Architect OF Philip Goodman (fac 02-09) was part of the team that designed the Bloomberg Building in London, which recently won the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) Sterling Prize for Architecture.
The building was designed by Foster + Partners and Philip worked on the project over five years from inception to completion. Philip terminated his residency at Foster + Partners upon completion of the Bloomberg project and he now runs his own property and investment business, URECO PROPERTY.
What route did you follow into Architecture after you left Felsted in 2009?
I have always had a passion for architecture. I studied for the International Baccalaureate Diploma at Felsted including Visual Art at Higher level spending much of my free time drawing and designing buildings on my computer. I got offered a place at the Glasgow School of Art, Mackintosh School of Architecture at Glasgow University, which is a School with a world reputation. I studied there for three years. My first year was a little ropy, university social life had its obvious distractions and I thought I would get better experience going on things like spring break in the USA rather than attending my final review. I found my feet during my second and third years. My pivotal point was when my tutor, Robert Mantho, spoke to me about architecture explaining how it affords experiential and social opportunities to it users. I realised architecture is as much about how it makes us feel as it is about what it does for us. Following this pep talk, I went on to graduate at the top of my class and won the Glasgow Institute of Architects commendation award for two consecutive years.
Working within the industry has always been important to me and something I wanted to pursue in parallel to my studies. I believe it is important for education to stay connected to the profession. Every time university was in recess I went off and worked in an architectural practice. I primarily worked in New York City on and off for over two years and was planning to stay full-time upon completion of my third year of university. However, two weeks into a new job, I received a phone call from Foster + Partners, offering me a position and a chance to work on the Bloomberg project.
How were you selected to be a part of the Bloomberg Building project team? How does it feel to know a project that you dedicated so many hours to has won such a significant award?
By chance really…. the architect that offered me a job was the lead architect for the Bloomberg Project. I was the one of the first people to be hired by F+P after their no-hire lockdown following the recession in 2009. I was placed in the Bloomberg Façade team where, after a short time, I was given the challenge of assisting the projects lead architect on the design of a naturally ventilated façade system. This façade was a reserve option we designed in parallel to the original façade but after months of research and design development the client instructed that we change the current design and integrate our new proposal. Working on a project like Bloomberg was a fantastic experience. I knew spending so much time with such a talented group of people meant every hour would be the best learning experience.
What were the biggest challenges you faced during your time working on the Bloomberg Building for five years?
The biggest challenge I faced professionally is one I think most architects face, which was continually championing your vision and guiding it through the constraints of budget, quality and program. Working with a wider team of contractors, engineers, sub-consultants, etc. meant that every person had their own self-interest and criteria. Our focus as architects was to achieve the best overall result for our client. Although we achieved this in the end, it wasn’t easy. The biggest personal challenge I faced during the project was turning down a place to continue my studies, (at this point I had only done 5 years out of the average 7), at Harvard University. After much mental wrestling and many conversations with people I respect I decided it was better to stay at Foster + Partners and complete my final year of university remotely. I studied and worked full time, 120 hours a week, for one year.
What influenced you to change direction and start up your property investment firm, URECO PROPERTY? Can you explain a little further about what your company does?
Leaving Foster + Partners was one of the hardest decisions I have had to make. I left because I wanted to challenge myself further and I felt the time was right. I wanted more and I wanted to place my career in my own hands. Bloomberg had just finished, and I had no other responsibilities in my life. Leaving when I did was the best chance I had to make a “start-up” work.
I was passionate about having my own business and trying to change the way property investment works. With that said, I set-up a transparent investment platform that makes property investment available for the 99% not just the 1%. All investment carry’s risk but we wanted a model that offered a low, shared risk strategy with high capital preservation and liquidity for our investors. On average we offer 6.5% returns to our investors over a 6 month period, so 13% PA. We don’t charge any fees for investment and everything is done on a profit share. My business pays for all the development and acquisition costs leaving private investments secure in the base value of the property. It’s simple, clean and we put our own money where we ask our investors to put theirs.
What project(s) are you working on now?
We have a number of things happening. My time is split between the projects and developing the business. Project wise we have a 9-unit and 50-unit project in Essex on the drawing board and are onsite with high-end residential units in Wimbeldon and Walton, among others. We have already completed a development in Horsham and Weybridge and are seeing our investor contributions grow by £450K per month. As with any new business, I also spend a lot of my time on growing the business and product development, all of which are new challenges for me as an architect. I find the business and investment side of our operation exciting and see myself spending more time here. We completed a 25% equity sale in April and benefit from shareholders with management experience at Schroders, Invesco and PwC and other construction/architecture practices, which help us to achieve our goals. My challenge in the next 6 to 12 months is securing our series A funding for expansion.
What advice would you give to young Felstedians considering a career in Architecture and Design?
Follow your passion and be willing to take two steps back to move one-step forward. It is much easier to challenge yourself and make mistakes when you are younger and, when exiting school, never allow your academic performance and grades to deflect you away from what you love even if it seems “safer”. I truly believe that if you enjoy your work and you are passionate about what you are doing then success will follow – it might take longer but you will get there – just keep moving forward; one-step at a time.