Category Archives: Architecture

Planning approved for Flying Horse Walk shopping arcade refurbishment in Nottingham

By | Architectural / Interior Design, Architecture, Retail Interior Design | No Comments

The proposed refurbishment of the Flying Horse walk shopping arcade in Nottingham has been granted Planning approval. Designed by the Heterarchy team, the refurbishment will further strengthen the Flying Horse Walk as the shopping arcade for independent and boutique retailers within Nottingham. The aim of the design scheme is to re-establish the historic, period character of this landmark site, whilst giving it a contemporary twist – entirely in keeping with the caliber of tennants, which includes Vivienne Westwood and The Cheese Shop.

The refurbishment includes work to the interior of the arcade as well as both facades, bringing back the iconic Flying Horse as a symbol of the strength and diversity of the retail economy in Nottingham.

Heterarchy in new book – Container Architecture

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We’re delighted to have been featured in a new book, Container Architecture, published by the NRW Forum in Dusseldorf. Our inclusion is based upon the Contain Yourself project, a competition entry that took a standard shipping container and turned it into a compact, innovative contemporary home.

Special commendation must go to Liliya Kovachka, who was the lead designer on the project. As this years intern from Nottingham Trent University, following some initial creative discussions with the design team Liliya went on to develop a great piece of work.

As well as featuring our project, the book is packed full of amazing examples of container architecture from around the world, both realised and as concepts. The book can be purchased (German text only) from the NRW Forum for 33,oo EUR.

Purchase the Container Architecture book from the NRW Forum >

View the Contain Yourself project >


Contain Yourself

By | Architecture, Residential Developments, Small Buildings, Sustainable Design | No Comments

In every town and city, whether large or small, you’ll always find small, awkward shaped plots of land that sit between larger development sites. These ‘infill’ plots have generally been considered unusable. The aim of Contain Yourself was to tackle this unavoidable issue with a cost effective, design led approach, whilst also trying to create an ideal home for people just stepping onto the property ladder.

The size and structure of the house is based on that of a single shipping container, which is literally turned on its head to create a compact five storey property, needing just 2.6m squared of land to be placed.  Designed by the Heterarchy Studio, this innovative house design will be exhibited at the NRW in Dusseldorf, Germany from June until September this year.  The house is one of 24 designs chosen to be exhibited out of over 200 entrants to this open International design competition set by the NRW late last year. Entrants were called to submit a maximum of two 30x30cm boards and a ‘Tweet’ (140 characters) explaining the design. Each of the 24 submissions will be showcased with a 1:5 scale model.

The 2.6m x 12.2m container is sunk into an insulated concrete pit in the ground, creating two floors below ground, leaving 8m above ground level for a further 3 levels.  To create usable interior spaces, the skin of the container is punctured to allow for angled, cubic projections to cantilever from the structure. Within the interior the house is a central staircase that leads to a room on each floor, with a bedroom and bathroom below ground level and entrance space, kitchen and living room on the floors above.

An external cladding of solar responsive glass panels over a super insulated multi foil layer is used, making the building thermally efficient and therefore cost effective.

In a time when getting onto the property ladder is harder than ever, these compact homes provide a solution for first time buyers.  They tackle the issue of wasted land and the growing demand for affordable housing whilst staying design conscious, cost effective and energy efficient.

Back to the future…

By | Architectural / Interior Design, Architecture | No Comments

People can be unpredictable. Behaviour, social, cultural and economic circumstances are always changing. Rather than trying to design a utopia that can never exist, is it not better to think of our buildings and spaces as tools, built to evolve and adapt, meeting our needs now and into the future. We think so.

I was recently given a guided tour of a relatively new performing arts building at one of Leicester’s Universities, as part of a project we’re involved in concerning the design of modular, creative spaces.

The facility is impressive – a series of simple, flexible studio and performance spaces, which are used for rehearsals, performances and a multitude of other arts related uses. What seems most effective is their simplicity – essentially square rooms with a variety of adaptable fixtures for lighting, staging, audience layouts (from traditional theatre style to ‘theatre in the round’, with a capacity of up to 120).

Unfortunately, there are also considerable problems with the building, which are preventing it’s occupiers from using it as it was intended. The most notable of these is the poor sound and vibration insulation between the studio spaces (which are stacked one on top of the other in a four storey building). This impact of this is substantial – it’s not possible to use two adjoining spaces at the same time (for performance), meaning the occupants have to carefully plan their usage to avoid the problem. This is a fundamental deficiency, which cannot be rectified easily (if at all). There are other issues – no toilets for the audience; no foyer space for them either; a balcony on the third floor, for the use of students, that is fenced off because it breaks every rule in the ‘don’t give students vertical opportunities’ handbook.

