Interview with Jonathon Connolly of Jonathon Connolly Architect
Let's meet Jonathon Connolly of Jonathon Connolly Architect, a RIBA Chartered Practice based in Tunbridge Wells Kent.
Hello Jonathon, tell us a bit about your background. What studies or training did you pursue to become an architect?
I studied Fine Art for four years before working as a builder for several years. Later I studied architecture and completed my professional exams whilst working for a leading design practice in London. Shortly after this, I set up my own practice.
What was your career path leading up to your work today?
I worked in the building industry for a number of years which supported me whilst I studied early on in my career. I worked in London for several very good architectural practices before I qualified as an Architect and set up my own studio. I was surprised to find that it is unusual to find Architects who have practical experience working as builders or on building sites.
Why did you choose this profession, and what makes you love your job?
I have a real obsession with craftsmanship and art and also with the practical side of the design process. Being an Architect allows you to make a real difference to people's everyday lives by improving the spaces they inhabit in ways that they had perhaps not considered before.
What are the difficulties that you encounter in your work?
There are lots of problems to be solved as you develop architectural ideas. Every project is different and every time you design you will encounter different obstacles. Difficulties that Architects face on a daily basis vary from site constraints to planning issues to technical regulations and lots besides. You need to enjoy the process of problem-solving.
For you, what is an architect’s main role?
You are required to fulfil many roles as an Architect but one demand that is constant is the ability to communicate ideas clearly in different ways to different people. You also need to be able to interpret what is being asked of you in order to successfully explain an idea. Very often a client will not have a clear idea of what it is that they want exactly, and you will need to help them shape a starting point.
In your opinion, what talent or quality is particularly essential for an architect to have?
It is very important that you are open-minded to new ideas which perhaps come from places you were not expecting. It is also very important that you are able to be patient when required.
What does your job consist of?
Day to day work usually consists of tackling a number of problems at different scales which need to be solved. This can be through drawings, making models or simply talking to clients or consultants.
What motivates you the most in your profession?
When a client tells you that you have made a real difference to the way that they live their lives this can be very moving. It is often useful to remember back to the beginning of a project to remember what the client wanted when they first spoke to you.
What project do you remember best?
I have fond memories of a project in the New Forest to rebuild a fire-damaged family home. The client had only recently bought the house when it was almost entirely destroyed in a blaze. We put together drawings and information to rebuild the house. The client did a lot of the work themselves which was special. I still visit the house from time to time.
What is your favourite city?
I am very fond of Marseille. It is a real mixture of cultures and energetic as a result.
If you had to build a new house for yourself, what would it be like?
That would very much depend on where it was and what was around it. What can you see from the site, or where does the sun come up for example?
Where do you find your inspiration?
Probably mostly from travel. Especially in Europe. There is an incredible amount of richness in the buildings around us and a lot of the design problems which we encounter every day have been dealt with many times in many different ways by the generations before us.
How would you define the relationship between an architect and his or her client?
I think that you are trying to help clients to uncover something which they are not quite able to express.
Sometimes a client will have a very clear idea of what they want and sometimes they do not. Often the most interesting projects come from when the client does not have a clear vision but is willing to test some ideas.
What are your specialities in your field?
I have a keen eye for detail and craft having spent time building and constructing artworks. I have also worked on a number of heritage and restoration projects and have put together drawings to rebuild large houses which is very rewarding.
A little message that you’d like to send to your future clients?
Do not worry if you do not know exactly what you want, this is often the way at the start. The best projects happen when there is a continued, honest dialogue between architect and client.
Never be afraid to suggest an idea, and if you do not understand something do not hesitate to question it.
Many thanks to Jonathon for taking the time to tell us about his work. To see more of his past projects or to get in contact with him, visit his page.