Case study: Amanda Levete

Founder and architect, AL_A

“Architecture crosses many disciplines, both creative and scientific. I think you can be creative in any field. In life, we need the arts as much as science – and both need intuition.”

As an architect I have to consider many aspects of life: politics, identity, history, what the future might be. Designing buildings is both artistic and scientific and what is most interesting for me is where the two intersect. Everyone lives, works and socialises in buildings, and their architecture affects your behaviour and mood. Through my work I hope, in some small way, to make the world a better place.

There is a growing awareness of the fragility of our planet and sustainability is hugely important in architecture. Demolishing a building is very energy intensive and polluting, so instead of constructing new buildings, we try to repurpose them. Sometimes the most radical thing is not to build.

Architects need a creative sensibility and imagination. You need to immerse yourself in research and to understand the community you are designing for. There’s also science behind architecture. You make technical drawings and structural analyses, research new materials, and you need a feel for engineering to understand what makes a building stand up. It requires a cast of thousands to make a building and it’s essential to understand the perspectives of people from all over the world. And you need to be able to communicate ideas with passion.

I went to a very academic school and loved art and English, but that was it, so I left school at 16 to go to the Hammersmith College of Art and Building (now the Chelsea College of Art and Design). Through reading about history of art, I discovered architecture. It attracted me because it allows you to push boundaries and I went on to study at the Architectural Association School of Architecture.

Spending a year at an architect's office during my degree gave me a taste of real life. I think you absorb things faster when learning on the job and there is certainly a place for apprenticeships in architecture. There is no one right way to do anything and you do take wrong turns: you need resilience while finding the path that suits you best.