Building a creative career
Published: 14 Aug 2015
Name: Catherine McKeown
Job title: Chartered architect
Company: BMJ (Boswell Mitchell Johnson) Architects in Aberdeen
WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU WERE YOUNGER?
I wanted to be a journalist, an artist, a fashion designer, an air hostess and am sure a few more before I started studying architecture. I think I was drawn to all things creative.
HOW DID YOU GET INTERESTED IN ARCHITECTURE?
I first became interested in architecture while drawing and sketching buildings in Belfast city centre while at art college.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT BEING AN ARCHITECT?
It’s challenging, creative and varied. No two days are the same for me. One day I might be out with a measuring tape surveying an existing building, sketching plans for a client, the next on a building site with a contractor seeing my designs being built. That is the most satisfying part of my job, seeing what started as a sketch on a piece of paper come to life in a completed building.
WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE GOALS?
I would hope to continue to enjoy my work both in practice and with the Aberdeen Society of Architects (ASA). I hope to continue to grow and develop professionally and hopefully become an associate within the company. I used to be involved with the Scottish Society of Artist Architects (SSAA) and am keen to re-ignite my passion for painting and screen printing. As an architect, I love travelling and visiting buildings and one that has been on my to-do list for a long time is a Frank Lloyd Wright building Falling Water in Pennsylvania, in the US.
WHAT IS YOUR ROLE WITHIN THE ABERDEEN SOCIETY OF ARCHITECTS AND WHAT DOES IT INVOLVE?
I am currently the president of the ASA and was nominated for the position in April2015. My role is to act as chairwoman and local representative for the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS).
CAN YOU TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE ABERDEEN SOCIETY OF ARCHITECTS?
The ASA is a local branch of the RIAS. Our main aim is to represent and promote the interests of architects and architecture within this area (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire). Basically, we act as a conduit for the transfer of information and any matters arising (changes in legislation) from the central Scottish governing body to our local chapter here in Aberdeenshire. We promote quality in architecture by holding local design awards annually.
WHY DID YOU WANT THIS ROLE?
I have a true passion for my profession. I enjoy being a part of the ASA and it’s an exciting time to chair the group with so much development planned for Aberdeen and with the upcoming 2016 Scottish Festival of Architecture, Design, and Technology. So when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped at the chance to lead the group through this period.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR A CITY TO HAVE SOMETHING LIKE THIS?
It’s about representing views and issues that are important to local architects at a national level. We as a group act like a conduit between local architects and the RIAS to ensure our members have a voice at national level. We update members on changes in legislation, organise continual professional development, and promote good-quality architecture through our annual awards and participation with the design review panel within the local planning departments.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE EVENTS YOU ARE WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
It’s a really exciting time for the ASA. Our main focus is developing a programme of activities for the 2016 Scottish Festival of Architecture. During this time, we are keen to ensure that Aberdeen is well represented and involved in this national festival.
In addition, we are organising our annual dinner and awards, our programme of CPDs for the coming year, and updating our website so that we’re up to speed with social media by the time we release the festival programme.
We are very much looking forward to finalising the programme of activities and sharing them with you. So definitely watch this space.
WHAT IS THE AIM OF THE 2016 FESTIVAL OF ARCHITECTURE?
The 2016 Festival of Architecture Technology and Design is a national celebration. The festival, designed to boost confidence and understanding of our built environment, seeks to make a lasting difference to Scottish communities. It will inform all of Scotland’s people of the economic and social benefits of good architecture. It will also support Scotland’s ambitions as a player on the architectural world stage. The Scottish Government has announced its support for the festival and designated 2016 as Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design.
If you wish to obtain further information, please visit www.rias.org.uk.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT ABERDEEN BEING GIVEN THE CARBUNCLE AWARD FOR BEING THE MOST DISMAL TOWN IN SCOTLAND?
From a negative comment, I hope we can get a positive outcome by getting the community and council behind positive change in Aberdeen, such as the much publicised city masterplan. There are examples of good-quality architecture in Aberdeen, such as the new Sir Duncan Rice Aberdeen University library, and many of the buildings at the new RGU campus at Garthdee. I hope we won’t be holding on to that particular award for long.
My five favourite buildings in Aberdeen
THE ABERDEEN UNIVERSITY SIR DUNCAN RICE LIBRARY
It’s very much a landmark building in the city. The building represents good-quality contemporary architecture. The organic form of the central atrium is also well worth a look.
THE MAGGIE’S CENTRE
It is a combination of the building’s function and form that I find appealing. For me, its pebble form is understated and beautiful. It looks like a piece of sculpture.
Perhaps for me the best building in Aberdeen. It represents Aberdeen’s rich granite heritage and I think it’s inspiring how successful the refurbishment of this building has been. Being the council’s headquarters, it is the face of Aberdeen in many respects.
MARINE OPERATIONS CENTRE AT THE HARBOUR
Its location gives it prominence. It’s probably one of the first buildings ships coming into the harbour see. I think the form of the building is interesting, and it stands alone in its setting looking out to the sea.
THE ROBERT GORDON UNIVERSITY CAMPUS AT GARTHDEE
One of the first buildings on the new campus masterplan was designed by the world-famous architect Sir Norman Foster. The latest building represents a departure from Sir Norman Foster’s original building, with its different form and spectacular drum.