Munday + Cramer In Conversation With… John Allum


A company is only ever as good as the people staffing it. You can have the best processes, equipment, products and services in the world but if you’ve not got the right team in place, there’ll always be something missing. This year marks Munday + Cramer’s 40th year and to celebrate this, we’ve interviewed some of the longer-serving members of the team and find out about their experiences working within the firm.

First up is one of Munday + Cramer’s senior architectural technicians, John Allum. John started working at Munday + Cramer part-time eighteen years ago, back in 2003, as something to go alongside his then full-time university studies. Finding out where his passion for the job came from seemed like a good place to start, so we asked John…

“What first drew you to architecture?”

“Even from a young age I’d always be building stuff,” He starts. “Because of my dyslexia, I always found model-making and drawing to be much easier methods of expressing myself than through written work.”

We wondered whether after having spent so long in the industry, that passion might have waned at all? “Not at all, I still find the various aspects – the modelling, drawing and designing – to be highly satisfying and even therapeutic in their own way.” John says. “The feeling of seeing what started out as a ‘back-of-the-envelope’ sketch end up in a fully fleshed-out architectural project is pretty hard to beat.”

So, that’s where the interest with architecture started, but what about John’s experience with Munday + Cramer, itself?

“How did things start for you at Munday + Cramer?”

“I’d actually been working at another, much smaller practice, when I saw the job advert come up for a one-day-a-week position at Munday + Cramer,” He starts. “A university friend of mine and I both saw the position, we both applied and, fortunately for me, I was the successful candidate! As I say, though,” He continues, “During term-time I was just working at the practice one day a week, but then during the university holidays I’d be working a full-time position.

“After I graduated from university in 2005, I got a job at the practice full-time. Mostly, in those initial years I was doing a mixture of measured surveys, elevations, drawing up existing plans and the odd minor bit of design work, as well.”

“Was working at Munday + Cramer different to what you knew?”

We wanted to know what that transition had been like? Was Munday + Cramer particularly similar to his previous firm or his university training? “Not really,” John says, “It was a pretty big cultural change, in all honesty, particularly from a design and drawing perspective. Whereas before joining Munday + Cramer I’d been working almost exclusively with hand drawings,” He expands. “Here, by comparison, they were utilising 3D CAD (Computer-Aided Design) software and really embracing what was at the time an industry-wide shift towards CAD and away from hand drawings.”

We wondered what, in John’s view, he would say the proportion of CAD to hand drawings, these days would be? “I’d say around 95% of a practice’s design work is done via CAD software and virtually none by hand drawings,” He says. “For graduates today, 3D CAD software is their bread and butter, you know? But back then when I was starting out, whilst it was seeing use, it definitely wasn’t anywhere near as dominant a feature of the discipline.”

“What appealed to you about Munday + Cramer?”

The question remained, though, what drew John, in particular (asides, of course, from being a student on the lookout for a job) to working for Munday + Cramer? “It sounds odd saying this as a tick-mark against my previous practice, what with being an architect myself and all, but that previous firm was solely architecturally focused,” John explains. “Munday + Cramer, on the other hand, was a multidisciplinary practice covering surveying, FM, increasingly funding work, etc.

“I’d gone from a small company to a medium-sized company and that change in scale was noticeable.” He continues. “When I joined Munday + Cramer, I was given my own email address; where I’d worked before, there was just one company email address and they were still using the old modem dial-up. Someone would check the email once in the morning, once at lunchtime and once in the evening.” John recalls, “So going to Munday + Cramer felt like going from somewhere stuck in the ‘dark ages’, technologically speaking at least, to somewhere modern and exciting.”

“What’s one of the projects you’ve most enjoyed working on?”

“One of the biggest models I’ve ever had to draw up was for the Art Deco restoration of Argyll House, in Southend-on-Sea.” He says. “Sometimes with CAD software you have to find ways of being creative and thinking outside of the box,” John continues to explain. “You’re using a ‘slab’ tool to represent something completely different, for instance, and so you’re finding creative ways of representing these particular architectural details sort of like you would with physical modelling clay.” Was it straightforward, we asked? “It took a lot of perseverance,” John laughs. “It was incredibly rewarding but it took a lot of time and effort, that’s for sure.”

“Where do you see the industry going now and in the future?”

“Everything’s going to go towards virtual business modelling (and BIM) much more, I think,” He starts. “Because it enables a much more collaborative approach towards the built environment.

“It’s not just the architectural side of things that benefits, everything through from M&E (Mechanical & Electrical) consultants through to the operational side of things with FM – it just makes all the processes more transparent, more communicative and enables smoother processes, really.” John explains. “BIM’s already out there now, of course, but it’s still in its infancy stage in terms of seeing widespread use. So, seeing its development and more commonplace usage is definitely an exciting thing to watch.”

Contact Us

We are committed to developing career professionals who are truly passionate about what they do. So, if you’d like to find out more about our architectural design services, then get in touch! Contact Munday + Cramer today on 01245 326 200 or by emailing us at info@mcessex.co.uk.