11 Years Later

Here’s some news:

31st August 2011 will be my last day at Bryant Priest Newman Architects.

I’ve had a fantastic time at BPN, but the time has finally come to say goodbye. I guess this might not come as a surprise to those who know me well and have been following my progress as a freelance consultant but a change has been brewing for a number of months, nay years, and I’ve just been waiting for the right time. As Moloko’s Róisín Murphy sang, the time is now.

Forgive me while I take a little trip down memory lane.

Back in the Spring of 2000, a mere slip of a lass was given a tip-off that an up-and-coming local practice were looking for a practice secretary. I was working for Glenn Howells at the time (during Glenn’s Custard Factory era) but I liked the taste of the industry and I was hankering after more responsibility. The 4-strong team of Bryant Priest Newman Architects sounded like an interesting option so I dropped them a line. In my ignorance, my CV and covering letter was written in everyone’s favourite font *cough*…. it looked friendly…. and I knew no better. Despite the Comic Sans, the invitation for an interview arrived and I went to meet the team.

Larry Priest greeted me at the door of the converted terrace house in leafy Bearwood with a warm smile and the words: “thank god you’re here, the last one was bonkers” and in a moment, I knew I’d fit right in. The job was mine and I loved it – the energy, the exciting projects, the staff reviews in the pub, the trips to Martin’s for a post-Bear curry. A few months later we were joined by technician Rob Smith and the team continued to grow. 2 years later and the practice had outgrown the house and relocated to The Flaghouse in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter.

More work arrived and yet again the practice outgrew its offices. This time, however, the move to bigger premises was slightly different. The practice had made the leap into property development and had bought a former jewellery workshop. Stripping back years of soot from the burners and removing ugly dividing walls created a light and airy open-plan office with the occasional nod to its industrial past.  Tastefully and respectfully refurbished, the building is a living working portfolio for the practice. Want to know what BPNs work is like? Go visit them – then you’ll *get it*.

Hiring bikes in Amsterdam

The room for further growth meant that in 2006, the practice reached the heady heights of 19 members of staff. Times were good, the work was great, we filled two floors of the building, we had an IT department, we took the practice to Amsterdam to gaze at the carefully designed Borneo Sporenburg housing project.  A year later and we took a trip to Madrid to be inspired by the green wall at Herzon & DeMeuron’s Caxiaforum.  Amazing memories.

Since then the practice has been through a huge amount. Disappointment of projects being halted. Coping with the trauma of Director Mark Bryant’s illness and helping him on the road to recovery. The difficulty of managing time and resources through a recession that affected the construction industry more than any other…. and yet they always come out the other side smiling and producing incredible work of an exceptionally high standard.

The offices at Mary Street have been a lovely building to work in and the energy in the building continues to grow as the top floor is now let to a number of creative start-ups. Things are moving on, the practice is responding to the economic climate, and I know they’ll continue to do well.

I’m humbled to have been a part of an amazing journey. I’ve got some fabulous memories and have made friends for life. If I’ve never shared the legendary Basket Story with you, remind me next time I see you. In fact, if I have shared it with you already, ask me to tell it again. It never gets tired.

So good luck BPN. Don’t forget:

  • If you can’t find something in the stationery cupboard, you’re probably just not looking properly.
  • If you find the tea towel walking round the kitchen, it’s definitely time to change it.
  • If Richard goes AWOL, he’s probably hiding in a box

*sigh* Happy days……What’s that? …… No, I’ve just got something in my eye…..

So moving forward, my freelance work has been an exciting journey so far and it’s time to be a grown-up and pursue my own dreams. I need to use my skills and knowledge in the industry to start making a difference.

So you’re probably wondering what is it that I’m going to be doing….. and the answer isn’t clear yet. I’ve got a number of opportunities that I’m following up and I hope to eventually whittle this down to one thing. I guess the answer is to watch this space.

I’ll have more time available from September onwards so if you need my skills, knowledge or network, let me know. I’m always willing to meet up and discuss opportunities so if you’re thinking about getting in touch, I’d love to hear from you. Just drop me a line or Skype me.

6 thoughts on “11 Years Later

  1. Good luck, Lorna. Assuming BPN’s success was at least in no small part down to you I am sure you have very exciting times ahead.

  2. 11 years on………..think I’ve got something in my eye.

    Lorna made a massive contribution to our office and we’ll miss her loads.

    Don’t hesitate to hire her if you think she might be able to help you. She won’t let you down.

    Good luck


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