Talking about my generation: Architects discuss the issue of age

John Winner head of architecture UAE at KEO and young designer Islam El Mashtooly of Godwin Austen Johnson confront the issue of age

What is most important: experience or enthusiasm?

Islam El Mashtooly answers: From my point of view the experience and enthusiasm are acting as two wings of a flying bird. We cannot neglect the importance of each. What can drive us in the most powerful manner to creating great work is the integration and spirit of creativity within a team.

John Winner answers: Obviously a combination of both is preferred. However, if the decision is between one or the other, for me, enthusiasm is the most important attribute. Experience can be gained over time while enthusiasm is a much more elusive characteristic in terms of imbuing it or teaching it.

How much can newcomers to the business learn from older professionals?

Islam El Mashtooly answers: We often make a mistake when we relate the young age purely to enthusiasm. When it comes to older people they usually rely on long life experience, understanding of reality, they are more mature and they emphasise deliberation and the art of the possible to do sensible things.

John Winner: The answer is, of course, a lot. Newcomers can learn about every aspect of architecture from more experienced professionals. There are learning opportunities in the process of design, production, client interaction, running an office, legal consideration – the list is vast.

Can young people, in turn, teach their elders?

Islam El Mashtooly answers: Young people have the energy, the ability to think outside the box most of the time and come up with the fresh ideas, passion to prove themselves and most importantly the absolute courage they display and the desire to keep taking professional risks.

John Winner answers: No. Just kidding. Of course young architects can teach their elders. The young architect brings their youthful vitality. This invigorates a practice and provides new energy. The young architect typically arrives with a very developed skill set as it relates to technolgy and software.

Is there a “generation gap” in architecture?

Islam El Mashtooly answers: Age does not matter – it is character and attitude that counts. There are older people still dreaming of what is possible. Likewise there are young people who are just lazy. I work with architects with high levels of experience who still have the passion to achieve more.

John Winner answers: The essentials of architecture, commitment to good design and getting good buildings built are shared by young and older architects alike. I have not encountered significant ideological differences as it relates to good architecture. All share a common goal.

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