Transforming underused buildings
Project manager, Camden Collective/Camden Highline
As project manager for regeneration charity Camden Collective Adam Richards has been an essential part of managing the transformation of vacant and underused buildings with meanwhile uses. These are primarily as workspaces, subsidised space for start-ups and skills training for young people. He originally trained as an architect and has worked at Hackney Council and the think-tank Centre for London. He currently works on the design and delivery of planned activity and the identification, acquisition and refurbishment of spaces for use.
Since he arrived at Camden Collective in 2012 it has generated over 200 jobs with this work and a return on investment of 1/10. One of those projects is the art deco former National Temperance Hospital. For £115/m2 over 3000m2 was refurbished with bold patterns and carefully targeted spending working with practices CO-DB and RARA. This was also a collaboration between different groups including the landlord, HS2 which is planned to run through the site, the mayor of London and Camden Town Unlimited, the local business improvement district that founded the Camden Collective.
Other projects include a retail and workspace pop-ups on Camden High Street to bring activity to the street as a leases expired with the largest of these using low cost, upcycled materials for the £60k fit-out. Still on the horizon but underway under Adam’s leadership is Camden Highline, part park, part transport. His referee Simon Pitkeathley, chief executive, Camden Town Unlimited chose this as example of Richards’ enterprise in action: ‘He volunteered to lead the whole project and has galvanised an otherwise slow moving idea into the centre piece of our new term. His approach has included reaching out to new partners… focusing on the design aspects in order to get buy-in from initial funders. This was not easy and involved bringing reluctant board members on side through determined engagement and persuasion. The project has more than doubled in pace as a result.’
What would you most like to improve about the industry?
Architectural training is consistently framed as being one of the most thorough forms of professional training but I believe it severely constrains students’ ability to engage in creative and construction industries. During my training I developed excellent design and communication skills and created some good-looking proposals, but had no understanding of how to apply my architectural education in a business sense.
Architectural training has far more to offer society than supplying new practitioners, although that is obviously important. With the majority of architecture graduates not pursuing a career in architecture, their education should reflect and promote an interdisciplinary future they are more likely to pursue, by equipping them with both design and enterprise skills.
Who would you most like to work with?
FAT, maybe for a lucrative reunion...