Ian Shaw

Ian Shaw Interview

Architect Ian Shaw is no stranger to taking risks. Based in Germany, Shaw’s designs toe the line between art and functionality. Inspired by the people of Frankfurt, Shaw is currently undertaking a design project: a public pavilion in the center of the city.

What do you do?

I am an architect based in Germany. I build clearly defined quiet buildings.

Where did you grow up?

In Droylseden, Manchester: the wild northwest of England.

Where did you take your first big risk in life?

At school I told my teachers I wanted to be an architect rather than a historian, even though I already had a secure place at University.

I took a year off during college and spent the year in Switzerland without knowing a word of Swiss German. It was definitely a case of sink or swim.

I also walked away from a good paying job in London during a recession on a matter of architectural principle and set up my own office in a foreign country. Thankfully, the “risks” only became apparent after these events.

Why have you found success so far?

Because I have been supported both at school and at university by teachers and professors who where enlightened and dogged enough not to let me fail. Each of them encouraged me to pursue my ideas.

My success is limited to my last building. Success in itself is fleeting, while self doubt and refusing to give in to the luxury of believing you have found an answer is an underrated virtue – it helps keep the spark of awareness alight.


Who is someone you’d love to work with, but can’t?

There are some people I would like to spend an hour with, including Mimar Sinan: a prolific architect engineer who shaped an entire nation; Louis Kahn: a man of many failures but a genius of an architect; and Pier Luigi Nervi for his technical brilliance. Nervi was an engineer who excelled at being an architect.

What are you working on right now?

A private villa, and a public pavilion in the middle of Frankfurt. The pavilion is intended to be used by the general public. It will allow them to express their concerns about the future of their city.

I am also working on a temporary building that (hopefully) will have anything but a temporary effect.


Where do you spend most of your free time?

In the Bavarian countryside. It is a necessary contrast to the urban fabric of Frankfurt. In the forest you quickly become aware that we are only a tiny part of a larger whole.
Written by Breanna Muir