How I Got Here: Layton Reid
We met the founder and director of Desitecture to discuss his journey in design and education, plus his Soho House mentorship scheme
Wednesday 26 July 2023 By Soho House
Esteemed architect and educator, Layton Reid, has founded many companies and projects with design at the forefront, most notably, Desitecture. The urban design group focuses on using polyculture (the practice of growing more than one crop species in the same space) and technology to create sustainable cities; a solution to the creative dichotomy between societal change and commercial needs in a time of climate change. He also founded the Ikenga Organisation, which supports and encourages those entering the design and creative professions.
Aside from that, he has served as an associate dean at Ravensbourne University in London, where he founded new courses in this field, such as interior design environment architecture and urban landscape, paving the way for people to learn about this new wave of practices. Within these feats he champions access and diversity in architectural education, and even began a mentorship scheme through the Soho House Foundation to foster creatives in all disciplines and from a range of backgrounds.
We spoke to him about how he got to where he is today.
Can you tell us about your company?
‘Desitecture is a design research practice, an award-winning group that looks at the impact of emerging cultures, new technologies and user types. We’re interested in the future of the built environment, interior and architecture.’
What was your first job?
‘Working as a designer for Beardsmore Yauner, an architectural design practice. I did this while I was working on my own account, designing the set for a film on the art of mime funded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.’
What was your journey into architecture?
‘I studied three-dimensional design and architecture at a few universities, all the while working on the concept side of architectural design for a range of international practices. I gained a range of experience from graphics to master planning, which was an unusual combination.
‘While working for these groups I also started my own enterprises, developing designs, exhibiting and publishing projects, trying to break into the design mainstream with unconventional projects. At the same time, I was building a network of contacts, which have been invaluable in my subsequent teaching life.’
How did you get into educating?
‘At first, I resisted opportunities to teach at universities, but eventually felt that I might have something to offer. That’s when I became an associate dean at Ravensbourne University in London and started the first new department of architecture with courses in interior design environment architecture and urban landscape with diversity at its core.’
What’s your mission for the next five years?
‘To provide scholarships to those entering creative education from the diaspora and non-traditional backgrounds.’
How can Soho House members get involved?
‘They can come along to our monthly events held at London’s 180 House on Fridays, where they can meet our proposed mentees and take part as mentors, sharing industry insights and develop EDI events within their own companies.’
How does being part of a creative community support your work?
‘Bringing creatives together in a shared environment creates an atmosphere where people can make trusted connections and provides a plethora of new contacts. These introductions and chance encounters then foster innovative collaborations. The unique quality of the Soho House creative community is its diversity.’
Do you have any success stories from the Ikenga Organisation that you would like to share?
‘Check out our website ikengaorganisation.org where you’ll see fashion mentees having their designs worn by singer Emeli Sandé, architecture mentees taking part in the World Architecture Festival, and more.’
One piece of advice for anyone wanting to find a mentor?
‘We provide access to a world of busy creatives in all disciplines, so bring something to the table with your enthusiasm, a vision, a purpose, ambition, and energy.’
Anything else you would like our members to know?
‘We really welcome members’ support and participation; it’s your way of making a creative difference and making your membership meaningful. We are working actively with Soho House to support a new inclusivity, diversity and equity initiative. You can contact us via our website and through the Soho House Foundation.’
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