People Profile: Senior Architect Priscille Rodriguez on her passion for high-quality design

Priscille Rodriguez joined Chapman Taylor’s Residential team as Design Architect in 2017, becoming a Senior Architect in December 2018. She is responsible for the architectural design on various residential projects, ranging from suburban typologies to high-rise buildings in urban locations. More recently, she has been involved in developing the designs of projects in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. In this profile, Priscille tells us about why she became an architect, key projects on which she has worked and her enjoyment of driving design development.

Tell us about your background?

I grew up in the Luberon area of Provence, in south-eastern France. My dad was a carpenter, so, from very early on in life, I always did things with my hands – my parents encouraged my creativity. I was composing music from the age of ten, and also did a lot of painting and dress sewing. I loved the smell of concrete and of freshly cut timber, which, to me, smells like pasta! This creative impulse and my enjoyment of using my hands to create objects was a major factor in deciding that I wanted to become an architect.

I studied at the INSA Strasbourg, with some time spent at the University of Bath – my graduation project was an intergenerational art space in Hastings. My diploma was entered for a prize for the best diploma in France, and achieved third place nationally, winning the Meyer Levy Prize in 2014.

Where did you work after graduation?

I started working within two weeks of graduating! I wanted to work in London, however, and found a job with HTA Design in Kentish Town, where I worked for two years. I enjoyed my time there, particularly working collectively on projects that can have a real impact on people’s lives. While there, I was involved in the residential regeneration project at Aylesbury Estate in Southwark.

In order to be further challenged in terms of design, I moved to Unit Architects in Holborn, where I worked for a year on residential projects. I had a good degree of input on projects there.

I still wanted more design freedom, however, and I contacted Tom Klingholz, the UK Residential Director at Chapman Taylor (whom I had met at HTA Design previously), to ask if there was a position for me at Chapman Taylor which would allow me to be more creative and take on more responsibility, and he offered me a job as part of his team.

What attracted you to Chapman Taylor?

I had been thinking of going to art school to study scenography before joining Chapman Taylor, because I felt that I needed to be more creative – so the opportunity offered by Chapman Taylor was perfectly timed. It would allow me to take responsibility for the design of a project and nurture it from concept stage.

The role itself was the key factor – it involved improving designs to make them the very best they could be, which was very attractive to me because it is challenging.

The way in which people collaborate at Chapman Taylor was very good to see. There is a friendly and supportive atmosphere and people are equipped with the knowledge and ability to create the best designs possible. It is a great experience for me to see projects being designed collectively, with the Residential team working alongside, for example, our Interiors and Graphics teams to achieve fully rounded designs.

One of the projects on which I am working at the moment – a residential-led, mixed-use development in northern Europe comprising contemporary seaside apartments, office and co-working spaces, a lecture space and communal uses – is a good example of all of these features; it is a truly mixed-use scheme with a strong focus on community and sharing. It’s an exciting project to work on, particularly because the design has multiple layers and is driven by the location and context and the client’s ambition to create something new and unique.

It was exciting to be able to put together design narratives and pick out the best one for further development.

What other projects have you worked on at Chapman Taylor?

When I started, I helped create the architecture for a suburban Build-to-Rent community in the UK – a scheme which offered a new template for communal living, one which would be collectively shared and shaped. Funnily enough, designing the architecture and composing the imagery reminded me very much of the way in which a scenographer would create a narrative through imagery. It was a great introduction to working at Chapman Taylor.

I have also been working on a major residential scheme in Azerbaijan, where derelict residential buildings and estates from the Soviet era are being regenerated on a number of sites across the city. The schemes propose sustainable block typologies which support higher densities and create a template for sustainable urban grain and growth. This has been an enjoyable challenge – it involves managing the project and working to ensure design consistency across the various schemes and different teams and studios. I feel a strong sense of responsibility for getting the design right – I find it hard sometimes to delegate design tasks.

I have also worked in other sectors, particularly with the International Feasibility team on mixed-use projects in South Korea, Dubai and Oman, all of which were driven by a strong narrative out of which the design concepts were developed.

For me, architecture is only one aspect of a wide spectrum of creativity. I also continuously explore music, drawing, and ceramics. Outside my day-to-day work, I have taken part in the Young Architects’ Competition, for which I received an honorary mention, and I have also been shortlisted in a RIBA design competition.

Tell us about your role in the social side of Chapman Taylor

I was involved in organising Chapman Taylor’s participation in the Open City “Let’s Build London” event, where we teamed up with 18 Degrees and VMZINC to create a real town planning brief for children to design and create their own parts of the city. Open City is a charity which promotes people-centred city design, organising year-round events to promote understanding of what makes for a people-friendly built environment.

I enjoyed it more than I thought I would – there is something captivating about the way children use their imaginations. Some children showed a huge degree of flexibility in thinking, envisaging the built environment in a way which adults might not be able to. It’s a lovely way for children to think about how places develop.

We are also going to take part in another Open City event in February which will offer older children seminars on the topic of architecture, and will be helping to organise another “Let’s Build London” event in the summer. I think that events like these are wonderful, because they help us to encourage the next generations of designers to develop their talents.

What are your thoughts on the way forward for designing residential projects?

I think that design should be simpler and better – we can learn a lot from the way in which things were done in the past, and also from the experience of other countries with their cultural and climatic contexts. For example, the way in which we think about the relationship between buildings and the street – we could adopt a more Northern European or Scandinavian approach where the interface between the building and the street is more open and thresholds are blurred, encouraging interaction.

I think that it is a discussion which needs to be had as a society – as an architect, I can only do one part in this by ensuring that our designs are as consistent, responsive and flexible as possible and work well in their contexts.

What advice would you give to someone considering becoming an architect?

Look around you! Too many people don’t absorb and consider what is around them. I was reading a book recently about the psychology of walking in nature – people who notice details such as how changes in the ground composition result in changes in the mix of plants tend to be more likely to be artists and designers (or join the army!). I think that it’s important to take time out every day to observe everything around you and notice how each detail informs the whole.

Architecture can be romanticised, but it is hard work and it requires a lot of thought and attention to detail.

For more information, please contact:

Priscille Rodriguez
Senior Architect (London)

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