William Mann ‘Glasgow got me started’
The director of Witherford Watson Mann Architects on Eric Parry, Émile Zola and drawing anything and everything
What got you started?
It was pretty random — books in the school library, moving to Glasgow and seeing the vivid interplay of buildings and city…
Who was your most inspiring tutor?
Eric Parry taught me how to think by drawing.
Which architect have you learnt the most from?
Paul Robbrecht — I spent 10 years working for, then with him.
Which living architect do you most admire?
I like the look of Elemental — committed and inventive.
What is your best project?
Astley Castle, so far. There are only a couple of bits I have to look away from.
What part of the design process do you most enjoy?
Drawing — anything.
What is your favourite city?
London, a “stupendous, miserable city”.
What building would you most like to see demolished?
None — but a few I wouldn’t mind “adaptively reusing”.
You can work in any city at any point in history — where and when would you choose?
Milan in the 1950s looks politically and creatively vivid.
What is the most important working relationship?
Stephen Witherford. Constant creative tension.
Who is your favourite client?
I have a soft spot for the client for our housing in Gistel, Belgium. Nine years in, they have been sanguine, trusting, courteous.
What would be your dream commission?
We’ve been dreaming quite hard about some housing in Britain.
What is your favourite architectural book?
I read Rossi’s The Architecture of the City recently — beautiful, morbid, wise.
What is your favourite novel?
Émile Zola’s L’Assommoir.
What are you listening to?
Pulp: You’re a Nightmare.
Complete the sentence: At heart I am a frustrated…
Your child says they want to be an architect. What do you say?
While camping in Normandy, we had a tour of the Perret apartment in Le Havre. Robert said: “If I don’t become a footballer, maybe I’ll be an architect”. Extra football training the next day.
Is it getting easier?
No, just differently difficult.
William Mann is a director of Witherford Watson Mann Architects