On the journey of promoting professionalism The positive influence of dyslexia

I was recently invited to contribute a piece for Alan Jones + Rob Hyde new RIBA book ‘Defining Contemporary Professionalism’, For Architects in Practice and Education. This is a short piece of my journey through architecture so far.


This piece is on the positive advantages of life with Dyslexia in the world of architecture, which is a celebration of 30 years of my personal journey through the eyes of a dyslexic, entrepreneurial, creative brain.



Challenges and failures teach us a lot about how to respond to life-defining early experiences. This learning helps our development, teaching us to think laterally and create different opportunities by changing the status-quo and questioning systems which have the potential to work at odds with us.


I have personally struggled with Dyslexia throughout my academic life, however, I consider myself very fortunate to have been given a unique opportunity at age 16; offered an apprenticeship in 1989, working with two inspirational architects in South Devon, who have since become life-long mentors. This motivational and supportive experience network inspired me to further my education, become an architect and subsequently pursue my passion to help and educate future architects.


Despite my many failures at a young age through the struggles of dyslexia , I have worked in private practice for twenty years, however I still, live in fear of being exposed as an ‘imposter’ in my professional field – sometimes joking that I, gate-crashed the profession”. I do feel these experiences have provided a unique appetite and insight into the profession, as someone who is ambitious and seeks to disrupt the traditional preconceptions of the industry.


I whole-heartedly subscribe to the notion that it is fundamental to immerse oneself in the positive struggle in one’s own life in order to fashion a successful outcome. I have had time to positively reflect on these experiences through being chosen as one of 12 RIBA Role models in the UK. Which hopefully, will act as a catalyst to inspire others.  As my personal ambition increased dramatically when I was encouraged by others. This experience has informed how I have taught in schools of architecture during the preceding 12 years. I have developed a broader understanding of people’s inherent potential, noticing those important defining characteristics and encouraging them, so that we do not loose them from the profession.


In a challenging world, architects from a fast range of diverse backgrounds, must gain access to the profession. We must be nimble, flexible and find innovative ways to maintain our position as creative leaders, able to change course at a minute’s notice. We need to become the leaders of future practice and create new models of architectural practice. I have just this year launched my own practice, which is defined on the core principals of ‘Practice – Teaching Research.


I see a unique opportunity through both academic and practice-based research, to investigative new ideas surrounding design, process, and narrative. As a result of my experience’s and involvement in academia and practice, I have also recently co-founded a group with my long term mentor Roger Tyrrell, CHORA http://www.chora.uk.com


CHORA is designed to occupy the void which exists between creative practice and academia, historically considered as distinct and exclusive. CHORA strives to fuse these territories, responding to our contemporary globalized context, responding to the economy’s demands.


If the currency of the future is creative ideas, CHORA seeks to encourage, facilitate and support the conjunction of Praxis and Research within a single entity, and through innovative processes, encourage rigorous and informed creative pathways that are intelligent and responsive to current and future societal demands.


As an architect and teacher working in a micro practice, I have had to learn how to innovate in practice, delivering projects to meet our clients’ challenging budgets and briefs.


By combining practice and academic research we can allow ourselves to experiment and test through conceptual design and delivery processes, whilst retaining the traditional understanding of architecture and redefining the nature of our industry


The future of creative practice in the 21 century is going to be defined and led by 18-21 years olds, born between 1997 – 2000, who are currently studying in schools of architecture. These men and women have incredibly positive skills, drive, empathy, passion and outlooks on life, (I witness this every week in studio). Which will no doubt give rise to a better world with their impact. But it is essential, we encourage people into universities, regardless of class, gender, sexuality and ethnic background. The success and future of architectural practice, will be defined by young people who have a unique set of experience’s, that will give rise to a positive impact on the built environment and beyond!

Right First Time – Delivering Low Energy Projects

We have recently been invited to write the Forward to Mesh Energy’s first new book on low energy design ‘Right First Time’ . In a shifting and challenging world with regards to our rapidly dramatic changing environment, we dutifully accepted the challenge to assist in highlighting the key thoughts behind the book.

