Craig Taylor knows buildings, inside out. After 12 long years at university and four demanding degrees, he’s an architect, interior architect, Lungfish associate director and real-life Team GB duathlete. We caught up with him (eventually!) to find out why he loves the work he does…
Hi Craig, what do you do at Lungfish?
I’m associate director, so I tend to be focused on front-end concepts and feasibilities. I’m also one of the first people new clients meet when we start working together. Building great, honest relationships is a big part of what we do – so it’s about taking people through the process step by step. In lots of cases, they’ve never been through a major build before, so by being involved from the first meeting, we make sure they’re not overwhelmed, and the project is an enjoyable experience.
You’re an interior architect as well as an architect, does that give you a different viewpoint?
It definitely gives me a more rounded view. Architecture degrees are long, but you spend a surprisingly short time focusing on interior spaces. I find that fascinating – inside a building is where we spend 70-80% of our lives! I explore how people spend their time in a space, and how we can be more creative with our approach to optimising it. We use all of that knowledge and learning to make sure the living and learning spaces we create work even harder for our clients.
How are you using that unique perspective at Lungfish?
Well, it’s not unique, but there are only a few people in the UK with that same set of qualifications. They’re so valuable at Lungfish though. We do a huge amount of education projects and converting old buildings to suit new purposes comes into play again and again.
Conversion is a really niche area, but for me they’re some of the best jobs you can do. You’re developing internal spaces that weren’t designed for the function you now need them to serve, and that’s always a challenge. But invariably, those challenges push you to come up with some inventive solutions.
Are conversions and refurbishments something you’ve done in other sectors too?
Absolutely. I’ve spent a lifetime on these projects – converting old buildings into apartments or working with large retailers to refurbish their ageing stores. It touches all sorts of sectors. But I’ve also got a lot of experience designing brand new student accommodation and care homes and masterplanning housing for developers – there are a surprising number of similarities.
What are you working on at the moment?
One of the projects I’m working on is for East Midlands Ambulance Service. A couple of years ago a government study was released which focused on driving efficiencies within the service. We’ve been tasked to develop a concept that helps to deliver those efficiencies. So we’re actually designing buildings around a process – which I love because I’m process driven. If you think of their process like a hand, we’re designing a glove to fit around it.
What kind of projects are you especially proud of?
Sometimes it’s not the most beautiful projects, or the ones with the biggest budgets, that are the most rewarding. The team had a project land onsite a few weeks ago and it literally reduced the headteacher to tears of joy. It’s easy to forget that buildings can have a big impact on people’s lives, which is why I honestly think I’ve got the best job in the world.
At handover there are often tears – from the designers and the end users. But one of my favourite moments actually came far earlier on in the process. We presented designs for converting an auction house into a new church and on the day we used an augmented reality visual. It was all loaded up on our iPad and we took the client team into the building so they could see it in-situ. When it appeared, their reactions were honestly just spine tingling. I wish we’d recorded it.
You played a big part in developing the new Scape Group office didn’t you?
I did. We loved that project. We took a very dated office space and turned it into a place that’s just great to work in, with clean, crisp client spaces and playful, creative breakout areas. The big step came when we pulled down the false ceilings and maximised the space – it was staggering how quickly the mood changed. We love showing people around because it feels like a living, breathing portfolio piece and it’s a great way to demonstrate what we can do.
Can you tell us about your new Department for Education projects?
Yes. We’re massively proud to be on two of the DfE’s frameworks, being regarded as a trusted practice alongside some of the most established architects in the country. The projects are spread all over the UK, from Newcastle to Brighton. They’re about replacing awful, draughty temporary classrooms – which are literally falling apart – with buildings that will last.
They’re challenging projects, but again it’s about helping improve lives. They’re also widening our coverage, so we’re building relationships with new clients and contractors nationwide. I’m hoping there are lots more opportunities like that ahead of us so that we can continue to provide solutions for clients with similar challenges.
You’ve got some big sporting challenges ahead too, haven’t you?
Well, I’m still in pursuit of sporting greatness, day-in, day-out! I competed for Team GB last year and came seventh in the duathlon (which is running and cycling), so it went pretty well – I’ve earned a place this year too. I’ve also just recently completed the London Marathon, finishing in 2.30 which was amazing!