Interviewer: I’m sitting here, rather uncomfortably, with designer Lucy Collett. Lucy, you’re an architect really, but an architect with a difference.
Lucy Collet: Yes, I specialise in small buildings.
Interviewer: And we’re in one of your buildings now. It’s a tree-house, and we’re perched on child-size seats, two or three metres above the ground.
Lucy Collet: In fact, I was commissioned to design this house by my neighbours for their children. I don’t like heights, but I loved the challenge of weaving the house in amongst the branches . You can see there are several storeys with stairways between them.
Interviewer: I’d have given anything for a house like this when I was a child. What started you off on this type of design?
Lucy Collet: I’ve always had a passion for small buildings. Play houses, of course, when I was a little girl. Then I found a book about historical telephone boxes, which fascinated me. When the telephone was an amazing new invention, money was poured into the designs of public phone boxes. They were all sizes and styles. There were some that looked like rustic cottages, with thatched roofs; others like Chinese pagodas; one like a sort of Greek temple. Some were quite luxurious, with chairs, and people used to go in there to play cards . But it didn’t last long; they had to be standardised and made more practical.
Interviewer: You went to architecture school. Did you know you were going to work on this small scale?
Lucy Collet: Yes, my final year project was on small buildings in an industrial context. If you look at major building sites, they’re dotted around with huts and temporary buildings. You think, ‘They put up these tin boxes for the workers to drink their tea and read their newspapers in. What is there to that?’ Well, they’ve all got to conform to safety standards, and why shouldn’t they have some style as well? I designed them to look better, and also to be put up and dismantled more quickly . I worked on durability of materials, comfort and so on.
Interviewer: Where did you get your inventiveness from?
Lucy Collet: I don’t know. I think I’m more practical than inventive. My parents were market stall holders. They had a really cumbersome stall which took them forever to put up. All the market people started setting up about four o’clock in the morning. It was freezing, back-breaking work, and it drove me mad when I had to help them. I was visiting some clients abroad a few years ago, and saw some brilliant stalls in their local market. They were little metal folding houses, completely waterproof and enclosed, with plenty of display room . At the end of the day you could lock them up with the goods safe inside, or you could fold them flat and cart them off to the next town. I did drawings of them and made one when I got home. But I haven’t sold it.
Interviewer: What have you done that you’re most proud of?
Lucy Collet: I suppose everything I’ve done is a variation on a theme, so it’s hard to pick
anything out. But I did get an award. The Newspaper Sellers’ Association gave me a prize for a design I did for street corner kiosks – you know, those cute little buildings with display windows on three sides. Mine were in strong steel, painted, with domed roofs and lots of decorative detail. I must admit, I was particularly pleased with the fancy work , and the newspaper people loved it.
Interviewer: Have you ever done any phone box designs, since that was what started you off?
Lucy Collet: Funnily enough, that’s what I’ve just been doing. For an international hotel chain. They’d stopped putting public phone booths in their hotel lobbies because of mobile phones, but there were complaints from a few countries where mobiles hadn’t really caught on yet . So the hotel decided to make a big feature of lobby phone boxes. I did these sort of glass bird-cage designs, with brass work and over-the-top telephones. Now the company’s putting them in all their hotels, and people are going into them to make calls on their mobiles. It’s sort of retro-style lobby furniture.
Interviewer: And tree-houses?
Lucy Collet: No, this is a one-off. I’ve told you, I’m scared of heights.
Interviewer: Okay. Shall we let down the ladder and go home? Thank you, Lucy
Speaker 1: The weird thing is, that up to quite recently, I used to really love being in the theatre business, so it never seemed much of a hardship earning next to nothing and holding meetings in an office the size of a shoe-box . But somehow, over the past year, the gloss seems to have worn off a bit. And now I’ve realised I’m just being taken for granted, I feel as though my spirit’s been broken  – it’s awful. I don’t blame anyone for it – we’ve had no actual rows – but I won’t put up with it. It won’t be easy, entering the job market all over again, though.
Speaker 2: Normally I’d say I thrive on deadlines and pressure from clients, but it does all build up, and recently I’ve been prone to fairly severe headaches in the office. Don’t get me wrong – I’m fine outside work – I can chill out with the best of them. But I do have a lot on my plate, as you’d expect at my level in the company, and it’s probably too much to handle , if I’m honest, especially with my current project. I can’t wait to see what happens when I implement my new time-management plan at work . It’s hardly rocket science, but I’ll be devastated if it doesn’t work.
Speaker 3: The thing that finally made me flip was being told to move into a new office which was patently unsuitable for the project I was working on. That was on top of a whole series of other ridiculous demands. So the trouble was, it just all came to a head, and the people in charge simply refused to take responsibility for it. We had a number of bitter exchanges, and I ended up seething with rage . I still feel that way. But I’m determined not to just accept it, although I have no idea what I should do about it . It all happened so fast! You can bet I won’t be leaving though because i love the work.
Speaker 4: I’m rapidly reaching the end of my tether. I haven’t lost my cool with a customer yet but it’ll happen soon! It’s just too much, being expected to run my department without a reliable flow of data . My line manager’s been very supportive, I’ll give her that, and she’s been on at the technicians to sort it out . So I’ve done my bit, but nothing’s happened yet. And the final straw is when I’m deluged with supposedly helpful emails from other departmental heads , about how to cope! What do they know about it? They go on and on about how disastrous it is, as if it’s my fault! Luckily I’ve got a great team under me.
Speaker 5: Well, I’m not sure what my options are. She’s got such a bee in her bonnet  about this internal promotion that you just can’t reason with her , so I haven’t tried to talk her out of it. I really don’t want to get her into trouble by reporting her to management  for that row yesterday – it would ruin morale in the office. I suppose in the end we might both get a small pay rise and a new job title. If she isn’t satisfied with that, and I have a feeling she won’t be, I’ll have to raise the whole issue with the boss, and let him resolve it.
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