The Space Group story started some sixty years ago. This year, 2017, is the 60th anniversary of when the Waring and Netts Partnership was first established. In 2007 when we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the company we changed our name to Space Group to reflect the diversity of the work in which we were involved.
A few weeks ago we held a lunch for some of the partners who have been part of the business over the decades. Unfortunately, some are sadly no longer with us and others were too frail to attend, however, my early mentor and chairman Mike Douglas came along as did Richard Elphick.
At nearly 70 Mike is still working with surveyors in Northumberland and absolutely loving it. He looks younger than when he retired eight years ago! Richard Elphick is also still working, designing one-off houses for clients and obtaining planning permissions in sensitive areas. He still uses his drawing board and Rotring pens. There is just him, so he does everything from the design to working drawings right through to managing the project on site.
Over lunch, we caught up and shared stories from the years we had spent working together. We also invited some current Spacers to join us - one to represent each of the six decades that we have been in business. Another one of the Spacers, Anthony, will complete his fortieth year in 2018 before taking his well-earned retirement, while another colleague, Donal, has been with the business for over thirty years now.
I brought Richard and Mike up to date with regards to what the business was working on at present. It was apparent how much things have changed, even in the eight years since retirement. This change is not only a change for Space Group but reflects a change in the entire industry. We now use technology in everything we do. New generations have joined the sector and think differently to the generations before them.
As we sat and shared stories, the contrast between how our profession was then and how it is now was quite stark. In the first fifty years of Space Architects history, not a huge amount changed. We had CAD in the 1980s and parametric software in the mid-2000s however the culture surrounding us remained largely unchanged.
We reflected on the post meetings, where the partners would open all the incoming mail together and organise it into piles for actioning later. We talked about the receiving and writing of letters and how we waited days for a response. We talked about the time Len Netts was unable to make his mind up on some light fittings that had been specified on a project and ended up completely changing them all, even though they had already been delivered to site.
There is no greater advocate of the value technology can bring to our industry. I also wholeheartedly support the change in the culture which has been brought by new generations. However, spending time with Mike and Richard reminded me of some of the characters in the industry. Both Mike and Richard are flamboyant and hilarious personalities. Things moved at a much slower pace back then and we had more time to reflect and think. We had time to talk and maybe even laugh a bit more. We worked hard but things all seemed a little less frantic. Demands on all of us have increased. Technological developments such as email have that meant everything moves at a much faster pace and expectations have grown. We are all now driven to see a better industry where we improve processes and outcomes.
Our lunch, however, made me realise that we need to try and enjoy the journey more and not be purely driven by the destination. We need to ensure that we still value relationships and good old-fashioned communication. Perhaps, we could slow things down occasionally and take more time to reflect and think.
Hopefully, there will be more characters in the future and opportunities to take things a little less seriously sometimes.
Technology matters - but relationships and friendships also make a long-lasting impact.
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