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Gurmeet Sian of Office Sian explains how an emphasis on building relationships with his clients makes him more like a midwife than an architect.
In the movie, Gurmeet Sian introduces his projects by noting that his sister had made a comparison between his job and that of a midwife. "It wasn't just because I go on about delivering projects and nurturing ideas," he explains. "It was because she had noticed that when I spoke to her about design, I mentioned a lot about building relationships with other people and getting the best out of others."
"Before delivering any baby, the architect-midwife should be brilliant at listening," he adds. "We should all be great at allowing the client space to express themselves."
One slide shows one of Office Sian's first clients. "The client-architect relationship is especially important to me," says Sian. "This relationship is built on trust and needs to be nurtured."
"I ask all my clients to write a wishlist," he continues. "Instead of a list of what they want in the space, I ask them how they see themselves using the space. I then take this list, reinterpret it into a set of goals and formulate this into a concept."
Another slide shows a builder Sian has worked with a number of times. "I enjoy how a design can change after chatting to builders, who’ve pretty much seen it all before," he says.
He then introduces the Hackney Shed, a low-budget garden office for a filmmaker and artist. "The design was developed to use many standard sizes of panels and timber as possible, in order to reduce cutting and wastage of materials," he explains.
Next he shows a Thai canteen in Clerkenwell created in collaboration with Kai Design. Original architectural elements can be seen in the space's industrial aesthetic, such as the line of the previous staircase, which travels in the opposite direction to the new steps.
He also introduces a home refurbishment where the client needed to separate meat and milk dishes in the kitchen. "The concept of static and movement was developed, which resulted in this irregular window arrangement and brick pattern," he explains.
A community centre project saw the architect design a zig-zagging wall for children to paint on. "This wall is split into segments [so] a whole linear wall mural can be composed out of children’s paintings and joined together."
Finally he introduces two small projects currently underway: a steel gazebo for a roof terrace in south London and the renovation of an end-of-terrace house belonging to an artist. "The image describes perhaps the world’s smallest art gallery running along the boundary wall, with square windows popping up," says Sian.
"It’s very satisfying to complete projects but at the end I certainly don’t want to be the one holding the baby – it’s not really my baby," he concludes. "I’m not trying to produce spaces that reveal me. Instead I’m trying to produce spaces in which the client reveals not just themselves, but the best of themselves."
Sian was speaking as part of Designed in Hackney Day's Pecha Kucha talks, a format that invites speakers to show 20 slides for 20 seconds each.
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