What’s been done about it? Essentially, nothing. As far as I know, the architects have never been back. Perhaps they don’t even know, maybe no-one thought to tell them. However this has come about, something like £5m of public money has been spent on something that simply doesn’t work.

Re-visiting a building or interior once it is occupied should be a statutory requirement. Or, at least, considered standard professional conduct. How else can we learn? With the best will in the world, architects, interior designers and other professional building consultants will never be able to perfectly predict the outcome of their design. From gaining an understanding of how the occupants actually use the spaces, to seeing technically what worked and what didn’t, surely there’s no other way to do this.

It seems obvious to us. Perhaps it’s because most of our clients become friends, I don’t think there’s a single project we’ve completed that we’ve not been back to at least twice since it’s completion. In some instances we’ve worked with our clients for many years following completion, assisting them with the gradual evolution of their spaces as their needs inevitably evolve over time.

Heterarchy provide interior architecture and design services for business, private individuals and religious organisations. For more information contact us >

Flexibility and adaptability – the birth of the modern UK business park

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flexible interior design

We’ve always been interested in interiors and buildings that are flexible and adaptable – changing their use without any substantial or expensive alterations being required. It’s all part of understanding the ‘life-cycle’ of a building. It’s naive to think that when a building or interior is designed and constructed, it will be used exactly as intended for its entire life. Needs change over time, sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly. Understanding how these changes may affect a building can help a designer to make allowances for them, so that the owner can evolve their business without having to worry too much about the effect it will have on their premises (and their bank balance).

A really great example of simple, flexible building design are units on business parks. These are simple buildings with large volumes which can be adapted to a wide variety of uses. One of the first, and most successful, modern business parks in the UK is Milton Park in Oxford. Property entrepreneurs Ian Laing and Nick Cross purchased the site during the mid 1980’s, which was originally a British military ordnance depot.  Seeing the potential of these huge, simple buildings, and understanding how they could be adapted to almost limitless uses, they transformed the site into a huge mixed use business and science park. It’s amazing to think of some of the ground-breaking innovations that are taking place in what are, basically, huge sheds.

We see these types of building all over the UK now, however it’s nice to think they originated from a way of re-using what were previously considered to be worthless and redundant buildings. There’s a lot to be said for keeping things simple and inexpensive – as we can see, entire industries have been built on such foundations.

Heterarchy provide interior architecture and design services throughout the UK – for more information get in touch>

Image source – StubbsRich ‘less is beautiful‘>

Is our second city coming of age?

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Interior Architecture in Birmingham UK

I spent a morning last week listening to the editor of the Birmingham Post, Alun Thorne, giving his summary of the years events within the construction sector within the city. It was certainly interesting listening, with tales of ups and downs and an optimistic outlook for the next few years.

Biggest successes of recent years include the iconic Selfridges (Future Systems), the Qube (Ken Shuttleworth, MAKE) and Holloway Circus Tower (Ian Simpson Architects) to name a few, all of which have added to the vibrancy and quality of Birmingham. It has to be said that plans have been scaled down somewhat, given the economic situation across the entire of the UK. However, the over-riding feeling was that Birmingham has done enough to position itself firmly as the UK’s second city.

There was some debate about drawing comparisons with Manchester – a city which has always had a strength in self promotion. I suppose it could be said that Manchester has more to shout about from a PR point of view – football, the Commonwealth games, that whole ‘Madchester’ cultural scene which has embedded itself within the phyche of the nation (well at least a particular generation). In comparison to this, is Birmingham seen as the poor relation?

Look at Birmingham with a more objective eye, however, and a different picture emerges. You will see a city that is steadily piecing together a new urban infrastructure, with key elements of the city plan in place, with others shortly on the way. Of less obvious, but equally important benefit to the city, is the fact that the recent Conservative Party conference took place there, with the next one a definite and the one after that a distinct possibility. As Alun Thorne put it, ‘the tories seem to be in love with Birmingham’. This is no bad thing.

In 2012 Birmingham is to elect its City Mayor. Speculation concerning who this should be initiates an interesting conversation. Alun asked the question ‘does Birmingham need its own Boris?’. Whatever you think of the slightly eccentric chap, no-one can deny that in his own unique way he has imprinted a style of leadership and ‘un-pretentiousness’ that endears himself to many and enrages a few. What qualities should Birmingham be looking for in its new figurehead? The obvious names were touted – Karen Brady and Digby Jones to name a couple – however, given that Birmingham has one of the most diverse and vibrant multi-cultural populations in the UK, one can understand these suggestions from the cities commercial and construction sector.

