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Q&A: Patrick Barrett, Barrett + Barrett Architects

Patrick Barrett established Barrett + Barrett Architects in 2009. He talks to us about planning, property development and Mary Poppins.

Who would you most like to shoot with a paintball gun?

Apathetic town planners whose all-too-negative attitudes zap energy and stall development. It is so unnecessary; a more positive approach would make for more mutually beneficial working relationships.

You’re God for the day. What’s the first thing you do?

Privatise planning. I think there is a lot that could be done to improve local authority planning departments. If they were commercial enterprises we would see an improvement in customer service, efficiency, sector collaboration – all things that a good business needs to do to function properly.

Who is your hero?

My Dad. He was an engineer with Leeds City Transport and worked extremely hard to ensure my mother and five sisters had the best he could provide. I’d like to think his work ethic and moral framework are imprinted in my genes.

What has been your worst business decision?

Putting off getting involved in property development. I wish I’d realised earlier how intrinsically linked considered architecture and quality design are to profitable property development.  

And best?

Setting up my own practice. The design freedom I have, and being able to pursue the very broad variety of projects and ventures I do, is thrilling.

One minute I’m dealing with car dealerships, factories and multi-million-pound office refurbishments and the next social housing developments, high-end individual residential properties and even polo clubs.

Who or what are you enjoying listening to?

My eclectic design tastes translate into my music preferences too – Jim Reeves is a current favourite, as is Jake Bugg.

What is your favourite book or film?

It has to be Mary Poppins. I have many happy memories of watching it with my parents and sisters as a child and then again as a dad with my three sons.

What would you take with you to a desert island?

Running shoes – running is when I work things out and I’m sure they would help me get round the island and assess the best location to build a great-looking shack.

What characteristic do you most dislike in others?

Disrespect. Respect is a fundamental human right in my book and many issues would be easily resolved if it was more widely used.

If you were blessed with the necessary talent, what would your dream job be?

I feel very blessed – I’ve got my dream job. I am passionate about what I do, but if I had to choose another job I’d happily step in as Jennifer Aniston’s personal trainer.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

‘Having an opinion is worth 50 IQ points.’ I read that in PepsiCo CEO Roger Enrico’s book. It’s a great piece of advice that I often quote to encourage youngsters starting out in business to speak up. It’s always good to have an opinion.

What should the construction industry be doing to help itself in the current climate?

We should be lobbying planning and housing ministers to get them to push through some significant changes in the planning system.

The current state of play is inconsistent, very negative and stifling much-needed construction impetus. A more proactive stance on planning and creative options for developers such as Community Infrastructure Levy exemptions would go a long way to boosting growth in the sector.

What’s the best work-related thing you did recently?

I was chosen by RIBA to contribute to a panel of experts at the Northern House Building and Renovation Show. People came from all over the North of England and it was fantastic to see so many taking on their own projects.

The enthusiasm and passion to get things right was infectious and something the commercial sector could do with. 

How would you like to be remembered?

As Yorkshire’s answer to Norman Foster would be very nice. But seriously, just being remembered as a decent bloke would do.

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