David Weir-McCall, AEC business development manager at Epic Games, talks about the radical thought that has sparked his creativity
Can you pinpoint the thought, whether yours or someone else’s, that led you to a career in design?
Growing up in rural Scotland where the buildings felt old, draughty and generally in need of some TLC, I had a sudden wake-up moment where I thought “there must be a better way”. It ultimately led me to a design course at college in Aberdeen, and from there I went on to study the application of different technologies within the process of design and construction in the built environment.
In terms of the design and architecture industry, what do you consider the most radical era or pivotal moment?
I’d like to say it was the introduction of CAD or BIM, but in fact I think we are yet to have our pivotal moment in the architecture industry. Our version of the Industrial Revolution lies ahead of us rather than behind us. We don’t yet have enough understanding of either the consolidated parts or the interchangeable parts, which came to manufacturing in the 1700s and gave rise to things like automated pipelines, industrial science, manufacturing lines, and people practice. All of that requires components that aren’t in the AEC... yet!
Which radical thinkers have been inspirations to you in your career?
A lot of the clichéd characters you might expect come to mind – Steve Jobs, Alan Turing and others. But honestly, my greatest inspiration is probably JRR Tolkien. I’m a massive nerd for all things Lord of the Rings, and growing up with Tolkien’s books really helped shape how I saw the world.
Who are the radical thinkers who inspire you now?
This image The Burj Khalifa in Dubai stands as the world’s tallest building and continues to blow Weird-McCall away. Image Credit: HITMAN H / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
I get inspired by people with unique viewpoints more than radical thinkers as such. Daniel Davis, Senior Researcher at Hassell, always piques my interest – I consider him revolutionary to the AEC industry. He always offers a fresh perspective and original thought when others are content to skim the surface of the issue. His approach reminds me to look deeper into proposed ‘solutions’ and workflows.
Who outside the industry can architects and designers learn from?
I’m a firm believer that innovation often comes from outside your own industry. At Epic Games, we share a number of similarities with many different verticals, such as workflow, output and the way we engage with stakeholders. In this sense, looking to the game industry offers a very sophisticated perspective both on how to craft a narrative with the end user, and also a highly evolved feedback loop to optimise experiences that could be implemented.
What will lead the way for more radical thinking in your/our field?
A sketch of Alan Turing, an inspiring radical thinker of his time
The future of our industry will benefit hugely from the coming together of experts from multiple different areas. We need to avoid working in silos of specialism, and embrace the knowledge both within our field and outside of it. It’s happening already with architecture practices hiring digital specialists, software developers and product managers. I see a world where game developers, media producers and entertainment directors join our industry. Different specialities bring unique points of view, fresh approaches – and radical thinking.
Could you recommend a book/article/blog that inspired your thinking?
It might sound odd but my favourite book – apart from Lord of the Rings, of course – is The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by neurologist Oliver Sacks. It contains some amazing accounts of how the human mind controls our perception of reality, and how – in many cases – Sacks’s patients worked around their neurological conditions in remarkably creative ways.
Could you name two buildings/ pieces of furniture that you consider radical designs of their time, or perhaps still to this day?
Design and technology experts from all different industries would benefit from sharing knowledge and ideas
I lived in the UAE for eight years and it’s home to my favourite buildings. The Burj Khalifa will never not blow me away – its size and scale, and knowing it was possible to construct something that monumental. Second is the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Having watched as the building went from concept to construction, the day I finally got to visit was – for me – like meeting a film star. I can only describe it as jaw dropping architecture.
I think best with …
Technology. I’m a visual learner and thinker – if you give me a Miro Board, a PowerPoint or even a blank InDesign file, I can whip up a storyboard or workflow in no time.
Even when designing, I would always opt for creating floor plans in Revit over sketching. I like to know that my ideas work from the beginning, instead of backtracking to fit a brief after the concepts have been designed.
I think best …
Accounts of complex human perception in The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat inspire Weir-McCall’s thinking
In discussion with groups of people. I love the energy when people are sharing ideas, how the thoughts of others can influence your own, and how the process of dialogue and collaboration leads to unique outcomes. Also, give me a good debate. Conflict breeds creativity, and nothing makes me think harder than when someone challenges and questions my ideas.
I think best when…
I’m in great company. I surround myself with people that inspire me, and it means no matter what we talk about I know it’ll always be interesting – and even more fun if we can have a good discussion.
The thought that keeps me up at night is…
What actually is wind? And where does it come from?!
The thought that gets me out of bed each day is…
David Weir-McCall describes Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien as his biggest inspiration
That I should probably Google where wind comes from… but then I forget.
Do you like to think with, or think against?
My answer to that depends on the day – and the thought.
If you weren’t a designer/architect, where do you think your way of thinking would have led you?
I’d like to say the film industry, or perhaps some kind of expressive dance – if I hadn’t been born with multiple left feet. Wherever else I would have ended up, I’d need to be able to get my creativity out in some shape or form.
Could you describe radical thinking in three words?
Epic. Unreal. Mega. See what I did there?
What’s the most radical thing you’ve come across today or this week?
Seeing the first NFT digital house that was built in Unreal Engine selling for $500,000. What a time to be alive.