Member Spotlight – Mark Collins, Collins Rolston Architects

We recently had the pleasure to catch up with Mark Collins, Collins Rolston Architects. Mark shares with us his path to where he is now and his desire to continuing growing his world class architectural practice as well as building a lasting legacy.

So tell us about yourself and what led you to set up in business ?

I joined Rolston Architects as a fledgling architect with a burning ambition: to help create a world class architectural practice in my hometown of Belfast.

I learned so much under the watchful gaze of some of the island’s most talented architects in those early days.

I cut my professional teeth within the burgeoning social housing market in Northern Ireland, but soon developed a keen interest in sustainability and how that could be successfully incorporated into projects that demonstrated exemplary design and practicality.

I was fortunate to see the firm grow rapidly into a host of new sectors and locations. My contribution was rewarded ten years later with a seat at the top table as a board director and equity holder.

Almost 20 years to the day when I sat down at my drawing board for the first time to begin my professional journey, I successfully completed the acquisition of the practice from my mentor and long-time friend, Harry Rolston.

What are the types of services that you you provide and what problems that you solve for your customers?

Collins Rolston has a wide and varied portfolio of work across the public and private sectors including many award-winning schemes across the island of Ireland. While the solid residential base upon which the firm’s success was built remains, the team now has market-leading credentials across every major sector including conservation, education, health, tech, and retail.

With a growing reputation as a teaching practice, and a strong focus on practice development, my vision is to build a lasting legacy for both my firm and its team.

What is the most challenging aspect of running a business / working freelance?

One of the major challenges we face – like every other business nowadays – is identifying and recruiting top talent. In order to address that we have invested heavily in professional development within the firm. Our goal is to enable our team to carve out their own outstanding reputations as world-class design professionals.

We want to be proud of their role in Collins Rolston and give them opportunities to work on some of the most exciting, leading-edge, and professionally fulfilling projects we can find. I believe our ambition can only be limited by our imagination. The next step in our journey together is building on our exceptional current team by bringing in more outstanding people who buy into our philosophy and are motivated by the thought of being able to make their own mark in an ambitious, multi-location architectural practice with a desire to be truly ground-breaking and world-class.

How do you stay inspired and motivated to run your business / work freelance?

For me, every day is a learning day. I still love the sense of achievement you feel when you see a concept you have created in collaboration with your client and your team comes to life. We are proud to be a strongly design-led practice and some of the work we have been doing recently, for example, in terms of urban regeneration has been immensely satisfying. I keep myself motivated by observing what the world’s best architectural firms do and, where there is a fit, implementing any lessons learned within Collins Rolston.

What one piece of advice would you share with other members on how to overcome business setbacks?

Experience is the greatest teacher you will ever find. Learn from your experiences and realise there are elements that are within your control and those that aren’t. Concentrate on those areas you can influence and take lots of advice!

Share your hidden gem about Dublin

That’s a tough one as I just love some of the rich architecture in various places throughout the city. But if I had to single out one location (and it’s not exactly a hidden gem) it would be Phoenix Park. I think every major city needs places where residents and visitors can enjoy nature within close proximity to the beating heart of the commercial and retail areas.

How can our audience get in touch with you?

You can get in touch via our website and be assured of a prompt response