Meet Mark Powles

RRA Architects > Meet Mark Powles

Mark Powles
Managing Director

Originally from Hereford, I moved to Cheltenham in 2010 and am married with two lovely daughters.

What attracted you to being an Architect?

It’s probably a combination of things, my parents were involved in the property market so I grew up knowing about property maintenance and, like most architects, I loved playing with Lego. I also love cars, and when I was about 11, I saw the local Architect driving round in his posh car, I remember he had a Mercedes 500SL, so I thought being an Architect was the road to my own dream car!

How did you end up working for RRA? 

I always knew I wanted to be in construction, even if not an Architect, but I really didn’t love the academic world, so, instead of A Levels I studied for a National Diploma in Construction. This got me into a University in Birmingham to study Architecture. When I was just 21, I joined a small practice in Hereford, called Rod Robinson Associates, as a Part 1 Assistant. To cut a long story short I studied, worked, graduated and progressed through Rod Robinson Associates to become a director of the company when I was 26. The company became RRA Architects in 2004 and, in 2016, I became the Managing Director.

What did you like about lockdown?

The benefit of being able to make phone calls in my back garden.

What did you hate about lockdown?

Lack of face to face communication with the team. Architecture is such a collaborative and personal process that I missed the buzz of the office and bouncing ideas with the rest of the team.

Did you take up any new hobbies in lockdown, and, if so, will you carry on with them?

I did turn my shed into a bar and created a social area in my garden which I probably wouldn’t have done if not for lockdown. So although it’s not exactly a hobby, it was something new and I will carry on using it.

I also subscribed to Peloton as I couldn’t get to the gym and I now use my Peloton bike regularly.

What did you learn from the pandemic?

I would say the biggest thing I learnt was how good the team were at adapting to WFH. I have always felt that quality output is more important than hours worked in the office, but it is difficult to take that leap of faith and changing an established working model to test out a more flexible approach.

There is always the question of whether people would work as efficiently at home as in the office and the answer is yes. The pandemic presented an opportunity and it’s been a great learning experience. Working from home isn’t great if you have to do it for an extended time, but a mix of office working and home working is beneficial for a better work-life balance and shows employees that you respect and trust them.

This has shaped the future of the company.

What do you hope the world will learn from the pandemic?

I hope more companies embrace a greener life for better well-being of the whole planet and that we all enjoy leisure time more.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Golf, skiing and going to the rugby – I’ve been missing all of these. Also, going out for nice meals and spending time with friends.

What do you actually do in your spare time?

I love working and doing my other job, property developing, so a lot of my ‘spare’ time is actually going through the same process that many of my clients are going through. I like to think this makes me more empathetic in my day job too.

Also spending time with my family – anyone with two young children knows that spare time is virtually non-existent. Not that I am complaining, I do enjoy home life, especially when I can indulge my passion of playing with Lego with my children.

What’s your proudest moment in your working life?

I struggled at school as an undiagnosed Dyslexic and when I said to the Careers Advisor that I wanted to be an architect, they told me that I should “lower my aspirations”. So, graduating as a fully qualified Architect and becoming a member of the RIBA are particularly sweet moments for me.

Also, I would have to say when I became sole owner of RRA, knowing how hard I had worked to get there.

If you could go anywhere tomorrow, where would you go and why?

Easy, a ski resort with fresh powder snow and a good Apre Ski bar.

What’s one thing on your Bucket List?

Watching the Monaco Grand Prix from a private yacht.

What do you hope people think about you?

That I give good, solid, professional advice to clients and that I am an honest, good bloke, who people are happy to call their friend.