First Impressions

As Ryder celebrates the expansion of its healthcare team, director, Sheldon Walsh, explains his passion for transformative design and reflects on his first four months with the practice.

To say it has been a time of adjustment would perhaps be an understatement.  In just two weeks of me joining Ryder, the world changed for us all, reminding me of the ironic blessing may you live in interesting times.  There is no doubt these times are indeed strange, but the response to these unprecedented challenges reminds me of the infamous Heartbreak Ridge line improvise, adapt, overcome.

A response which, despite the circumstances of the last four months, has meant that on my last count at least 27 colleagues across multiple offices have collaborated and assisted me in countless ways.  This includes communications, concept and technical design, finance, IT, and project coordinators – I’d like to thank each and every one of you.  I have also been joined by colleagues Pete Heyes and Dan Rostron who have been working with me for many years.  They are both highly experienced and respected, providing an excellent foundation on which to build Ryder’s portfolio in the region.

Prior to joining Ryder, I have worked primarily in the healthcare sector for almost 20 years, during which I have experienced an exciting transformation in the quality of healthcare design in the UK and internationally.

Historically, this specialist sector infrequently attracted attention from those in mainstream architectural design, and projects were rarely recognised in industry literature, with even fewer winning awards.  Early in my career I developed a real passion for healthcare design and the capacity we as designers hold to positively influence both the patient experience and the quality of care a clinician can provide.

I continued to expand my portfolio in subsequent years, looking to combine the functional and technical requirements of healthcare briefs with creative narratives, and integrating this social infrastructure with the wider communities they serve – an approach which aligns closely to Ryder’s Everything architecture manifesto and the enviable collection of projects it has in healthcare.

While I have not had the chance to meet all my colleagues in person yet, a healthcare workshop several months prior to lockdown did allow me to briefly work with some of the practice’s designers.  An effective and fun day all round.

I have no doubt this has contributed to the success Ryder’s healthcare expansion has already had, in particular winning a diverse range of projects, some of which include a programme of private facilities across the UK for Rutherford Diagnostics, an Emergency Care and Pathology Campus for Stockport NHS, and three new health centres for Oldham CCG.

Amidst lockdown, I experienced my first Blueprint festival – an annual summit where we celebrate our achievements over the past year and set our goals for the year ahead – it going ahead entirely virtual, even in these challenging times, substantiates the passion and collaboration of which I’ve only touched the surface.

It’s the people who make Ryder what it is.  And, as my journey continues with the same passion and drive I have always had, I look forward to working alongside my new colleagues – hopefully at some point in person!

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