ADAM Director Robbie Kerr reflects on his ADAM Architecture Travel Scholarship experience in Architecture Magazine

March 25, 2024

Read this article on P62 in Architecture Magazine - May 2024

LEARNING THROUGH TRAVEL

Robbie Kerr, Design Director, ADAM Architecture, on the value of travel and how it has impacted his development, both personally and professionally.

Growing up in Hong Kong for much of my childhood and early adulthood, I had the opportunity to explore an incredible range of countries, cultures, customs and traditions from Bhutan or China, to Australia, or Borneo. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been quite so exposed to the sheer variety of the world, and this has certainly been formative for me, not only in my personal life, but in my career, too.

In 2008, I won the ADAM Architecture Travel Scholarship, using the grant to get myself to Cuba to expand upon my research from a previous trip in 2006. This gave me the chance to spend three months travelling solo through the length and breadth of the country, off the tourist tracks, often hitchhiking. I was also able to read, study and observe the architecture and influences on the country, which has a long and complicated history. The Scholarship marked a moment of clarity for me, that travel could truly be a significant part of my professional life. I travelled extensively since then, and have returned to Cuba over 15 more times, broadening my work in, and knowledge of, the area. I also began travelling to China, a country that has always interested me, to explore work opportunities. Since becoming a director at ADAM Architecture in 2016, I have set out an aim to build our business internationally with projects and opportunities arising in Australia, Morocco, Ukraine, Nigeria, Ghana, Bahamas, Antigua, Hong Kong, China, Pakistan, New Zealand, Canada, Italy, the UAE and Kuwait. For me, travel is not just important as a source of work, but it is a way of learning from others in ways that can influence my work and creative approach.

Lessons can come from the way others adapt to climate, to challenges of resources, of topographical response, the balance of private and public and the use of buildings that can be taken and used elsewhere, including in the UK. There are also so many lessons we can take from travel to inform preparatory work in response to client briefs. Taking time to travel means taking time to listen, observe, draw and think in countries outside those we call home. There are positives to be taken from being challenged, having our norms and expectations tested, and being exposed to broader cultural landscapes. There are some fascinating observations to be made about the internationalism of classicism. Whether it is the adaptations found in the Philippines with both Spanish and American influences, or the 1930s interpretations of classicism found in Shanghai, for the British influences in places like Tianjing, or in Cuba where Spanish influences were adapted to local requirements. The list goes on, but the resounding point is that, through classicism, architects can bring international influence to an otherwise very UK-focused approach to building. Travel will always be an important part of my career. Each experience informs the next and continues to enrich my daily work. It has been the most incredible gift and has opened doors to opportunities I could never have imagined. This is exactly what we want to replicate for the winners of our annual Travel Scholarship. We want to furnish talented young architects with not only the enthusiasm for world travel, but also the rich insights it brings, not only to life but to their careers.

Discover more and apply for the 2024 Travel Scholarship