Richard Griffiths’ first project: The Old Dispensary, Stratford


The architect recalls putting quality over cost, winning over hostile workmen and an electric shock

I had been at Cambridge about two days when I realised that engineering was a big mistake. At school, my talents lay in the sciences, but my interests always sat more in the arts and I found I couldn’t face an entirely technical life.

I needed a path where I could make a bigger contribution to society and which had a cultural and aesthetic aspect. At first I found escape through singing and playing the bassoon in some fantastic locations such as King’s College Chapel, Ely Cathedral and the Snape Maltings arts complex. Maybe it was the sublime conjunction of great music and great architecture that helped me to find my eventual direction. My Damascene moment came at 3am one morning when I woke with a start and realised that I wanted to become an architect. So I started all over again. It was 1974.

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