Love of Landscape | Q&A with HPA Director
Zoe Hooton became a HPA Director in 2016, after working as part of the team for four years prior. We asked her a few questions this month about her interests in heritage, education, and love of the landscape.
When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in Architecture?
When I was younger, my Mum worked at the Royal Albert Hospital back when it was still a mental institution. As it was being shut down, and people were being moved to more adaptable places, I could see the greater effect it had on a community. To me, Architecture is the application and combination of art and people.
Design might not always represent glamour or opulence, but its power to change people’s lives can be profound – it’s what made me want to be a part of the process. I was fascinated by the power of regeneration. I’d also noted schemes such as Tate Battersea’s power station’s conversion to an art gallery, finding the build re-use as something valuable that I wanted to be a part of. This led to me to join the Echoes of Art Deco group, as a teenager in Morecambe, where we campaigned for the regeneration of the Hotel.
What made you decide to seek a specialism in heritage?
Like people, buildings have a character defined by those that made them, commissioned them, or even lived within them. The collective details of the buildings make the places, and these can be rooted in history, arts, and literature. My job often involves saving them, piecing them together, or helping people understand their significance. Collectively, the buildings can take on new lives through this. I’d participated in courses by SPAB and Historic England, but undertook a Masters at Birmingham in the Conservation of the Historic Environment to learn more.
What projects have you been involved in recently?
Next week, we complete the ‘Outside’ project Another Place: The Lake, in the Lake District. Having been the project Architect for Another Place since its inception, it is a bittersweet but satisfying moment in our development. This project is so particular to me because I too share the client’s ethos for bringing the outside to all and letting landscape do the talking. I am also onsite currently with the Grand Theatre, Lancaster, which is a Heritage Action Zone funded project to repair its façade. It’s rewarding to work on such a beloved building in the city.
What do you enjoy most about your role at HPA?
We possess the ability to work nationally, and with many different people and clients. One week I can be wallowing in the mud with a farmer, assisting with farming diversification, and the next week I can be assisting with improvements to education sectors in Barrow. It’s also an everyday opportunity to review, reflect, and learn from the design.
I love the impact that building improvements can make, and the different experiences they bring to people. The most rewarding thing for me is visiting the buildings we’ve created once they’re in use. One of my personal favourites is visiting Bendrigg and to see smelly socks and the building being battered exactly as we intended.
I never thought I’d return to my home city, but I love the ability to now influence the places where I grew up, revisiting them with fresh, older eyes. Our team dynamic makes the ethos of working with people an enjoyable and satisfying experience, especially when mentoring younger members of our team and through my teaching work at the RIBA. But, overall, I just really love my job.
To meet the rest of the Team at HPA, click here.