Q&A: Esther Everett & Eleanor Fawcett

The creative directors of this year’s RIBA Guerrilla Tactics conference, Esther Everett and Eleanor Fawcett, on how they plan to persuade architects to be more client savvy

Why did you go for the creative director job at RIBA Guerrilla Tactics together?

We are both architects who now work on the client side at the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC). It seemed like a great opportunity to draw on our experiences, work with a wide range of people and explore the client’s perspective.

What do you do at the LLDC?

We lead the design and physical regeneration team – the body responsible for the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and surrounding area. We are the client for projects from major developments to parks, playgrounds and footbridges. More broadly, we hold the strategic overview of design across the LLDC area and provide advice to colleagues across the organisation.

How is your work at the Olympic Park relevant to architects?

We trained as architects, studying at Cambridge University, MIT and London Metropolitan. Fawcett joined the Architecture and Urbanism Unit at City Hall under Richard Rogers in 2003 and Everett joined Design for London in 2010. We then founded the design team for the Olympic Legacy organisation in 2011. The switch to client-side was relatively seamless as our work was still design focused. The objectives are very similar.

What do you look for in architects and, if their work doesn’t meet expectations, how is that manifested?

We’re keen to give emerging practices a chance. We look for a great service, but also enjoy the challenges architects put to us. The occasional moments when they haven’t met our expectations are mostly in the delivery phase when programme and funding get tight. Sometimes small practices’ inexperience in project delivery shows. That said, you often think it wasn’t so bad when the project turn outs to be amazing

How important is it for architects to be more client-focused for architecture and how are you tackling it as a theme at Guerrilla Tactics?

Strong client relationships are essential to delivering excellent buildings. By having a greater appreciation of what clients are looking for and going through, architects will not fall at simple hurdles. This year’s event will start with sessions on how to get noticed by clients, through how to manage design competitions and tender interviews, and on to how to finish on a high note and gain recognition. It will include talks from clients such as Argent’s project director Tom Goodhall, former development director for Peabody Claire Bennie and Haringey’s head of regeneration Beth Kay.

RIBA Guerrilla Tactics conference, Client Perspectives, 10-11 November.