The Farrell Centre, Newcastle.

Sir Terry Farrell – Architect and urbanist

I grew up in a prefab on a housing estate to the north of Newcastle, the edge of the edge. One thing I have learned is that we should make it easier for the aspiring child, because all too often society is not fair and not remotely equal. I passed my eleven-plus and went to grammar school, but I was unmotivated and absent and when I was asked about my career aspirations and I said architecture my form master said, “You’ll never make it. You’re bottom of the class.”

Had it not been for my art master, Maurice McPartlan, championing my cause I would never have got into the Sixth Form and it was his organising a placement for me with a Newcastle architecture firm after O-levels that confirmed to me that my choice of career was correct.

My place, therefore, is not my MI5 building in London, or my KK100 building in Shenzhen, the tallest building ever realised by a British architecture firm, but the new Farrell Centre in Newcastle. Every town should have an urban room, where past present and future are on display, debated and engaged with by the wider public. I have left my archive to Newcastle and helped to fund the centre, revitalising in the process a listed building in the cultural quarter of my master plan for the university. it will have a public exhibition gallery and above it a floor dedicated to start-ups and to helping recent graduates get on their feet. The centre will also use my archive in schools to demonstrate to children how they can rise above their background and succeed, in spite of obstacles and prejudices that oppose them.