Malcolm talks to Ambrose Gillick, of Kent School of Architecture and Planning, for his lively podcast, A is for Architecture, about a career spent understanding that insulation, conservation, community, refit, timber, dense and green towns and their repair and regeneration are all part of the same big need to cherish the world, instead of cowping it for landfill – and about recovering the word “nice”, and the meaning of the terms “dealflow” and “gob-on”.

Excerpt from Malcolm and Ambrose's discussion: 

Ambrose: I was watching one of your recent online lectures in which you mention Christopher Alexander, do you think that gentle human orientation that he proposed in ‘A Pattern Language’ is there in your work too?

Malcolm: I remember watching a Zahah Hadid Lecture where she said, “people think, because I’m a woman, that my architecture should be nice, and I don’t want to be nice, I think that’s the last thing anyone wants to be,” and you could see how excited everyone got by this.

Actually, in this world, the radical thing is to say that you do want to make things that are nice – it’s a much-denigrated word, but in the built environment, ‘niceness’ is about comfort and shelter, and the ability to bump into friends and chat, and exchange information. These are the building blocks of my practice, the building blocks of the places where I don’t doubt Zaha Hadid went on holiday and enjoyed, rather than the sharper, spikey expressions of individual egotism which we’re often taught to think of as being proper architecture.

Though I don’t want to make too much of it, I do love the work of demonstrative architects too, but there’s nothing wrong with setting out to be nice, and kind – indeed in relationship to the planet.

Image credit: NASA/Bill Anders