Day in the life: Dale Roberts, Architect, Morrison Design Architects in Derby

Dale Roberts, Morrison Des

Here at Morrison Design we have started a new feature where we interview a member of the team to highlight their skillsets and how their knowledge and experience benefits our clients.

In this article we ask, Dale Roberts, what his current favourite buildings are and the cities he admires for architectural design.

Describe a typical day.

Always the first in the office, I hear the dawn chorus or alternatively listen to it via the internet, bringing the outside into the office. Early morning starts give me the opportunity to review progress before the phone starts to ring. Most of my daily tasks involve sitting at a computer, sitting in meetings or sitting traveling to site, resulting in a very sedentary lifestyle, which I make up for by taking a lunchtime ‘power walk’ in Darley Park, listening to the birds, the occasional, woodpecker, buzzard and even a parakeet!

I work on a varied mixture of building types, hotels, offices and buildings with detailed technical requirements. I am usually working on several different projects at different design stages which requires responding to enquiries and providing responses quickly. Daily tasks revolve around initial ideas, project management, detail design and the technical aspects of architecture which demand logical thought and an understanding of construction activities and trades. Problem solving is a big part of the process, understanding what the issue is, formulating different solutions (there is never only one) discussing with the team, then explaining the options to a Client so that a decision can be made. 

The last part of the workday is spent checking that information has been provided to those that need it and planning actions for tomorrow.

What do you like most about the job?

Every day is different and there are always new lessons to be learnt. Working with the team at different stages of a project allows me to get a feel for the whole design, both theoretical and practical, scientific and artistic, knowledge which helps in taking a client’s brief, creating a conceptual design, visualizing it, reviewing it with the Client, considering practical solutions and eventually putting all these ideas down on paper or into a computer so that it can be passed to the Construction stage. 

The architectural design process works from the large to the small and I enjoy getting the small details right, things that may not be noticed at first glance. A design detail can be a piece of beauty but the way that it is put together on site also needs to be thought through, time spent creating sketch details of how it is pieced together can be invaluable information for the design team.  

A successful design is always a result of the larger design team, which starts with the Client and ends with the contractor dusting off the finished building. 

How does what you do benefit your clients?

Understanding the client’s perspective is key to getting the most out of any design. Different Clients require differing outcomes and I like to spend time with a Client getting to understand what their goals are, so that they can be translated into an acceptable design. The more information Clients provide and the earlier their involvement in the process, the better the design outcome.

What is your favourite architectural building?

This is the most difficult question. I’m like a magpie, always taking inspiration from other buildings that are great at solving a particular design problem, a novel doorknob on a curved door which has asymmetric spindles at Kedleston Hall or the use of ‘reward and denial’ in the landscape approach to Fountains Abbey. Buildings are all about your experience, how it makes you feel. My best building experience was in a small restaurant, on the Rambla de Catalunya in Barcelona, where you entered through a hot busy kitchen full of large aga’s to find communal cafe tables in the rear, full of locals enjoying traditional Spanish food.

What city do you admire most for its architecture?

Venice. It’s not so much the architecture but the arrangement of the city which intrigues me. Venice has a pedestrian infrastructure with alleyways leading to small public squares, views which reveal distant roof tops then hide them again, places to wander through, to sit and pause to watch others go by. The sounds of the city are mainly domestic in nature, footsteps, conversations, birds, you can hear yourself think without the intrusive noise of traffic. One of the best experiences is the waterbus from the airport to the central square, seeing the city as a spired island approached over a tranquil lagoon. Tip, visit in the winter when the crowds are fewer.

What will we find you doing in your spare time?

Dancing around the highways and byways of Derbyshire.

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