IHBC Yearbook 2011

26 Y e a r b o o k 2 0 1 1 purpose is to improve our design, conservation and technical skills, our sustainability, business management and planning. A representative in each office alerts staff to relevant knowledge and training opportunities. A monthly newsletter rounds up the information, publishing it on the practice intranet. Content might include relevant courses or conferences, new research, articles from journals or news of interest. Each office also receives a core set of journals, circulated to all staff. Finally, our human resources department manages staff recruitment, training and development. This is an important element in ensuring we engage the right people to carry out our work and we invest heavily in this area. We hope new employees will become part of the practice for many years; it is a hope borne out by experience: our average staff service is over six years and several partners have come up through the practice having started as Part II students. We see student sponsorship as a key part of our role as a conservation training ground, and sponsoring technologists and Part I/II students to continue their studies constitutes one third of our learning and development budget. When students return to the practice for their office-based experience we do everything possible to ensure success in Part III exams. We have a regular informal appraisal process which is formally recorded annually. The process measures key performance indicators, checks CPD aims and achievements and recommends training needs. It also asks staff members for their preferences or suggestions. The emphasis on training means using many different methods to achieve it. We use specialist suppliers to give intensive courses on creative writing, management or presentation skills; accredited CPD providers give in-office training sessions on new technology and equipment. To broaden awareness of what the practice is doing, and the skills available for repair and restoration work, we regularly arrange visits to specialists working on our projects. A broader understanding of methods and skills is acquired from the excellent courses organised at West Dean College in Sussex, York University or the Scottish Lime Centre. Selected staff are invited to attend longer courses. Each year we send one mid-career architect to the Attingham Summer School and all new technical staff are offered a place on the SPAB’s one-week repair course. We also sponsor an additional qualification, such as an MSc in Architectural Practice Management. Another important source of information comes from involvement in organisations like the IHBC, SPAB or DOCOMOMO. The journals, lectures and visits provided by these organisations are generally packed with technical and instructive information written by highly experienced people. 3. Gathering practical experience The more learning is related to practical experience the better: high concepts are difficult to process without concrete demonstrations. Slides in a lecture do not communicate as well as a visit to a real building and no amount of training can replicate the lessons learned from seeing designs and specifications constructed on the ground. This is especially true in conservation, a discipline that requires subtlety of touch but relies on the skills of others to deliver the result. Too often, carefully researched and apparently correct drawings fail in execution, producing a bland facsimile rather than a vibrant original building, time-worn but properly repaired and maintained. It is only immersion in the correct ethos, sound experience and the humility to learn from skilled people that generates the knowledge needed to give a conserved building a glow of good health, as opposed to producing an over-scraped restoration. We nurture this knowledge in our staff by taking on a wide variety of work, from small church quinquennial repairs to major construction projects in historic places. Inexperienced staff are given small projects or elements of larger work, with more experienced people to guide and mentor them. Critical to the experience is the interaction with skilled members of the building industry, as those professionals, craftspeople and conservators, with their communal knowledge and experience, also pass on reasoned, sensible and effective studio and site decision-making skills. In this way, individuals not only gain experience the practice can use, but progress towards conservation accreditation, a qualification that we now regard as essential for our work. Jonathan Gotelee MA(Hons) Dip Arch RIAS RIBA ran his own practice in Edinburgh before combining with Purcell Miller Tritton to form the practice’s Scottish studio. He has worked on projects in Europe, the United States and the Far East and his experience includes cathedral and Category A listed building conservation, as well as new buildings. He is an IHBC affiliate member. On-site learning at the National Maritime Museum Sammy Ofer Wing (All photos: Purcell Miller Tritton LLP)