Hamilton Architects’ longest-serving employee Peter Carr is celebrating 25 years with the practice – as well as being made an associate!
Peter joined Hamilton Architects in 1994, after graduating from Queen’s University Belfast in 1993. As a student he had always enjoyed art and science, so architecture (a fairly buoyant sector despite the Troubles) enabled him to combine his love for both. “I could never imagine doing something that didn’t involve both elements,” he said. “I relished the challenge of taking a client brief, working to include all the required elements and then packaging that into something which is aesthetically pleasing.”
Hamilton Architects was founded in 1972 by the late Alan Hamilton, who ran it alongside Partner Paul Millar. Paul is still at the helm today along with Mark Haslett and newly appointed Partners Michelle Canning and Graeme Ogle.
“There were only 15 of us there at the time – architects, technicians and support staff. We were still using the old drawing boards and did mostly industrial work, as well as some private and public housing projects. We did a lot of projects for the IDB, forerunner of Invest NI, including a big factory in Ballygomartin, an industrial project for Kingsberry Fuels in the Harbour Estate, and another for Frederick Jones Packaging off Sandy Row. We also did a lot of flat modernisations for the NI Housing Executive.”
“Since many practices traditionally had their niche sectors and repeat clients, the introduction of open procurement and service frameworks in the 90s benefited smaller practices by giving them the opportunity to compete, diversify and grow. The decade also brought a lot of changes in how architects worked. For example, we were introduced to word processors and AutoCAD – big, clunky, very expensive machines. It was a while before they let me loose on them!”
Peter says that digital technology, as in all aspects of life it seems, has ultimately revolutionised how architects and technicians do their job.
“CAD and 3D visualisation can bring the project to life – particularly for clients who cannot ‘see’ plans the way the architect can. Where once we used drawings and models, we can now ‘walk’ a client through a project as it will be realised.”
The move from east Belfast to Hamilton House in the city’s Linen Quarter in 2011 heralded a new era for Hamilton Architects, who now employ 45 architects and technicians.
“I enjoy architecture even more now, probably because I feel more confident and comfortable in my skills” said Peter. “I particularly enjoy working with the younger members of staff and passing on my knowledge because, above all else, you never stop learning in architecture. The tools we employ may change, but the central role of working with the client to serve their needs and overcome their problems does not. I have always enjoyed planning, of solving the puzzle, and even more so as my career has progressed.”
Two stand-out projects which Peter has worked on recently include the DAERA HQ at Ballykelly and the NI National Football Stadium at Windsor Park, which dovetails with the impressive Olympia Sports Village. The former won the RICS 2019 Innovation in Building Awards and the latter was a finalist in the Community Benefit Category.
“There are compromises in every project, but I think that DAERA is about as perfectly realised as an architect can get and is probably my favourite project of all time in terms of functionality and visual appeal,” he concluded.