Projects > News > Clifton Life Magazine 'The one to watch'

So what makes you stand out?

Our designs are built on the strict lessons learnt in history, developing lessons in proportion, massing, scale and architectural detail that are associated with Classical design. At the same time, we are progressing these laws into the 21st century and developing an element of flexibility in their use, which was largely explored by the Arts and Crafts Architects of the early 20th century, who used craft and material quality to develop some of the finest buildings in the UK. We develop our designs using hand drawings, paintings and traditional model making and work closely with our clients to ensure that the finished designs are built to the highest standard possible.  We also specialise in the conservation and restoration of historic and listed buildings which greatly inform how we develop our new designs.

Who's your typical client base?

Our typical client base tends to be private individuals, who wish to either build a new house or extend their existing homes. We have also worked with not-for-profit-organisations, Arts Centres, Charities and commercial clients to either build new premises on very tight budgets, or to restore and conserve historic buildings.


How did you get started?

I set the practice up with my Wife and business partner in early 2010. Before that I was an Associate at Craig Hamilton Architects based in Wales, where I was with the practice for several years whilst studying at university.


What’s the secret of running a successful architects firm?

Perseverance, determination and holding your nerve. The most important part is patience, projects can take a long time to develop and turn from a conversation into an actual live working job. It also takes time to develop designs and proposals with clients and you have to remain patient and diligent throughout, without dropping the ball! Having a strong, dedicated team around you is vital, our practice could not function without the extremely hard working staff who put in the hours and care deeply about the success of the practice, which is just as important as the jobs.


We believe your about to open an exhibition...

Since opening the head office in my home town of Bristol, we thought that a public exhibition would be a great way of showing a selection of some of the best projects that we have worked on over the past two years, including concept designs and working drawings which will help to show people the progression of a project from sketch scheme through to completion on site. We are exhibiting Architectural art work, and photographs of completed projects from buildings to furniture that we have designed. A selection of models will also be on show. The Exhibition is aimed at provoking a response to Architecture and particularly to our approach of traditionalism. To encourage this response, we have designed 3 houses in differing styles, one contemporary, one classical and one Arts and Crafts and will be holding a voting ballot to see which is preferred by our guests.


Why use traditional hand-drawings and models?

The nature of architecture that we practice lends itself to more artistic techniques. Also, I firmly believe that Architecture is the Art of building, whether by building honest, simple buildings with integrity or elaborate classical showpieces the composition of buildings is informed in much the same way as an artist would construct a painting. By encouraging an artistic approach to design, we also encourage a creative approach to the way that the buildings are constructed.


Is it unusual for a 31 year old to be so traditional?

Possibly, however we have noticed a keen resurgence in the younger generation showing an interest in Classical and traditional architecture. It is probably slightly more unusual that we employ hand drawn techniques when universities and the profession are focusing so much attention on computer imagery. However, we have received plenty of CVs from students currently studying in Bristol and across the country who have shown a love and appreciation for traditionalism, hand drawing and history, which is very encouraging.


Can you pick one all-time favourite building that you have worked on – and tell us why it’s so special?

One building immediately springs to mind, an Arts centre in Mid Wales which is run by a Charitable trust and involved extensive conservation work to the outside of the building. We were also involved with the redevelopment of the main theatre and worked closely with Chris Baldwin of ACT in Cambridge to provide the arts centre with a wonderful theatre space on a shoe-string budget. We took the project on when things looked very bleak for the organisation. Over the past two years we have restored the three principle decorative stone facades, renewed terribly damaged windows, carried out extensive internal restoration and developed and finished the new theatre, all completed almost entirely with funding. It has been extremely satisfying to help get the funding and to restore what was a decrepit building back to its former glory, and there is still plenty to do!


.. and your personal architecture hero would be….?

Without doubt Sir Edwin Lutyens (born in 1869). He was arguably the finest Arts and Crafts Architect. Lutyens developed the Classical and vernacular traditions of architecture to their pinnacle, and built some of the finest houses and public buildings in the country. He is a great source of inspiration to me, as he used simple Classical detailing with materials and stylistic approaches that were influenced by the local traditions, available trades and materials that were present at the sites that he worked on. His attention to detail was also astonishing and we can only hope to progress his artistic approach in the future.


Bristol – please vote for your favourite building and the carbuncle you would most like to see razed to the ground.

Tricky! Lets start with my favourite – it has got to be St Georges Hall, Great George Street, Brandon Hill, 1821-23 by Robert Smirke. The building itself is quite austere but maintains a beautiful elegance with very simple neo-classical (Greek) detailing. Inside, the Chapel was converted in 1985 by Ferguson Mann to a wonderful concert hall, where the acoustic quality is well known to be almost perfect. The building also has a somewhat ingenious natural ventilation system, which I had the pleasure of investigating and reporting on for a project whilst I was at university. Anyone interested in the natural ventilation of historic structures should investigate.

The worst……………….probably the late 20th Century Premier inn on St James Barton Roundabout (the Bear Pit). It is ugly and dominates one of the principle approaches to Bristol from the motorway – surely someone could do better as an advertisement for the city?


Any building you wish you could bring back from the rubble?

Some of the finest buildings are ruins, St Peters Church in Castle park, Tintern Abbey, countless follies in historical gardens. Many of the great commentators of the past believed that buildings were at their most beautiful when they were ruins. I am not sure that the same could be said for some 20th and 21st century buildings!

The loss of Bowood house in 1956 was a great loss to the West Country as it had a beautiful Robert Adam interior. With the help of the National Trust and other preservation societies, let us hope that it will not happen again.   


What’s the best bit of business advice you’ve ever been given?

My father………. Keep Calm and Carry on!


On an average working day, what do you do?

As much as I can……..largely a mixture of talking to clients, calling contractors on site to check progress, dealing with site issues, developing new designs on the drawing board with the team, preparing planning applications, developing working drawings, processing tenders, meeting potential new clients, talking with engineers and occasionally, eating and sleeping (if there is time).


What have been your biggest successes… and failure?

Successes – being able to build up such a strong and talented team in the office to work on our projects, and having so much fun in the process. Being in a position to nurture youthful talent makes everything worthwhile.

Failures………..not being in a position to employ a couple of students who would have made a wonderful addition to our business and who were eager to learn…………..there is still time though….


What is the future of architecture, in your opinion?

The economic downturn has been very difficult for Architects, but it has enabled us to expand and develop other avenues. Some of the very best architectural design of the last hundred years has come about from either economic or political strife, and having tighter budgets and smaller jobs means that we get to be more creative.

One of my old tutors once said to me ‘if a development is uniformly modern, or uniformly traditional then it is uniformly dull….a healthy mixture of the two leads to vibrant, interesting architectural environments.’

So long as we continue to develop high quality craftsmanship, whether it be modern technologically advanced materials and techniques, or hand crafted masonry and joinery, then the future is bright for the profession.


Anything exciting on the horizon – and what would be your ultimate ambition?

We have lots of really exiting projects on the horizon and I am pleased to say that many are in Bristol which is great for us.

My ultimate ambition is quite humble, I would like a small team of talented people who enjoy what they do, so that we can take on the very best projects with a strong, knowledgeable and skilled team. After that, who knows…………………

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