…. It leads me to ask you – not only a woman architect with your own office but a good architect with your own operation in a city that tends to concentrate its architectural activity on either a handful of very good technological offices or a large number of very big commercial offices - how did you break out?
It probably goes back to Archigram and the Independent Group; and with the post-war admiration for technology generally all kinds of possibilities and new freedoms were opened up. Architects started designing buildings with very visible structure and also very unusual structure. These architects needed structural engineers to support them all the way. It was the combination of these two elements that gave birth to the Centre Pompidou, the buildings of Norman Foster and Richard Rogers, Nick Grimshaw, James Stirling and lots of others. Suddenly a new strain of engineers was created and integrated - Frank Newby, Ove Arup, Ted Happold, Peter Rice, Tony Hunt ... where does one stop? At that point I was working on Brighton Marina, a massive project very much dependent on engineering science. The overall ambition for the project never materialised, but I was having a great time designing a city surrounded by breakwaters in the middle of the sea. The excitement of the possibilities presenting themselves in building technology tended to lead towards an exaggeration of structural expression in architectural aesthetics. I am very often associated with this myself, but in my case it was more of a misunderstanding of scale which occurred when I changed from working on a huge project (Brighton Marina) to small ones (interiors for shops and flats for Joseph).
I have always loved mathematics and physics and all the technical subjects. When I started getting close to
structure I naturally fell in love with it because of its logic. If you can't just take a pencil and draw something that looks like a piece of art then you develop some other kind of tool. For me it is the understanding of
structural logic and the principle of the development of this logic that give a basis for the process of design.
When I started on my own I began using high-tech out of complete incompetence. After the scale of
the massive elements for Brighton Marina - viaducts, breakwaters, floating structures - I was suddenly doing
little interiors, when all I knew about were industrial-scale components. For example, in Joseph's flat you find huge sliding doors. I didn't know that small sliding-door tracks existed. I then started looking into the process of what I call 'civilising high-tech'. I kept reading, looking for any invention - however applicable or inapplicable to architecture - that might make it more acceptable to human beings.
In the staircases we design, we are really trying to minimise the amount of material and the scale and
make something which reduces the structure. The process involves eliminating everything superflous until
we find the right answer. Then we try another principle and the process starts again.
But, back to your question, I never consciously tried to 'break out'; I just worked and worked as much and as well as I possibly could.