Harbinder Birdi is an Architect and Partner at Hawkins\Brown, a leading London-based firm that is currently delivering the architectural designs for Crossrail and Thames Tideway.
In his 2016 TEDxWandsworth talk, “The art of infrastructure in the heart of London” Harbinder reveals the lessons he has learnt from designing and constructing within the world’s oldest underground metro system, and asks how architecture and art inform construction, and reflect the communities that use transport everyday.
What is your earliest memory?
Being an arsonist at the age of four. I accidentally set my home on fire exploring how matches worked.
What sums up happiness for you?
What makes you angry?
Unhappy rather than angry: our inability, as a species, to see the impact our constant craving to consume has on society and the environment.
If you could be anywhere right now, where would it be?
Lost in a new city without Google maps.
What did you want to be as a child?
An automotive designer. I grew up in Coventry, which has a rich heritage in car manufacturing. On an open day I noticed that the coolest students were those who were studying how to create beautiful cars. I was seduced immediately.
What’s the worst job you’ve done?
Working in a city bar on New Year’s Eve. Deciphering drunken orders is never fun, especially when you are already getting them wrong at 10.30pm.
What would your superpower be?
Convincing my son that I love him more than his IPad does.
Have you ever been mistaken for a celebrity?
The magician David Blaine. I have absolutely no tricks up my sleeve but I do wish I had his arms.
What’s your favourite book?
Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. It is a beautifully written exploration into how we all see and understand environments through our own particular lens.
Which living person do you most admire, and why?
No one, actually. I don’t believe one person should be honoured in that way. I believe in the collective.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
My ability to negotiate terms with my son about his IPad.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Designing Tottenham Court Road station, a fundamental piece of my city that will serve my fellow traveller.
What one thing would improve your life?
Completing the design of our home.
What would you change to make the world a better place?
I would instigate a sensible approach to the distribution of wealth.
How would you like to be remembered?
As someone who brought out the best in others.
Interview by Rosy Edwards