Tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Niki-Marie Jansson. I am an architectural designer and researcher, currently running my own architectural design and consultancy studio, working with an acute design sensibility to deliver projects of varying scales, briefs, sites and budgets for a wide range of clients. Prior to this, I have gained professional experience working in niche, commercial and corporate firms on a breadth of projects ranging in scale and context. My current work seeks to leverage this experience and take a more holistic, purposeful and innovative approach to traditional architectural practice. I am also currently a visiting tutor/critic at The Bartlett School of Architecture UCL, Central Saint Martins UAL, the Architectural Association and Newcastle University, and work for the Design Education Trust in supporting student funding for innovative projects.
I believe in approaches that are purpose-driven and process-oriented, where interdisciplinary collaboration and whole systems thinking are central to delivering good design solutions. A growing enthusiasm for ethically and materially-conscious work, over the past decade, has lead to a focused interest in stone construction, building a case for load-bearing masonry as a viable and holistically sustainable contemporary building material in my thesis in 2018–19. The thesis has since been corroborated and advocated by industry specialists, making a case for stone that has reached global audiences. I am embarking on further practical research in this field.
What made you choose this career?
From a very young age I have been inclined towards creative learning and thinking, so always envisioned working to some capacity in creative practice. I became inspired by architecture as a potential career path when I came to understand its unique positioning between artistic, technical and humanitarian modes of thinking, creating and problem solving. I enjoy the challenges that the job presents in bringing ideas to fruition, hopefully for wider benefit.
Did you go through formal education? If so, what did you study and where? If not please explain your journey. I did, yes. I completed A levels in physics, maths, art and economics at St Albans High School for Girls, in 2011, and since then obtained a BSc(Hons) MArch(dist) from the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London, and further professional training at the Architectural Association School of Architecture.
Did this have a positive or negative impact on your chosen career? In my particular case, despite the obvious challenges of long-haul education, I would say it has had a positive impact and opened many doors that wouldn’t have otherwise been opened. Though, this has gone hand-in-hand with the experience gained and skills demonstrated through positive working relationships in practice. Within the UK, formal RIBA accreditation is required in order to become a chartered professional Architect, however there are a variety of roles within the profession that do not necessarily require these traditional accreditations. A BSc or BA in architecture is an incredibly versatile degree, producing a skill-set that can be applied in a variety of creative practices, trades or professions.
Who inspires you? I am inspired by people who are positively committed and true to their values in the work they do, in spite of external pressures.
What’s the scariest thing about your job and how have you overcome it? The scariest part of my job is also what I find most exciting — a new brief and a blank piece of paper! Though each job may follow the same general procedure, the clean slate of embarking on a new project and working within a new set of parameters, often with a new client and/or team, presents —at least for a brief moment— limitless opportunity. With that comes excitement and a little healthy fear. I overcome that fear by putting pencil to paper.
What do you want to change about your industry? In the context of a climate emergency, there are very important broader changes that need to be tackled collectively, that require ecologically and socially-conscious shifts in the industry values that dictate the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development, institutional frameworks in policy, and architectural education and training, etc. Meaningful shifts in these values —I believe— will guide us sufficiently towards circular economic models, government net-zero targets and broader cultural sustainability agendas. I do believe, however, that mobilising these shifts begins closer to home and requires a rebalancing and remodelling of university and professional workplace culture. The impact that architects and designers have on the built environment is a direct extension of our workplace culture and ethos. Current frameworks place immense opposing pressure on those seeking genuine change in the industry, which runs the risk of change becoming superficial for the sake of ease. Avoiding this, rests largely on the degree of individual responsibility we are each willing to take and the courage we dare to have in the process. Through my own work I hope to do better at communicating the issues at hand and nurturing healthy working relationships that can set in motion collective interest and enthusiasm from practitioners, clients and authorities.
What advice would you give someone who is starting out in your field? Be courageous, build resilience, work hard, set healthy boundaries —and above all— stay true to what you believe, enjoy the process and work with those who share in your vision. Don’t give up.