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Broad horizons

Working lives - Faber Maunsell's Garry Palmer has tailored his job to provide plenty of tough challenges - which is just the way he likes it.

As a member of the ICE and the Institution of Structural Engineers, and partially accredited with the Royal Institution of British Architects, Garry Palmer is keeping a finger in every built environment pie.

At 36 Palmer is the youngest ever director of consultant Faber Maunsell, and in his role of chasing prestigious architectural projects, is steering the firm into new, exciting realms. He is harnessing his multiple interests to forge a new international division to develop landmark structures with some of the world's most challenging architects. The closer to impossible the project, the more he wants to tackle it.

Palmer was hooked from an early age on the worlds of design and construction: 'I've always loved architecture and building. It seemed fitting when I reached university age that I took a combined course. My maths based subjects at school made engineering the obvious choice but I also had love for conceptual design.' He studied architectural engineering at Leeds University for four years, taking one year at Penn State University in the US.

'The course was fantastic, it gave me the opportunity to design massive structures, bridges and buildings, and also play with acoustics, façades, lighting and space.' Following his degree Palmer was invited back to Leeds to study for a PhD in natural ventilation, thermal loading and computational fluid dynamics.

'It was a great experience - really enjoyable.' In 1994, 'aged 23 or 24', Palmer joined consultant Oscar Faber. 'I was attracted by the promise of foreign travel and large, high profile projects.' Five years later, in 1999, he left to become group director at Buro Happold. 'Buro Happold offered me some great opportunities - I got to work with architects like Henry Larson on the Danish National Opera House, getting involved in anything from the conceptual design to the aerodynamics of the cantilever that juts out the front.' Another five years on and Palmer's feet were itching again.

In 2004 he reunited with old friends at Faber Maunsell. 'I returned because of the sheer breadth of clients Faber could offer, with strong links worldwide.' Palmer set up the group's advanced design group. 'It is a concept engineering arm, working out how a complicated civil and architectural project fits together.

'I set out to work with a certain kind of architect - one that had completed unique and complex projects that pushed the boundaries of what is possible.' With his eyes clearly fixed on the future, Palmer is expanding his advanced design group into a global movement. In two months he will have set up a second office in California. 'In the next few years I want to see offices in Hong Kong and Australia up and running. The idea is to use UK staff to set them up, and to find the right people and get them working on landmark structures.

'Five years ago I set out to do something I believed was right and its got me this far. I still think that idea is right, so we can only go onwards and upwards.'

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