People Profile: Associate Director Loretta Collins on the satisfaction she feels in creating better places for people

Chapman Taylor Associate Director Loretta Collins has been with our Manchester studio since 2015, and has been performing a leading role on the transformation of Lifestyle Outlet Manchester at MediaCityUK. In this profile, Loretta talks about her motivation for becoming an architect, the positive impact her work has had and the satisfaction she gets from her various roles at Chapman Taylor.

Tell us about your motivation for pursuing architecture as a career

I was very interested in design since my childhood in Chelmsford. My grandad was a Design Technology teacher – I remember him making me a drawing board out of two pieces of wood and teaching me how to do technical drawing! I was always interested in art, but I was quite academic as well – architecture involves a balance of the two, which very much appealed to me.

When I was 14, I did work experience at a community architects’ practice in Manchester for two weeks, which convinced me that I wanted to become an architect. I later went to the University of Huddersfield, which offered a studio space which is very reminiscent of our studio here in Manchester – an inspiring environment in a converted mill building. Huddersfield being a smaller university, there was a lot of one-on-one tutoring, which I really appreciated.

I was lucky enough to get a Part I year-out job in Manchester, where I spent a year at Fletcher-Rae Architects Ltd working on office buildings, biomass energy facilities and masterplanning. It was interesting – I was given the opportunity to follow projects from inception through to completion on site.

During my postgraduate diploma, I realised that I had a keen interest in community design, masterplanning and regeneration. We went on a field trip to Nicosia in Cyprus, where we produced masterplan designs for uniting people across what is currently no-man’s land between the Turkish and Greek areas of the divided island. I gained a deep appreciation for how architecture can influence people’s lives in many positive ways.

Where did you work after university?

I graduated in 2012, and found a job working at a Christian community business called Provision UK Ltd, which would help fundraise for, and design, places of worship. My Part III project was a church extension in Dagenham.

I also helped develop a design to create different types of accommodation for homeless people at Grimsby’s YMCA – from single en-suite rooms to full flats – as well as workshops and educational facilities.

The greatest part of the whole experience was that I would get to know the clients and the end-users quite well – I really enjoyed the interaction. It was also good to be able to see projects all the way through from start to finish.

Bupa Place, Manchester

Why did you join Chapman Taylor?

I wanted to join a leading architectural practice in a bigger city – my partner and I settled on Manchester, where I joined Chapman Taylor in 2015.

I chose Chapman Taylor because I was impressed by the work that had been done at MediaCityUK – particularly in how it had completely regenerated Salford Quays. The project spoke to my interest in regeneration and the creation of new communities – I remembered what Salford Quays was like beforehand, so I appreciated how much of a transformation that development brought about (and is continuing to bring about with the phase two developments).

Tomorrow building at MediaCityUK, Manchester

What were the first projects you worked on at Chapman Taylor?

My first role was producing the tender pack for what is now Bupa Place – the new headquarters building for Bupa in the north-west of England near MediaCityUK. It was quite a leap from designing places of worship to working on a state-of-the-art office building for a major company! It gave me the opportunity to develop my detailing skills and my proficiency in Revit.

I also worked on the construction drawings for the Tomorrow building, located in MediaCityUK. I thoroughly enjoyed working on Bracknell Greening – a series of enhancement works around Bracknell town centre, including new façade treatments, refurbishment works and landscaping improvements. The project made a significant difference to the look and feel of the whole area, and this again reflected my interest in urban renewal and placemaking. This was the first Chapman Taylor project where I got to see the design being realised, and that gave me a great sense of pride and ownership.

Following this, I worked on the planning applications for two office buildings as part of Phase Two of the MediaCityUK development. I enjoyed experiencing the early stages of these projects, particularly the conceptual designs for façades for one of the buildings. I also liked the way in which various architects collaborated to ensure that the individual designs were all identifiably part of a coherent overall masterplan.

I’ve been very lucky with the opportunities presented to me here at Chapman Taylor – I haven’t been restricted, but have instead been able to experience a diverse range of roles.

MediaCity Phase 2, Manchester

What are you working on now?

I have been working as Project Architect for more than two years on the Lowry - Lifestyle Outlet Manchester at MediaCityUK, where we have been carrying out a series of refurbishments throughout the centre.

The main area of my work has been the Southern Waterside and Watergardens development. This phased regeneration will provide an expanded and wider-ranging retail, restaurant and leisure offer. I have been leading the project, for which we recently received planning permission, and I feel very passionate about it – again, it links to my love of regeneration and creating new destinations for people.

We have created new connections to the southern side of the centre, and we have designed a new bridge to provide improved linkages to the other side of the Manchester Ship Canal, where a new tram stop is due to be installed, We have opened up the southern façade with new waterside restaurants, and have created an attractive and relaxing public realm to encourage people to stay. The public has responded very positively to our proposals, and we believe that the Watergardens concept will help establish the Lifestyle Outlet centre as the “town centre” for Salford Quays. It’s very exciting!

The Watergardens – Lifestyle Outlet Manchester

What do you enjoy the most about your job?

Apart from what I have already said about the chance to help positively renew urban areas, I really enjoy the teamwork involved. I have been leading a team for two years, and I very much enjoy the interaction and collaboration with people from diverse backgrounds and their own unique viewpoints.

Another enjoyable aspect is the social side of Chapman Taylor. I have recently become chair of the Manchester studio’s Executive Group (which organises social and learning activities within the studio and connects with its counterparts at studios across the wider company) – it feels very much like membership of a community of like-minded people. We are responsible for charity events, social occasions and career development initiatives (such as the regular studio CPD sessions), which makes my role very fulfilling.

For the last couple of years, I have also been responsible for student mentoring in the Manchester studio – I mentor Part III students and we are creating new links with the Manchester Architecture School through the RIBA Mentoring Scheme. I set up study workshops for Part III students, monitor their progress, help them with case studies and CVs and assist them in their exam preparations. I take a lot of pride in the fact that four Part III students have since become qualified architects during my time in this role.

What is your advice for younger people considering, or studying for, a career in architecture today?

My advice would be to focus on what you want from a career in architecture, and remember that motivation. It is easy to become distracted and come to see architecture as just a job, the longer you are in it. If you stay true to yourself and the areas you are passionate about, you will make the most out of this very rewarding career.

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