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Insights: Alston and Donnelly

February 13, 2024

Navigating the Architectural Landscape: Insights from Richard Alston of Alston and Donnelly

Richard’s story resonates with many of us who have found our calling in the blend of art and practical design. His career began with a deep-seated interest in art and design, a passion that naturally paved the way for his pursuit of architectural technology. Richard’s journey is a testament to where a combination of talent and dedication can lead. He started as an AutoCAD draftsman, a role that honed his skills and laid the groundwork for his future endeavours.

Understanding the importance of formal education in this field, Richard embarked on an architectural technology degree program. This decision was a turning point, opening doors to work alongside award-winning architects and furthering his expertise. His academic pursuit was not just about gaining knowledge; it was about immersing himself in the industry and preparing for the challenges ahead. Eventually, he formed Alston and Donnelly, alongside his co-director, Steve Donnelly. Their team is fairly small, consisting of an architectural technologist and an interior designer. But they work on some pretty big projects.

Alston and Donnelly is not just another firm; it’s a practice that has carved out a niche for itself in both residential and commercial projects. What’s particularly intriguing is their foray into the clean room design and build market—a testament to their adaptability and forward-thinking approach. The architectural industry is not static; it’s an ever-evolving beast that demands continuous adaptation. Richard emphasized the need for a more collaborative and holistic approach to project management and design. This evolution is not just about keeping up with trends; it’s about pushing boundaries and redefining what’s possible in architectural technology.

Richard also delved into the nitty-gritty of planning policies and the inherent challenges of the industry’s complexity. These are the factors that often go unnoticed by the public but play a crucial role in shaping the built environment. He mentions barriers and red tape, specifically changes made to the Building Safety Act in October. This has a knock-on effect on timeframes and project delays that are frustrating, yet communicated to the client.

Richard’s insights into these aspects provided a clearer picture of the hurdles that professionals in our field must overcome. Many young designers aren’t naturally aware of career paths outside of architecture. Despite there being multiple routes to entry in the market, the focus is usually on architects, technologists and technicians. However, there is scope to transition into specialised roles such as BIM managers or design managers. 

Looking ahead, Richard spoke of the potential for growth and flexibility in the operations of Alston and Donnelly. The practice’s ability to adapt and expand is not just a sign of business acumen; it’s a reflection of the dynamic nature of architectural technology. As the industry continues to change, firms like Alston and Donnelly are leading the charge in embracing new opportunities.

This conversation was a deep dive into the essence of architectural technology and the myriad of factors that influence our profession. From the importance of education to the challenges of planning policies, and the need for a collaborative approach to design, this episode has been a treasure trove of insights. The architectural landscape is vast and varied, and it’s professionals like him who help us navigate its complexities with grace and expertise. Until next time, keep pushing the boundaries of design and technology, and may your projects reflect the passion and dedication that define our incredible industry.

Watch the full podcast below:

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