Describe your job at Woodhouse and what you enjoy most about it
As design director, I manage the resources within the design team and lead the design on a number of our key projects. I am primarily involved in the early stages of the design process ( stage 0-3 ) and lead concept design on a number of our key projects. I enjoy bringing together the skillsets of both our inhouse team and consultants to maximise the quality of our design proposals.
Can you tell us a little bit about your architectural background and how it has influenced your approach to workplace design?
My architectural experience has a strong focus on workplace projects. After completing my part 2 and whilst studying for my chartership I was lucky enough to work on Here East with Hawkins Brown. Initially working on the main scheme as part of a large team, I later had the opportunity to work on the smaller Here East Gantry team with just a few HB colleagues. The projects were ahead of their time in terms of workplace design and provision and from then on my heart was in the workplace sector. I love the pace of projects and the opportunities to turn exciting concepts into reality.
I have been extremely lucky to see a number of projects I have worked on spanning design to completion in a relatively short space of time. In all of these projects the common thread has been Innovation. Whether it be in terms of construction ( Here East Gantry – wikihouse system & 55 Great Suffolk Street utilising recycled steel beams ), workspace campus ( Here East ), amenity and provision ( Forge ), sustainability ( Here + Now ).
How do you approach balancing aesthetic design with functional requirements in an office fitout project?
Functional design should not take second place. In many projects the big moves often get the most attention, but their intent, narrative and aesthetics influence the design and aesthetic of more functional elements to deliver a cohesive whole.
Can you describe a project where you had to balance the architectural integrity of a space with the practicalities of a modern office fitout?
55 Great Suffolk street was a particular challenge. The last untouched Victorian Warehouse in Southwark. Unoccupied for 40 years the building had original features that deserved to be retained. Modern regulations required an additional means of escape, bike storage, bin storage etc.. Moving all the aforementioned items into a standalone core which connected to the listed warehouse via steel decks allowed us to preserve the existing fabric largely in its entirety.
How do you stay up-to-date with the latest trends and advancements in design?
Primarily by attending industry events, visiting buildings and engaging with our clients.
How do you incorporate sustainable design practices into your office fitout designs?
Ensuring the client is informed in regard to the choices available to them when it comes to selecting materials and the general approach for the re-design is absolutely critical. Having a client who has a sustainable approach can allow your design to go to the next level in terms of sustainability. For example on 55 Great Suffolk street, the client offered opportunities to re-use materials being removed from their other sites. The design incorporated reused floor finishes, and the steel structure from the new core utilises beams removed from another London site.
In general terms the majority of projects I work on are re-use schemes, which is in itself a great place to start in terms of embodied carbon versus new build.
What specific skills or knowledge do you think architects can bring to the table when it comes to office fitout design that sets them apart?
Big picture thinking. Architectural training is much more than learning how to space plan and design beautiful buildings. It encompasses social, economic and cultural themes. On a project such as the Here East Gantry which had a requirement to deliver social value, we assisted the client in exploring opportunities for “self build” working with the local authority to deliver outline approval that allowed for fast track decision on individual tenant designs.
On others understanding the economic drivers within a local area can help a client to realise a buildings potential. For example the golden triangle in the UK is seeing huge demand for lab enabled offices, understanding where the demand is and the architectural parameters required to meet this demand sees our expertise span beyond space plans.