I remember a TV interview with Paul McCartney and (I think) Michael Parkinson where they were discussing the writing of 'I saw her standing there'. McCartney proudly sang his first lines 'She was just seventeen. She could have been a beauty queen’ when John Lennon suggested the second line should be 'You know what I mean'.
To me that typifies their different approach to lyrics and made them a brilliant songwriting team. Having a great team, being willing to give and take is essential in architecture. Believing in a concept or a great idea whilst allowing it to be pulled apart and altered is important. Not everyone can compromise and sometimes it drives partners apart. From the practices in the RIBA 1985 40 under 40, only Andrew Weston and myself and Bob Allies and Graham Morrisson are still together. Many of the others have had brilliant careers but they are not with the partners they were in 1985. There will be other factors too, but the ability to work creatively and collaboratively is key. Often I have started a design thinking it was wonderful only to have Andrew take it and improve it immeasurably. I can't think of it happening the other way round, though. I refer (in the studio) to Andrew as Captain Fantastic whereas I am the Brown Dirt Cowboy, from what is probably my favourite Elton John song with Bernie Taupin’s brilliant lyrics.
Trying to scale up that trust and collaborative attitude as the studio grows takes time, effort and a rigorous process to ensure design quality and efficient delivery. But as part of our succession plan and with Phil Breese now our Managing Partner I think we have done it and we are in a position where we can design bigger and more projects and build up a team to deliver quality. It is essential to have a system in place particularly with projects in different parts of the world. You need to delegate and let good people take responsibility. Architects often say that design isn’t a process, that it’s not like MacDonalds, that it’s intuitive and inspirational. Well, it can be, but it can also be effectively part of a team collaboration. Whichever way it still a process and can be replicated. Whether Lennon and McCartney bouncing ideas around or Elton John receiving a bunch of brilliant lyrics in the post with no explanation. You can't just leave design to chance. Both work and it’s still fun.