Tom Looker graduated with a degree and diploma in town planning from the Bartlett School, University College London. His first job was as a planning officer at Suffolk County Council. He then moved to Barton Willmore in Reading as an urban designer after three-and-a-half years with the county, having completed a part-time masters in urban design at Westminster University. Looker then moved to RPS in Swindon as an associate. Two years later he returned to Barton Willmore and has been with the practice for 10 years. He is currently a design director in the firm.
What are your objectives in your current role and how are you measured against them?
We recently opened a Southampton office and my role is to work as part of this new multidisciplinary team to raise profile and develop new business in the south east whilst continuing to provide a high quality design service to existing clients in the region. An annual appraisal is the formal way in which our performance is measured, but ongoing feedback from peers and clients on every project provides an opportunity for immediate and focused continual improvement.
What key lessons have you learned in your career that helped you fulfil those objectives?
Understand the Detail. Masterplans are only robust and deliverable if you understand how the street and block structure can be translated into a commercial reserved matters layout.
Let others take the pen. Early and open engagement produces a ripe harvest of ideas and relinquishing the pen to others fosters a greater degree of trust and resultant ‘buy-in’.
Be flexible. An increasingly ageing population and the emergence of driverless cars pose potentially fundamental challenges to the way we design and implement places for the future – plans and planners must therefore remain flexible but retain the principles that have made some our best-loved and successful places special.