Architect Kent Jackson is Design Director of American firm, SOM. Kent joined SOM’s London office from Chicago in 1999. One of the first projects he worked on was the masterplan for New Providence Wharf, Ballymore’s mixed-use development in London’s Docklands and home to the newly launched Top Three Floors collection of apartments.
How has London changed in the time you’ve been living here?
SOM came to London in 1996, the year of Big Bang when the Stock Market was deregulated. At that time we were doing more office than residential development, including Broadgate and Canary Wharf. As a result of the City becoming an international financial centre, London has become more diverse. In terms of buildings it’s evolution has been amazing, from the O2 Centre to Tate Modern and tall buildings.
How would you describe SOM’s London office?
We have a 100 people in London including architects, structural engineers and interior designers. We see ourselves as an atelier. We never turn our back on a good idea, there is always open discussion and projects are better because of this. We like to think we mentor our ideas along.
Do you think the British share American’s enthusiasm for tall buildings?
In the UK there used to be a stigma attached to tall buildings. And you have to remember that London is not a high-rise city, like New York or Chicago where people have been living in towers for two or three generations. In London, you can get a view of London from 5 storeys. But a development like Providence Tower shows how the character of London is changing.
What’s so special about Providence Tower?
Providence Tower is last piece of the puzzle. Each building stands on its own merits, but this is the jewel in the crown. The building’s form allows amazing panoramic views of the riverfront. Every apartment has a riverfront view and because of its scalloped façade, none of the balconies are overlooked. And it’s also one the first developments that has embraced the Thames. Industry turned its back on the River and we have spent that last 20 years stitching it back into the city.
What do you enjoy most about living in London?
I can’t say I know every neighbourhood but that’s what London is like. On Saturday mornings I like to wander about the City when there’s no traffic and it’s empty and I can feel the history seeping through the walls. The walk across the bridges Somerset House to Waterloo Station is one of my favourites
What would be your dream commission?
It’s the projects that slip through your fingers that you always want to do but you also want commissions that allow you to dream, visionary projects that allow you to explore ideas.
What advice would you give an aspiring architect?
You have to be passionate about what you do and not sit on your credentials or repeat what you do. Architecture is about thinking of things that haven’t been created but you also need the passion to see a project through to the end.