Michael Simpson (known as Meeks to those who meet him), is an Architect and Workplace Consultant at GT3 Architects. He has co-run a 3rd year studio at Newcastle University for 7 years after assisting a lecturer as a student.
This year, Meeks’ studio is working on a theme of cross-disciplinary design, focusing on integrating learning and inspiration from design fields outside of architecture, incorporating landscape, engineering, product, marketing, graphics and interior design. The overarching theme is to encourage students to consider opportunities for ‘total design’, not just influencing the building but also looking at how it will be perceived by and marketed to the end-user community and other stakeholders.
In discussion about the benefits of working with academia, Meeks explains “I believe links between practice and academia strengthen the architectural profession as we learn from both angles and can challenge a practice’s ways of thinking. Newcastle have been very good at giving students a mix of approaches which has generally meant the students come out very employable. The projects we help students to develop are free of a lot of the restrictions real-life projects in practice have. This often means they push more boundaries in materials, research, form etc – it’s this excitement and innovation that can feed back into practice. I also think lots of practices are guilty of complaining that students come out of university not knowing the right things, so I think it’s good that we engage with education and help shape how students leave university and what skills they have.
“On a personal level I really enjoy it, it’s all about the people architecture – seeing the students develop through the year and understand more about the subject that I love. I get to play a part in designing not only projects at work but 16 projects at university too. The real challenge lies in trying to understand what the students are trying to do and achieve with their projects and how to help them get there themselves.”
Anna, one of Meeks’ former students, and now also an Architect at GT3 said “As a tutor, Meeks encouraged us to think about the different ways Architecture can influence people. He pushed us to consider many ways we could effectively communicate our projects to any audience; meticulous diagrams, varied portfolios and good verbal presentations.”