Sunday, May 28, 2023


In 1972 I completed my first degree in architecture and walked away from the profession. 20 years later I completed the second degree after a long detour, and joined a new practice.

1993 was a turbulent year in many ways, just keeping my head above water, both at home and at work. Being project architect for this office building in Harare felt like a pretty big deal at the time.

Looking back now I'm amazed how few drawings we needed to get it built. But that's the way things were back then, in Zimbabwe at least. I'm grateful to have experienced those simpler times.

I felt like such a hotshot because I was customising Autocad menu files. Setting up the CAD standards for a firm with three computers. 🤣🤣🤣

What larks pip, what larks.



Pigeons. Love them or hate them, maybe both. Rock doves were domesticated perhaps as long as 5000 years ago for their homing abilities. In my youth, it was common for coal miners to be pigeon fanciers, holding competitions and finding meaning and purpose beyond the physical demands of going "down (t) pit"

The pigeons of International City are domesticates gone feral. The ten story buildings in the centre where I live are ideal, both in height and in often having projecting bands at floor level. That's not a huge problem, but we also have balconies.

Creative bird proofing is always interesting to me. Humanization of architecture. You can see bits of my solution in the fuzzy foreground.

During the pandemic a pair of birds began to nest under a low table that I had moved outside to contain some of my excess junk. I thought I had chased them out before blocking off the holes into the dark interior.

Apparently not. Spring cleaning a year later I found a skeleton. Poignant beauty in its own right.



At the weekend I managed one day working on my Dubai map In Revit.

Focused now on International City. I set out a regularised grid for the clusters to the East of my flat in the CBD. Spain, Italy, England etc. The styles are quite comical to a student of architectural history, but it is what it is: a dormitory suburb at the lower end of the market.

We'll get back to that. For now I'm working up the massing of the buildings close to my balcony view. Ending with a camera shot. Not quite perfect yet, but in the right ballpark.

It looks like I underestimated the size of the pylons significantly. Truly giants striding across the landscape😳. Always something new to learn when you engage the brain in drawing or modelling from life.



1994 and I was settling into life as an architect at Clinton & Evans in Harare. Mike Clinton entrusted two of us (soon dubbed "the two Andys") with drawing up a new terminal building for Harare Airport, under the supervision of French specialists ADP.

I remember successfully arguing for a Ram upgrade to 8mb so that we could keep the entire floor plan in a single file and use viewports to split it into several sheets, 🤣🤣🤣

I had also instigated systematic use of blocks instead of simply copying repeated elements around. As I remember there was an elevation drawing for Miekles Hotel that was refusing to fit onto a floppy disk.

Using blocks I managed to reduce the file size ten fold. Basic stuff but it was greeted with some amazement at the time.

By the way the airport terminal wasn't built to our drawings even though we were paid for a completed tender package. Our dear leader RGM decided to step in and award the contract elsewhere.

Colorization of these drawings done on my Samsung phone as I sit and watch the sunset with sweat beads trickling down my back. Definitely moving into the hot weather now.




A bit of a hybrid day today. Officially it's the weekend, but I will go in for a while this afternoon to support Sabu demonstrating his Dynamo scripts.

So I tackled a quick family this morning for my Dubai map explorations. Two sweeps, one hosted on a reference line so I can control the angle. These are the apartment blocks in the "country-themed" clusters. Both legs are the same height but the length might be different.

I learnt last night that the overall layout is inspired by Persian carpets. No wonder it's so confusing finding your way around 🤣🤣🤣

But this model is definitely helping me to find regularities in the structure. Later on I will add a representation of the entrance features that join the two legs and help to define the national style for each cluster.

Also reminded myself that Bing Maps is sometimes a better resource than Google for this kind of work.



Saturday, May 20, 2023



This is an abstracted version of the view from my balcony. It's like a notch within a notch. And it lines up pretty much due East, very "Neolithic geomancy" and watch the sunsets evolve from day to day.

I've been here for 16 years but only recently began setting up a comfortable chair to watch the sunset each night. Then I realised how well the view was framed, stepping in as the distance increases to the pylons of a major power line, three kilometers away.

All because there is an empty lot behind us. I guess the owners of that site were hit by 2008 and pulled out before even fencing it off. Sadly it's not quite aligned with Burj Khalifa. Not far off though.

I am coming to appreciate this view. At first glance tacky, but once you see it as framing a view corridor and ever changing sky it begins to develop a special charm.



Change is our portion now. That was my favourite hymn in my mid to late teens, probably because I was already changing. Not so much losing my faith as finding other ideas. In our youth we welcome the maelstrom. Blow winds blow.

I've gone through the changes in my short life : student, dropout, bricklayer, teacher, curriculum developer, architect... by hand, then CAD, then BIM. Now in hybrid retirement mode, still working but also pursuing my passions.

This is the second iteration of my balcony view, a keyhole within a keyhole, with a nod to the Revit concept of a "callout" It may become a physical painting on the wall of my flat. I have enjoyed having reminders of the balcony experience inside and taking a lightweight IKEA armchair out on the balcony during the day.