In August 2018 Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish climate activist launched a school strike to bring attention to the effects of global climate change. By 30 May 2019 she had published a simple book “No one is too small to make a difference”. It’s at this point in time we must all realise that we need to actively play our part in addressing the climate emergency that was approved as a motion in May 2019, by the British Government. So how can we all do our bit, as “No one is too small to make a difference”?

On the 27 June 2019 the RIBA trustees, formally agreed to join the global declaration of an environment and climate emergency at their council meeting. Therefore, those of us involved in the built environment whether you are a designer, client, consultant or a contractor, must all step to address how we will deliver a better world for our children and grandchildren.

As an experienced sustainable architect and tutor who is heavily involved in educating the next generation of architects these issues are close to my heart. I believe strongly that there is no greater evidence, with the many daily reports around the climate emergency around the world, that we have to act now and on every single project we deliver from here on in.

But more practically to make this happen how can we as architects better understand our client’s low energy goals, design low energy homes from first principles and reduce risk during the design and construction phases?

‘Right First Time’ tackles these issues head on, by guiding and teaching all of us using a tried and tested method. It all begins with the Mesh Energy Hierarchy and takes us through a journey to the return on investment for clients, where we will enable clients to save thousands of pounds over the life time of their project and thus delivering a brighter future for our children, in reducing carbon emissions. The basics are just that, each chapter makes its clear through the following stages; energy basics, building the A-team, making and losing money, measuring success, finding superstar installers, improved construction and continued learning.

Energy requirement reduction is the most straight forward way to achieve some if not all of these goals being set out in our built environment industry. To do this we need clear routes and an inherent need to collaborate with our design teams. There are no more excuses, for us not guiding our clients to a successful low energy building output, by following the basics as set out by Mesh. The Mesh Energy principles and best practices in this book, give a clear description of how we can all look to reduce energy usage through building design, that’s evident in this manifesto illustrated here in “Right First Time”.

 As designers + leaders, architects, now need to shoulder ever more responsibility and that pressure is growing for us to take the lead in delivering a low energy future, more than ever before.

 Make no mistake this book demonstrates just how simple the path to a cleaner environment really is!

 Darren Bray, Founder and Director, Studio B.A.D. Architects

Reflections Upon Co-Judging The Studio B.a.d./CHORA Award University Of Brighton


It was a privilege to hear the presentations of the seven students shortlisted for this award and without exception, engage in extraordinary, thought-provoking, conversations. It may be a cliché to say that all students were worthy of an award, but they were. However, given the subject of the award; design narratives, we sought to identify projects with the strongest, clearest and most articulate narrative.

It proved impossible to identify a single winner and eventually we chose to increase the award value by 50% and divide the award among three students, Kayleigh Healey, Corann Thompson and Geena Wood. Each narrative was beautifully articulated through a variety of mediums, and each narrative was rooted within an ethos of wanting to effect change for the better, in our increasingly dystopian and polarised world.

It is also clear how well-supported these students have been, exemplified perhaps by one student drawing deeply upon her own evolving identity who posited new paradigms of human relationships and designed places in which these paradigms could be enacted. For a student to draw so deeply upon self, in such a very personal way is of course courageous, but also exemplifies the atmosphere of support and encouragement engendered by staff, to perhaps ‘permission’ (were such permission needed) students to embark-upon a deep exploration of self. This depth of engagement was evident in all students we met.

Within our ‘post-truth’ epoch, I came away with a powerful sense that the future will be a better place in the hands of these three incredibly talented, thoughtful, and driven young women. In a Higher Education context that apparently increasingly seeks to provide a homogenised mono-culture, the Interior Design programme at Brighton stands as a point of resistance to such trends, and a beacon that illuminates fascinating possibilities in design education.

Roger Tyrrell and Darren Bray

June 2019.