Shirley left Brighton College in 1978 after which she studied Architecture at the Brighton School of Architecture at Sussex University. She was a founding director of SW Architects in London, and after working as a chartered Architect, she is now a Party Wall Surveyor - and has worked on transformative projects such as Canon Place and the Shard of Glass in London.
Shirley works for Delva Patman Redler LLP and is the party wall negotiator for Crossrail, working on Europe’s biggest infrastructure project, the highly exciting new railway which will become known as the Elizabeth Line as part of London’s transport network. Shirley is an active member of the Old Brightonians community, and has helped with our careers programme, offering advice and mentorship to pupils thinking about studying architecture, as well as young OBs who are setting out to become architects.
- When you were at Brighton College, what did you want to be when you ‘grew-up’?
I knew I wanted to be an Architect from when I was about 13 or 14 years old, which in one way made it easy to make decisions about subjects and courses. There was never any doubt in my mind in this matter.
- What are you now you've grown up?
I am a chartered Architect now. However, I switched from working in architecture about 10 years ago to working as a Party Wall Surveyor – it’s a bit of a niche market…. I took a career break after Emma was born and decided to try something a little different. I worked as a Building Inspector for 3 years and found I enjoyed looking at different projects on site - every day was different. 3 years later, I was head-hunted by a Party Wall and Rights to Light specialist company and appreciated the large variety of projects the company was involved with. I met some amazing Architects, Engineers and Developers, and enjoyed playing an important role in delivering their projects.
- What is your best memory of school?
Beating Roedean at netball – quite an achievement for Fenwick House in those days, and I was team captain! It was a great feeling. I also remember a piece of art that I did with Nick Bremer (Director of Art, 1969-00) which hung in the Clocktower – it was of the Brighton Pavilion. We were given a lot of freedom at the College, and I loved that; far more than I was used to.
- What was the best piece of advice you were given?
My mother was my role model but she didn’t give me any advice, rather she set an example by the way she lived her life. She continues to inspire me and other members of my family in many ways.
- What does your job involve?
I negotiate legal agreements between property developers and the adjoining owners – party wall awards and access licences, heads of terms and deeds of agreement. The job involves working with the project team to develop and resolve the design conditions, particularly those at the boundaries. We then have to open negotiations with the adjoining owners and their appointed representatives to agree terms for access for undertaking those works.
- What are the most challenging parts of your job?
Sometimes negotiations can get a bit intense but it generally pays to keep calm, primarily to keep the lawyers out of the equation – apologies for any offence caused to lawyerly OBs for that remark!
- What have you done that you are most proud of?
I am very proud of my daughter, Emma who recently left Brighton College and was in Williams House – a VERY different place from 1976-78. I worked as the party wall negotiator for Cannon Place and the Shard of Glass which are both beautiful buildings. Also, since 2010 I have been the party wall negotiator for Crossrail – it has been a great privilege to work on such an amazing infrastructure project.
- What is the single thing that would most improve the quality of your life?
Spending an hour a day at the gym…
- What are the three objects you would take with you to a desert island?
Marmite (assuming there will be toast and butter), moisturising sunscreen and a trunk full of the books I have yet to read.
- How would you like to be remembered?
I would like to be remembered as someone who had empathy and understanding and who helped others.