Inside/outside, my world extends to the power lines 3km away without leaving my private domain. What is beauty? Maybe it's an emotional response to the everyday, a radical acceptance of reality. Think Cezanne still life, apples in a bowl with visible brush strokes. Real without being photographic.


I have been mapping myself this morning, in Revit.🙄

More specifically this is further progress on my Balcony View project. Building a crude map of Dubai to set up the context and planning the basic triptych of paintings, progressively zooming in from a starting point that shows my legs on the balcony as I enjoy the view.

Eventually the middle canvas may come in several flavours, reflecting the changing sky. It's a west facing view, so sunsets will feature. I'm hoping this project will help me to feel more anchored in the world, as I sip my tea or coffee for however long the ferocity of the sun allows.

The first half of the morning is always in shadow, and sunsets tame the sun in myriad delightful ways as everyone knows.

The paintings will hang on the west wall of my living room, further developing the inside /outside dynamic that architects love so much.


Purple Haze on a sultry Dubai night. A melange of sounds drifting up from the street. The day's work done.

To some extent it's therapy. Manipulating images, looking for happy accidents. But the bigger picture is building up ideas for a painting project. Or perhaps not.

Maybe the biggest picture is about strengthening my roots in this desert soil. I spend much of my time thinking about buildings spread widely across time and space. That's all good but it's also important to turn the gaze inwards sometimes. 


We can't all live in mansions with breathtaking views. But we can take the time to look deeper, see our surroundings with an artist's eye, deepen our love for the little things all around us.

Life is a wonderful thing. Enjoy it's blessings while you can.





Saturday, May 13, 2023



For the past week I have been receiving images from Zimbabwe. All three of my children were there and even though I couldn't make it, the constant flow of images took me back in spirit.

Back in spirit to a time when I was younger and healthier, full of energy and receptiveness to new adventures. Hopefully I still retain some of these characteristics, but it would be foolish to pretend that nothing has changed.

Zimbabwe took a young man of 30 who had dropped out of architecture after the first degree and become a bricklayer. Gave him a decade as an educator, then planted him firmly back on his original career choice before firmly ejecting him to the wider world at 53.

There is a house there, deep in the rural areas, that I designed for my mother and father in law some 35 years ago. A bigger homestead has grown around it, and a third generation is taking over, joyfully welcoming my children as long lost family, grown up and married.

It fills me with emotion to see so many faces from the past, reaching me by WiFi, older now but still the same in essence. Time and tide. Bring it on.


 In 1981 I arrived in Zimbabwe as a 30 year old building teacher. Just over a year on from independence, it was a time of great optimism.

The school was part of an experiment in Education With Production which meant that our building students were expected to participate in building their own school. Many of them had been in refugee camps in Mozambique during the war. Some had even been combatants and were trying to catch up on missed education.

It was a seminal experience for me, and the beginning of a long journey: fatherhood, curriculum development work, a return to architecture, a disastrous economic collapse.

But it started with a raw and visceral experience. Plunged into an isolated community as the only Murungu (white) and challenged to both build and teach in ways I had never done before. New food, new customs, new climate, music, friends, landscape.

I moved on nearly 20 years ago, to rebuild my life from scratch yet again. It was the right thing to do, but the memories pluck at my heart strings sometimes.



My son and daughter in law, with the old Victoria Falls Hotel in the background. It's a special photo for me because I was project architect for the refurbishment that restored the terrace to it's original style.

Looking back the other way there's a view of the spray and the railway bridge across the gorge to Zambia.

It was a very tight programme so they could minimise the time the hotel shut down. 24 hour working in shifts. Superb effort by Gardini and Sons. We would fly up every week on a small private plane.

That was 1996, a time of great optimism for me.



28 years ago.

My son Joe was quite the graphic artist as a boy/teenager. This is an impromptu greeting card he knocked up in 1995

Victoria Falls Hotel again. This pic was taken not long after the work I was involved in was completed. Can't remember why I was there. Might have been doing a brochure for Clinton & Evans, my employer for about 12 years.

That simplified Edwardian classical style was common for public buildings of a certain age in Zimbabwe (between the wars) I always had a bit of a soft spot for it's "dignity with minimal fuss"

Livingstones Bar was one of the additions I drew up. Tried to keep it simple and elegant. The bedroom block above and behind is the original courtyard block of the old railway hotel.

I was using 2d Autocad in those days although I had dabbled in Archicad, (good for 3d but didn't have live sections and elevations at that stage.)



A round "kitchen hut" which has both good and bad qualities. Open wood fires are very smokey and bring various health risks.

You might think that a wood fired stove would be better, but there is something about the traditional method of feeding large logs into a fire, inch by inch that offers great control, and saves all the labour of chopping up the wood into pieces that will fit through the stove door. You can also withdraw the logs a little for a lower heat.

Smoke escapes a thatched roof and deters vermin. Low bench seats inside and out invite social interaction in a delightful way. To me there is also a unique kind of organic beauty in this typology.

This is a drawing I made this week of the kitchen hut at a homestead I helped to establish half a lifetime ago. So it has a deeper, poignant beauty for me.

I may well develop it further.