Fulton Trotter Architects celebrated its 70th year of practice late last year. Director Mark Trotter has been part of the Fulton Trotter Architects team, and family business, since 1979. Here he reflects on his 35+ years of experience in the industry and why it’s important to reflect on history when looking to the future.
What are some of the changes you’ve seen in the architecture industry generally, and within the sectors you work in – health, education and aged care?
The term ‘architect’ is historical and protected by law, as a means for the community to place trust in a particular person to assist them through the building process. The profession was held in high regard for most of the 20th Century, with the core principle of the profession being ‘credit emptor’ (let the buyer trust). However, recent developments in competition policy and the way procurement politics are played out has significantly compromised this principle to resemble ‘caveat emptor’ (let the buyer beware). The understanding of, and confidence in, the profession has slipped. In many respects, this has been through influences of other, often less qualified, groups that have seen value in reducing the profession’s influence.
In terms of education – clearly technology has caused a massive change in the last five to 10 years. With aged care, we’re constantly seeing increasing requirements for more private (in one sense) and more connected (in another sense) non-institutional solutions. The health industry has greatly changed with the rise of salaries versus other costs. Shorter stays in hospitals and a larger focus on circulation paths has fundamentally changed how we, as architects, design.
How has Fulton Trotter Architects changed over the last 70 years?
I think some things have dramatically changed, but other things have stayed the same. There are some things that have unified us and been a consistent routine throughout the course of the office history, but we’ve also had to evolve substantially over time in terms of drawing technology, project management services and design, to make sure that we’re relevant and appropriate.
The things that haven’t changed are the ethics of the business and the belief in architecture not just as a design profession, but also as a professional service to the public that is the interface between the building industry and the community.
Why is it important to reflect on history when looking to the future?
For us, it’s inevitably about the legacy of buildings that we’ve done. That body of work is a great resource for training and there are so many learnings there that we can build on for future projects. It’s important to keep building on our experience. We take everyone who works with us on a journey from the start of a job to the end of a job, so they can take the lessons from the last project and apply them to the next project. I think that young people particularly love that about the practice and it’s great for our culture.
It’s essential to keep following the dream. I think the dream from our early days as a practice was about delivering high quality design and high quality service. That’s always remained a driver for us and I think it’s important to have something to guide you.
What does it mean to be a 70-year-old firm?
I think having history helps you through the tough times. There’s a real sense here of being part of a bigger thing.
I’ve been at Fulton Trotter Architects for 36 years (over half of the practice’s existence), but I still feel as though I’m building on other people’s work. Whereas, if we’d just started yesterday, it’d be very easy to pack up and go home when things got tough.
Having history gives the office a sense of purpose and being, and a place in the world that we’re proud of.