Working for a global design practice

As a global design practice, Chapman Taylor encourages its employees to work collaboratively with other international studios on projects throughout the world. We also frequently help facilitate inter-office transfers for our employees who want to experience life at another Chapman Taylor design studio. We believe that the exchange of people and ideas offers new insights and new design approaches that help us design more creative projects for our clients.

Here we talk to Petra Klauzova, who has worked in both our London and Prague studios, about her experience of working in different parts of the Chapman Taylor network and what insights she has gained.

How long have you been with Chapman Taylor?

I’ve been with Chapman Taylor since September 2013, when I started at the Prague studio straight from university (I studied mostly at Charles University in Prague, though half of my Master’s degree was studied in Kansas). Two years later, exactly, I started working in the London studio, and have now been in London longer than I was in Prague.

I started by doing a lot of feasibility work, just as I do in London, but I was also doing a lot of graphics work, which is unnecessary in London because the studio has its own talented Graphics team. The type of work was very similar, though I started on a small scale before slowly gaining responsibility.

What was working in Prague like compared to your time in London?

Much of the work was very similar – I worked on international projects there as well as here, so moving to London didn’t make an awful lot of difference in terms of my day-to-day work. The studio in London is obviously much larger, but I worked collaboratively with our international offices anyway when I was in Prague, particularly with Manchester and Baku.

What is more important is that people are different – approaches vary depending on the individual or group you are working with. Even between the various teams here in London, there are differences in method and process. I am very lucky to have been able to experience several of these, for example through my work with the Transportation, UK Feasibility and International Feasibility teams – it is in some ways like having worked in three different offices, with each operating in a distinct way. So, differences are more about people than places.

What made you decide to move to London?

I wanted to experience life in the big city! Prague is relatively small, with about 1.2 million people, and I felt it was the right time to live and work somewhere much bigger. I had been working with several people from the London studio, and I wanted to experience life at Chapman Taylor’s ‘hub’, just to know what it is like to work from the centre of the business.

In London, you get to work with people from very diverse cultural backgrounds, and you can learn from that, and think about other ways of doing things. In my studio bay of eight people, we have people from England, Wales, South Africa, Cyprus, Italy, Spain, Poland and the Czech Republic! In fact, you begin to take it for granted after a while, which I think is a good thing.

But it is also great to know that, with the studio being right next to Paddington Station, I can be at Heathrow Airport in half an hour and can be in Prague within four hours. I miss the beer, though luckily you can find it in London.

How does the architecture differ between the two cities?

Prague is smaller and much more architecturally restrictive than London – there are more regulations and the authorities are much more sensitive about protecting historical buildings. The city centre didn’t experience bombing during the Second World War, apart from one bomb where the only modern building (Frank Gehry’s Dancing House) stands now.

In London, it is a little more flexible, for example in terms of allowing restricted light at basement levels, and so on, which allows a slightly greater input for us designers. As a result, London has a more diverse range of architectural designs than the relatively conservative Prague.

Prague Airport is my baby! Every time I travel home through the airport, I get to walk past things that I worked on!

What has been your most memorable project?

Prague Airport is my baby! I was part of the team, led by Jan Pokorny, which started on a competition entry for an arrivals hall enhancement at Terminal 1 about three years ago, and it is now built. It was the first project that I had a major input in which went on to get built. The project taught me a lot about airport design, and I really enjoyed collaborating with the airport’s staff to design the best possible passenger experience. Every time I travel home through the airport, I get to walk past things that I worked on! 

I also loved working on the British Council of Offices (BCO) ‘Office of the Future’ competition, which was a collaboration between all the UK studios to imagine the workplace of tomorrow. Even though we didn’t win, the collaborative process was very enjoyable. I hope that we get to take part in more competitions like that one.

I have also been lucky enough to have worked on projects in countries across Europe and Asia, such as Azerbaijan, Romania, Switzerland, China, Jordan and Hungary. I currently work on UK projects, particularly in terms of the planning process, which is great for adding to my technical experience.   

Do you enjoy working with Chapman Taylor?

I enjoy working with Chapman Taylor very much – it’s a great company. You always get all the support you need, not just from people here in London, but from all the international studios. It’s great to work in a team where you know that you can rely on every single person, and that we’re all pulling in the same direction.

I learned how to play softball here at Chapman Taylor in London, and the Christmas parties are amazing! This past Christmas, we had a really glamorous Christmas event in Mayfair, with a fairy forest theme and everyone dressed up in costumes they designed themselves. I really enjoy the social side of life here – we have a lot of fun!

Chapman Taylor is an international business which offers worldwide career opportunities for those who join us. Each of our 18 international design studios works on projects in several countries, allowing our designers to gain truly global experience.

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