Our guest this week is the architect Pooja Agrawal.
In 2017 Pooja co-founded the social enterprise Public Practice along with Finn Williams. Public Practice places architects and other built environment experts within local authorities on year-long placements – providing much needed skills and experience for the public sector.
In the 1970s almost half of all UK architects leaving university went on to work for the public sector. But throughout the 1980s Central Government effectively stifled Local Government’s ability to build, and that architectural expertise began to drain away. Today, the proportion of architects working for the public sector in London is, according to Public Practice, well under 1 per cent of the profession.
Perhaps Public Practice can make public service – and working for the public sector – an attractive option again for ambitious architects? The signs are positive: pioneering London Boroughs like Croydon, Barking and Dagenham and Harrow are starting to build again.
Pooja was born in Ohio in the United States before moving with her family back to their home Mumbai in India.
It was from Mumbai that she later moved to the UK to continue her education, studying for a degree in Architecture at the University of Cambridge before going on to do her MA at the Bartlett School of Architecture in London.
She went on to work for a number of practices that put public sector work front and centre. Working initially for Publica and then We Made That – where she worked on projects including the regeneration of Black Horse Lane in Walthamstow. Pooja currently works at the Regeneration Team at the Greater London Authority, and alongside Public Practice, has delivered regeneration projects in the North West of London and overseen strategic policy and programmes on small sites, culture, design quality and social integration.