A day in the life: Professor of facility and environment management

Australian-born architect Alexi Marmot passes her passion onto a new generation at UCL

How long have you been in your job?

I joined UCL from a professional architectural practice 14 years ago.

 

What is it about your job that gets you out of bed in the morning?

Along with my espresso, the thing that lights my day is applying knowledge to shape a better world, a world that is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable. I set up the Global Centre for Learning Environments to apply evidence to improve the environments in which almost two billion people across the planet learn through the life course. We cover face-to-face and digital learning, how to create the spaces and cultures in which people of all ages can be inspired.

 

What’s the first thing you do when you get into work?

Since Covid, getting into work means taking a few steps, making a strong espresso to wake me up, before I wake up my laptop, so together we can waltz in step until the evening – and sometimes into the night.

 

What’s the best thing about your job?

Working mainly with young people means that I am constantly thinking about the future – their future, and the future cities and buildings in which they and their offspring will live, work, study and flourish.

 

And the worst?

Bureaucracy, form-filling, badly designed non-intuitive tech platforms. While many software packages are stunningly inventive and intuitive, others are just not fit for purpose. Rather than being time-saving, they gobble up and waste my time.

Working mainly with young people means that I am constantly thinking about the future – their future, and the future cities and buildings in which they and their offspring will live, work, study and flourish

Your number one most vital prop/tool/piece of equipment?

After my espresso machine, it’s got to be my – wrongly named – mobile phone. It’s my music system, podcast player, newspaper, calculator, contact book, photo history, map, clock, radio, pedometer, translator… and window to the world’s knowledge.

 

How did you get into your job?

A colleague enticed me to the university – suggesting I could perform both professional and academic roles half-time. That worked brilliantly for a while but the university kept offering me leadership positions that I couldn’t refuse.

Looking further back, the job was an outcome of my girlhood career decision to become an architect because I so loved making and building little models, combining technical skill with vision. And I was stubborn. Warned that architecture was not a suitable career for a girl; that made me even more determined to follow my desire.

 

What is it about your personality that makes you suitable for the role?

Being unafraid of hard work, long hours, open to new challenges, being curious. Enjoying communicating by written or spoken word. Staying power to see things through to the end whatever the challenge.

 

Which five words sum up your typical day?

Stimulating, varied, challenging, deadlined, privileged.

 

If you weren’t in this role, what would you be?

I’d love to be a sun worshipper catching waves on Bondi Beach or swimming along the Mediterranean coast.


 

Alexi Marmot is professor of facility and environment management, and director of the Global Centre for Learning Environments at UCL, University College London

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