Not every task taken on by an architectural practice starts at the beginning. Quite often - for any number of reasons - a client will use one firm to obtain planning permission and a different one for the role of lead designer coordinating the technical steps following planning consent. Most architects will have experience of both sides of that equation.
There is a different skill set and a different mindset involved in the technical design stage of a project. This is the time for getting deep into the details of how the building will work and is constructed - making sure it will be safe and energy-efficient. For example, on this project as architects and lead designer we led a team of structural engineers, mechanical and electrical engineers, landscape architects, lighting designers, civil engineers, drainage specialists, construction design and management coordinators, building control advisors and quantity surveyors.
The project has involved what was part of a hospital in an inner London location. Some of the buildings had been used for accommodation, some for offices, the rest for storage. The reused buildings plus the new extension would have enough space for 11 homes, while two other houses would be built from scratch opposite.
Overall, it will make a useful contribution to London’s rental housing supply on a redundant site with great transport connections. Part of our task was to take the concept designs and turn them into something buildable… but there was some opportunity for us to show some creative flair.
We were hired to look after the discharge of the (very many) planning conditions, to guide the project through the building regulations approval process, to do the technical design and help the clients organise a tender pack to select their construction contractor - and to do the interior design.
And if you’re thinking, yes, there are 13 homes, but surely most of those are the same so once you’ve decided where the plug sockets go in one, it will be the same for them all, you’d be wrong. There are actually seven different unit types, so that’s a huge number of small decisions that need to be decided on and then labelled correctly in the drawings.
During the concept stages of a design, good architects will factor in the practicalities - but also know that it's wiser to leave a lot of the fiddly stuff until after the council has given planning permission. But when you are putting together the tender package, there is no later you can leave things to.
Meanwhile, for the interiors, the client’s preference was for luxury contemporary neutrals, with eye-catching light fixtures to be the star of the show. Selecting those was certainly a lot of fun. Other highlights of the interiors included exposed beams and panelled walls.
This is a project that demonstrates a number of the capabilities that Urbanist Architecture possesses. For us, stepping into a project at this stage can be every bit as professionally satisfying as one we’ve been involved with from the beginning, and what we were able to deliver for the clients is something we are extremely proud of.
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