Interview with Ian Caldwell

We are seeing in the New Year with our first interview of the month.   The picture shows Ian in one of his favourite places – Cuba.

Who are you and what do you do?

I have been Director of Estates at three universities – Sheffield Hallam University, Imperial College and King’s College London.  Today, I work as an independent consultant, still having links to King’s College London and now also to the British Academy.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

My proudest accomplishments have been working with clients to look beyond the present into the future and really think ‘outside the box’ into the transformation of an organisation that a project might achieve

What is your favourite thing about your career?

I have been fortunate to work with some of the most creative and talented people in both the academic and design worlds.  When the two come together, great designs can result.

Describe HEDQF in a sentence?

Learning from the past to create a new world for the future that anticipates change – which is the one constant in Higher Education.

What is your contribution to HEDQF?

I’ve been involved with HEDQF since its inception under Frank Duffy who as President of the RIBA had the idea of bringing clients and designers together to understand key issues, challenges and opportunities.  You do have to wonder why more professional bodies don’t do this.

Today, I am the Chair of the Events Group of HEDQF, which has been challenging in the past two years during the different lockdowns.

What does a good HE building mean to you – quote?

A building which is a joy to visit several years later and find that it has adapted and changed through time and is still enjoyed by staff and students.

One thing about you that will surprise people?

Those that know me will not be surprised, but I have a passion for Cuba, where I have many friends, and for the people who live there, often under very difficult circumstances.  I think it is one of the most magical places on earth, full of complexities and contradictions – in addition to great music and art.  It is people that make places, and one of our key aims should be to facilitate this.

Have you had any other jobs beside architect?

One of my most fascinating jobs was working for Scottish and Newcastle Breweries in their finance department.  Occasionally I would be taken out by an auditor to explore a bar and whether someone was watering down the spirits – the key sign for which was that the spirits order had gone down from its regular level.  To this day, I can tell by the actions of the bar staff and the taste of the drink that my whisky has been watered down – fortunately not very often!

I’m also the Deputy Chairman of the London Members’ Centre of the National Trust for Scotland – yes, I hail from Scotland!!

What makes you laugh the most? 

Art is my other passion, so something amusing – but thoughtful – by a contemporary artist such as Grayson Perry or David Hockney.

If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would it be?

Visit Kyoto.


That’s it from Ian for now, look out for our next interview in February ….