Melanie Whild joined Birmingham-based Weedon Architects for her year out, and never left. She reflects on the way the 100-year-old practice and its projects have evolved.

The history of Weedon Architects intrigued me the moment I stepped through the front door. A practice over 100 years old, the old hard-backed construction textbooks in their library, black and white framed photographs of buildings in the city I knew so well, legends of architects who had worked here over many years producing crinkly pen drawings – artfully scribed creating architectural history for many generations.

I was interviewed in the boardroom; it had a secret door which I later found out was to the partners toilets. Neat, monogrammed brass plaques above their personal hand towels, it was for gentlemen only.

I accepted their offer of employment for my ‘year out’ and have never left.

Whilst studying in Birmingham I didn’t particularly embrace the city’s architecture – not many people did – however I was left with the feeling that right here was an opportunity too.

After a short period of time there was a sudden realisation that there are only a very few architects who are fortunate enough to be commissioned to design large-scale regeneration projects and, typically, we may only get a dozen or so opportunities over our entire career. Relative to the number of buildings in any town, city or village that is very insignificant. Thoughts of the wider community of architects consequentially became highly significant in my mind; the impact we cumulatively have, not just those we work alongside day to day and those who work in other practices but those generations of architects who’ve gone before us. Sustainability is a high priority and for our practice longevity is an important facet of sustainability. Are the buildings we design so well-crafted that they can be reinvented to suit the needs of several generations? Are they so robustly detailed that they weather the passage of time with grace?

It continues to delight us just how many Weedon buildings not only still exist but have new lives which have often been born through the talents and inspiration of other architectural practices. We as a practice have been fortunate to collaborate on many regeneration projects with numerous architects.

Tim instinctively took this photograph in our offices here in Birmingham where we are proud to be and although we’ve long since moved offices, we built a new secret door from the boardroom which leads to a light, vibrant and happy design studio with talented architects and technicians.

Melanie Whild