2018 Lecture Series: 12 Journeys and counting
Our 2018 Lecture Series is featuring the journeys of inspiring women in the built environment. So far we have heard from: a nurse turned patron, Laura Lee of Maggie’s Centres; an architect working frequently with us on large-scale urban masterplans including Irfan and York Central, Sowmya Parthasarathy of Arup; an architect designing progressive housing schemes, Cathy Hawley of Citizens Design Bureau; and the woman at the helm of a pioneering institution at the intersection of contemporary art and architecture, Yana Peel, CEO of the Serpentine Galleries. Earlier this month, we heard from one of our own, Di Haigh, who joined Allies and Morrison in 1996 after an already accomplished career in architecture.
Di’s reflective lecture, entitled “Twelve Journeys” begins in the Lake District and Cambridge, where she sets out on her path to become both a practicing architect as well as an academic researcher and teacher. Early days were spent learning in practices Howell Killick Partridge & Amis and Foster Associates, where she worked on the Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts. She then went on to establish a practice of her own working with husband William Fawcett, with projects such as the restoration of several houses designed by Baillie Scott, as well as writing a book and organising a major exhibition on his work. A few years in Hong Kong during her 30’s were a highlight, where she taught in second year architectural design studios at Hong Kong University.
She joined Allies and Morrison in 1996 to lead the team on the Conservation Plan for the Grade I listed Royal Festival Hall. This identified the powerful design vision behind the original 1951 designs, which had been lost under endless later insertions and adjustments. By reviving the vitality of the original ideas, they could be reinstated in thrilling new ways. The subsequent refurbishment project, with her leadership, saw changes both inside and outside. The auditorium and foyers were comprehensively restored and reconfigured and a new public face was created – all resulting in the vibrant South Bank waterfront enjoyed by Londoners and visitors alike today. The result was its shortlisting for the Stirling Prize in 2008.
A recurring strand in Di’s talk was her experiences in recognising and revealing all the layers within the historic buildings which she has worked on. In Cumbria, Allies and Morrison’s appointment to restore Baillie Scott’s Blackwell, drew together a series of inspiring spaces that resonate with the wonderful Lakeland landscapes beyond. Her interest in the Arts & Crafts is a recurring theme, which led to the practice’s commission to design the major International Arts & Crafts Exhibition at the V&A in 2005.
At the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, the insertion of a sculptural cone and a new sunken court accommodate a modern planetarium in the heart of a World Heritage Site. It was a project that involved collaboration with the astronomers to showcase up-to-the minute astronomic knowledge. Architecturally, the response manages to fit a bold bronze cone in amongst the historic Greenwich observatory buildings. As an architect at Allies and Morrison, she has helped to shape the academic life of Cambridge by helping to develop a masterplan for the University’s Sidgwick site, including the insertion of new buildings for the Faculty of English and Institute of Criminology.
After a period as Director of Architecture and Design Review at CABE from 2007-11, she returned to the practice to co-edit the book, The Fabric of Place, with Bob Allies. More recently, Di has been instrumental in helping to setting up of the practice’s Cambridge studio and in participating in commissions for individual colleges such as the strategic masterplan for St John’s College and the Bradfield Court project at Darwin College.
“She is an activist, she has campaigned for architecture and the significance it can play in all our lives,“ said Bob, when introducing Di before a packed crowd at the practice’s studios. “And within the office, she has also been a campaigner too, pushing us all in the practice forward.”