James Burland is the founder and proprietor of Burland Aura Planning. James is an interdisciplinary design architect. His early career at Arup culminated in the conceptual design of Manchester City Stadium. Since then he has contributed to concepts for sport and entertainment venues within a broader architectural portfolio. This includes projects for Ealing, Pinewood and Shepperton Studios which further reinforced his close association with structural, environmental, sound and lighting designers. In 2018 he qualified with a masters degree in interdisciplinary design for the built environment resulting in his new conceptual approach to architecture through atmosphere design - Burland Aura Planning.
A career that led to aura planning
James Burland spent the first half of his career at ARUP, the engineering firm famous for taking the most challenging architectural designs, such as the Sydney Opera House, and making them buildable. They achieved this through interdisciplinary design where everyone – engineers, architects, owners, technical specialists and building contractors – sat around the table and shared their insights. His employment at Arup was paused while he spent four years gaining overseas experience in Sydney, Australia wher he was employed by Philip Cox Richardson Architects. On his return, for several years he was head architect of Arup Associates, their multi-disciplinary practice, where he designed projects within a team of engineers and architects. The Manchester 2000 Olympic Bid Stadium, after many iterations, was built for the 2002 Commonwealth Games and designed to be converted for Premier Division Football. During its evolution, Arup’s Midlands campus building, a new college at Durham and the later phases of the buildings at Stockley Park, Heathrow were designed in parallel.
Learning from stadium design
The whole point of a stadium is to create an aura that will give spectators an extraordinary experience. Creating this aura remains the guiding principle for everyone involved in a stadium project throughout its development. Stadium designers know that people have many different experiences of a building. There’s the Prospect View as you see the stadium from a distance. The Threshold Moment as you enter. The Welcome Experience as you move through the building and sense how it receives you. Then there is the Powerful Reveal as you emerge into the open arena. Finally, there is the journey to your seat and the Seated Experience that allows you to enjoy the spectacle in comfort while in the company of other spectators.
Could this be a useful way of thinking about the design of any type of building? A home has the curb view and a threshold experience as you enter. It offers moments for entertaining and for individuality. Why not listen to the user so you can define these moments, discovering their preferences and passions along with their practical needs? You could then make this part of the working brief and keep it as the guiding principle, just as you do with a stadium.
Aura Planning is a tool for interdisciplinary design
The strength and depth of the Aura Planning approach is partly derived from past experience of working on an equal basis with engineers and cost consultants in a large multiprofessional design company on a very broad portfolio of projects.
In private practice, however, James became increasingly aware of the decline of the architect’s traditional role in the design team particularly as guardian of the aesthetic outcomes of architectural projects. James sought to avert this in his own work by joining forces with the principal and structural engineer of the London office of The Terrell Group.
This coincided with an opportunity of studying for a Masters in interdisciplinary design for the built environment at Cambridge University. For his studies he investigated how atmosphere design might solve the problem of legacy in Post- Olympic Stadia. His conclusions led to the idea of Aura Planning, an interdisciplinary approach that is applicable to a wide range of building environments.
2020 - Present
Burland Aura Planning Ltd
2000 - 2020
Burland TM Ltd Architects
2016 - 2018
Masters Degree: Mst IDBE (Interdisciplinary Design for the Built Environment), University of Cambridge
2014 - present
Architectural Consultant The Terrell Group
2000 – 2002
Architectural Consultant, Arup
1990 - 1994
Design Architect, Arup Associates - London
1998 - 1999
Operations Board Director, Arup, London
1994 - 1999
Head of Arup Associates – London
1986 - 1990
Project Architect, Philip Coc, Richardson, Taylor and Partners (now Cox Architects), Sydney
1980 - 1986
Project Architect, Arup Associates
1978 - 1979
Student Placement, Arup Associates
1973 - 1980
University of Bath School of Architecture and Engineering
1966 - 1972
King Henry VIII School Coventry