking forward to being part of some great architecture at Boyle+Summers. The culture sounds a good one and there is a balanced business model, that has commercial success aligned with other drivers, such as commitment to people, design and the environment.
Your first meeting with the team will be slightly unorthodox – on Zoom?
I know, I’m just about getting to grips with video conferencing. I still iron shirts, but I haven’t pressed a pair of trousers for a month! It will be an interesting meeting and would be preferable to meet face to face, but we’ll all make it work.
What do you see the opportunities being when we are out of this period?
Here are my personal views. Money will return to the function it was originally designed for as part of the value exchange economy. When people are being employed with no social function other than to make money, there is an inherent problem. Obviously investing money for pension funds is an important societal function, but there’s an imbalance of money V the societal good.
For us, the opportunities are there for anyone willing to adapt fastest. The biggest shifts in evolution take place where there is the greatest threat or opportunity.
Over time, we have consistently shifted in and out of cities, the industrial revolution and the decline of manufacturing in the 1980s, the aggregation of the urban renaissance (post millennium) has been driven by a sustainable model.
More and more people will be mobile in the new working environment. This could drive a move out of cities and the commuter belt, if our public transport can adapt with the new model, it will no longer need to take us to work every day, streets will be given back to pedestrians and cycling will be the norm of local trips.
People will swap a small £500,000 flat in London with a tiny balcony for less compromised living units in places currently considered out of reach.
Location-Location-Location will be based more on living in beautiful places with good infrastructure, than distance from work. We have realised, with the technology to hand, that many of us can work three or four days a week from home, a longer commute once a week on less overcrowded public transport will be preferable. We just need the public transport to run on sustainable energy.
I believe the economy will thrive on the back of a massive increase in Artificial Intelligence. That in turn will reduce our reliance on China as the workhouse of the world. How, I hear you say? Businesses will seek to rely less on people than functionality. AI usage will be accelerated, and we’ll be able to once again manufacturer products in this country as the main costs – labour – will be taken out.
Companies will look more to automation as it has less impact on productivity if we get struck by another pandemic. However, we will need to ensure we manage change better than we have done in previous periods of game changing technology and changes to industry (think industrial revolution and demise of coal mining). The country was slow to retrain and deploy labour to other sectors. This transition will be critical to avoid mass unemployment.
The cholera outbreaks in London in the 19th Century, led to massive infrastructure changes to sanitation. The Covid 19 outbreak has the opportunity to transform how we live and work. It will speed up the AI driven return of UK manufacturing, with less reliance on global supply chains and make a huge difference in our effect on our planet.
As long as we deal with ensuring fair wealth distribution and finally resolving the where-companies- and-people-are-fairly-taxed model, it is a massive opportunity to enhance our lives and the environment, and make our neighbourhoods and lives more adaptable to future shocks.
Looking on the bright side, this could be a huge opportunity for the sector and the country.
©Christian Morris/Boyle+Summers 2020