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Gurmeet Sian, Architect, London

Architects are surely the rock stars of the design world ‚ they've inspired books, music, films, they're knighted and praised‚ we love them and heap praise on them for beautifying our cities ‚ and blame them when the urban landscape looks ugly.
But what makes a good architect?
London based architect Gurmeet Sian, founder of 'Office Sian', has been nominated for numerous architecture and arts awards, including Architect's Journal for the '24 Best Small Projects in the UK'... and New London Architecture for '50 Best Home Improvement Refurbishments'.

Creative Mapping talked more to architect Gurmeet Sian about the recipe for architectural success!

"I strongly believe that buildings and environments are constantly evolving, and are being reinterpreted by the people who use them. Therefore, the creative process never stops, even though my role as an architect ceases when construction finishes." Gurmeet Sian


CM: Where do you live and what & where did you study?
I live in Dalston, and my work studio is in Shoreditch. I studied architecture at the University of Liverpool, and at the University College, London.

CM: What do you do?
I'm an architect and designer.

CM: How did you become a professional creative?
I've always been interested in the environment we live in, and the creation of places and spaces. The broad study areas covered within the Architecture course really appealed to me as a student and following my graduation, London was a natural destination to train under the guidance of some amazing creative architects.
My first independent commission was a domestic commission for a house in North London. I tried to express the concept of movement within a static object, and explore alternative ways to use simple materials. Thankfully, it was well received by the clients, and was widely published.

CM: Who are your clients and how do you market yourself?
My clients vary from those in the residential sector to high-end restaurant and bar owners. I also provide pro bono services to charities in and around London.
Being published and short-listed for awards forms a large part of my marketing.
Within the architecture profession, because so much faith is placed upon the architect, being published and recommendations from previous work provide invaluable marketing for my studio.


CM: Your work environment?
My studio is in Shoreditch and my work environment is a fairly simple yet messy, affair.

CM: What are your preferred working programs/tools/materials?
I sketch pretty constantly, so the most important tool that I need is a large drawing surface, and of course, natural light. I surround myself with the sketches of the projects that I'm currently working on, so my working environment changes constantly. I go through quite a lot of tracing paper, and my scanner also gets a lot of use! I always carry an A6 size sketchpad in my pocket, just to jot down notes and scribbles when I'm on the move.

CM: What's your creative process, from the clients brief and your inspiration, through to the execution of your work?
The creative process for me begins the moment I meet the Client and start to listen to them express what they want to achieve from the commission. I ask all of my clients to write a short paragraph which I call a ‚Wish List', and encourage them to be as fanciful as possible. Although all of the client's needs may not be realised within the commission, the ‚Wish List' not only forms the basis of the functional elements of the project, but crucially also provides me with some conceptual inspiration.
From this point, I sketch pretty much constantly, and formulate my design ideas on rolls and rolls of tracing paper. I do occasionally make models for some of my commissions (which are given away to the clients), and for one project even made a pop-up book of the building.

I use CAD programs to finalise drawings, but this part comes right at the end of the drawing process. When my designs get built, I tend to spend a lot of time with the builders trying to make sure that the drawings are interpreted correctly, to form the spaces as conceived. This is the part of the process I really enjoy; a lot can be learned from discussing design details with the people who are actually going to build from your drawings.

CM: When do you know your projects are finished? Are you ever truly satisfied with the end product?
I strongly believe that buildings and environments are constantly evolving, and are being reinterpreted by the people who use them. Therefore, the creative process never stops, even though my role as Architect ceases when construction finishes.
I'm quite a hard person to please! ‚ and I'm quite hard on my own work as well, but only because I believe that, although each one of my commissions is a bespoke piece, each one also forms part of a long learning process that I carry forward into every new project.


CM: Your biggest achievement to-date?
My biggest achievement to date was the design and completion of the refurbishment of a charity-owned community centre in South London. The project was complicated because of the number of parties involved, and was 100% council funded ‚ which is quite a challenge in these difficult economic conditions. But I'm happy that we worked with the charity to create a space which is being put to great use in the community.

CM: What are your biggest challenges as a creative?
My biggest challenge as a creative architect is when I discuss projects with the council authorities, some of which are not as receptive to modern and considered design as I feel, they should be. Creative blocks are part of the creative process ‚ my remedy is to leave the studio to get some inspiration from visiting some of my favourite buildings in London.

CM: The best place to escape to for you?
To escape, I try to spend time with friends and family. I'm lucky that my parents live only a couple of hours from London and I can always visit them to clear my mind of any issues that maybe bothering me at work.

CM: What inspires your creativity the most in London?
London, and the people I meet in this city who come from all corners of the globe, each with their own story, inspire me every day.

CM: Are you part of a creative community? Creative network?
I share my studio space with illustrators, designers, stylists, film makers and writers, so I feel very much part of a creative community.

CM: What are your favourite blogs and magazines?
My favourite blog is, and I like the reportage in Monocle.

CM: Do you ever work from a cafe?
Occasionally I leave the studio to work in Shoreditch House, London.

CM: Which professional festivals and trade-shows are a must for you?
Trade shows, although important, are not as important for me as actually visiting exciting buildings and spaces, both new and historical.

CM: Your favourite suppliers?
I don't really have favourite suppliers, but I do try to work with natural materials and manufacturers who have a strong environmental and sustainability policy.

CM: Your dream collaboration with other creatives?
I'd love to design a national gallery or a large cultural building, however, I don't really have a dream project, as I believe that any commission can lead to a fantastic 'product'. The key is to find dream clients who have faith in you and support your ideas throughout the creative process.