Why our study tour is about so much more than architecture / by Broadway Malyan

By Matt Brook, director

As we passed the signpost for Ronchamp the sense of anticipation throughout the coach was palpable.

For the majority of almost 70 colleagues assembled on the black and neon pink double decker, it is a name held in the kind of esteem a footballer regards Camp Nou or a mountaineer the Eiger’s north face.

As the location of the most recognisable work by that godfather of modernism Le Corbusier, it is a name emblazoned in the psyche of anybody who has experienced a traditional architectural training and will forever elicit an almost unique emotional response, namely extreme reverence.

Our visitto the breath-taking Chapelle Notre Dame du Haut came on day three of our recent study tour and was the piece de resistance if you will of a fantastic few days where we had already visited two other of Le Corbusier’s most important sites as well as the impressive regeneration of Lyon’s Confluence district.

It certainly didn’t disappoint. With its sculptural aesthetic offering a stunning contrast to the functionality of Firminy and the modularity of the extraordinary convent at La Tourette, it was a day that that will linger long in the memory for all of us.

And that, primarily, is why we were there.

Architecture is experiential. There really is nothing better as an architect than looking at brilliant and inspirational buildings. Not looking at pictures or plans but reacting to them up close and personal, experiencing them from every perspective.

Those long hours hunched over a desk making endless drawings are a critical aspect of our profession but it is also important to keep reminding ourselves why we are all architects and that is why the study tour is such a fundamental part of our business.

Design is our lifeblood so it is great to have these three days where design is the number one topic of conversation – it’s not forced but just seems to come naturally with a passion that carries all the way back to the studio.

Apart from a short hiatus, the study tour has long been a fundamental part of Broadway Malyan’s practice. These trips – which have taken in cities such as Copenhagen, Tokyo and Bilbao over the years – are part of a lifelong learning culture that we have always promoted at Broadway Malyan but they are also about so much more.

There is something wonderfully egalitarian about the study tour. Anybody at the practice can attend, the trip is heavily subsidised so that everyone makes the same contribution and the normal practice hierarchy is suspended for three days as Part Is and directors are brought together by their shared passion for architecture.

As the practice continues to expand internationally, so these tours are a great opportunity to embed and reinforce our shared design values and this year we had every region represented with young architects – and some not so young – from studios as far afield as Singapore, Abu Dhabi, Madrid and Warsaw and a whole smorgasbord of nationalities from Brazilian to Filipino, Danish to Venezuelan.

They are also an opportunity to bring people together from across the practice and form professional and personal relationships that can last a lifetime. Inter-studio collaboration is critical as our clients become increasingly global and the ability to pick up the phone to a colleague on the other side of the world becomes far easier if you have shared a four hour coach journey through the Loire Valley.

Next year Broadway Malyan is 60 years old and we are already looking for a fitting destination for such an important anniversary – there is a long list of exciting possibilities but there are few places quite like Ronchamp.