How to be a London architect

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The Independent Online

Luke Tozer is an architect at Pitman Tozer Architects in London. Read his story here...

I come from a family of architects and although my father actively discouraged me from becoming one, I’d spent too many hours looking around old buildings, feeling happy among the smell of plaster dust!

Having fully qualified in 1999, I now run a small practice with Tim Pitman. We do a mixture of private residential projects around London, as well as larger community projects. A lot of our work focuses on low-energy sustainable buildings and one of the starting points in which we were able to experiment was my own house (pictured left) – a very contemporary low-energy ecohouse which sits between two listed buildings.

My wife and I bought it in 2005 and in 2006, we got planning consent to build a new-low energy home in its place, but it was no easy journey. The lobbying and negotiations with the neighbours were timeconsuming and hard work because we wanted to create something contemporary but sympathetic to the conservation area. There was a lot of local concern but despite all the huffing and puffing, the house was completed last summer.

As co-chair of the Urbanism and Planning Group for RIBA London, I regularly come across one of the biggest challenges facing London architects – planning. The main problem is that it’s underfunded, but no politician wants to stand up and say the application fee should be, say £800 instead of the current £150 because it would seemingly penalise Joe Bloggs who wants an extension.

Despite such challenges, however, I think it’s an exciting time to work as an architect in London. There is an enormous amount going on. Making things even more exciting is that the bar has been raised among the general public, thanks to programmes such as Grand Designs. The general perception is that architecture can be wonderful and aspirational, which wasn’t necessarily the case 10 years ago. This has created a much greater client base, but the accountability and administration involved has also vastly increased.