So, is our second city about to come of age? Well, listening to Alun Thorne has persuaded me that it doesn’t really need to. With continual improvements in the quality of the built environment, key regeneration projects and a strong commercial and leisure sector, Birmingham is surely a prime candidate for international inward investment. As interior designers with an active interest in the leisure and hotel sector, we’re pleased it’s right on our doorstep.

Heterarchy provide interior architecture and design services across the UK – for more information get in touch>

Tags: Interior design Birmingham

The Royal Shakespeare Theatre benefits from a co-operative approach to design & construction

By | Architectural / Interior Design, Architecture, Construction expertise | No Comments

RSC theatreI recently attended a fascinating presentation about the soon to open, new Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford Upon Avon. The presentation, by Mace project manager Tim Court, gave an in-depth insight into the £58m construction scheme. As well as being an interesting presentation, showing the ups and downs of one of the West Midlands most iconic and important redevelopment projects, what also stood out was the benefits the project received by employing a more collaborative, co-operative approach to the design and construction.

Led by the RSC client team, Tim Court of Mace described an ethos and philosophy of open-ness and engagement. From tradesmen to specialist contractors, architects and designers to external consultants, everyone was aware how they played their own part in creating the ultimate vision. From regular on-site barbeques, to public open days to show them around the site, a real sense of ownership was instigated through every level of the project participants.

The benefits of this approach were clear – from reducing the amount of on-site damage and material wastage, to creating a construction process that was able to react to changes in design and specification, whilst keeping on track of both costings and programme.

Credit must go to the RSC for promoting such an approach. Immense credit must go to Mace, the main contractors, for delivering an incredible project, on time and below budget despite some 2800 variations over the course of the project. This can-do philosophy seemed to work its way down the production chain, with specialist sub-contractors and individual tradesmen all playing their part to deliver an outstanding result.

For us, this is simply more evidence to support our own ethos.

What does it mean for you? Well, if you’re thinking about investing a considerable amount of money into an interior design, architecture and construction project, you need to know there are ways of going about it that will significantly improve both the process and the end result. A collaborative, co-operative approach will ensure you get what you want, you get what you need, without unnecessary stress or cost over-runs. Find out more about our approach here >

Visit the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre >

New home design – England 0 Germany 1

By | Architecture, Residential Developments | No Comments

Following a recent trip to Nurnberg I find myself reflecting on the quality (or lack of) of new housing in the UK compared to some of our European neighbours.

During my short stay in the city I was struck by two things – the clearly evident vernacular style, which has developed over hundreds of years in response to climate and available materials, and secondly the quality of construction of the vast majority of new homes.

There is nothing more pleasing than to travel down a suburban street and see a line of residential dwellings, some dating back hundreds of years, some clearly very new, all differing in materials and construction method, yet sharing the same underlying vernacular architecture. A clear, linear progression, evidence of a cultural continuity and appreciation for those things that remain constant.

From the steeply pitched roof lines, maximising occupation of the roof space, to what seemed to be an obligatory inclusion of a habitable basement level for every new home. What you end up with a house that takes up no more space than your average 2 bed terrace in the UK, yet has pretty much twice the number of habitable rooms. What also impressed is the level of specification – from internal doors having rubber gaskets to increase sound insulation to widepsread use of galvanised steel rainwater products.

The Germans seem to take pride in their construction. The house I stayed in had a photograph of the electrician who installed the system fixed to the fuse board, a face beaming with clear satisfaction at a job well done, his telephone number underneath should you ever have a problem (or maybe just fancy a chat?). Driving on the autobahn, even the major infrastructure roadworks have open days where the workmen proudly show the public around the site, show them drawings and presumably give out free sausages.

Whilst there are some rare exceptions, house building in the UK seems to be simply about numbers – hitting targets, maximising profits, meeting market demand. Any idea of the social and human importance of good quality housing seems to be lost on us. I for one would welcome a change in the way we regulate new home design and construction, but somehow feel that given the continuing economic difficulties I’ll not be holding my breath.

More information on new home design>

Off-site manufacturing set to prosper in drive to cut construction waste

By | Architecture, Residential Developments, Sustainable Design | No Comments
Off-site manufacture of bathroom 'pods'. Image credit -

Off-site manufacture of bathroom 'pods'. Image credit -

The  industry of manufacturing building elements off site is expected to rise in popularity, due in particular to the governments drive to cut waste. Something we at the heterarchy design studio have been continuosly interested and involved in, we would welcome this upturn in popularity. Many of our clients will bear witness to the fact that we are the first to proclaim all of the positive benfits such methods can bring to any development, regardless of size or budget.

Obvious benefits include easier quality control (leading to better building standards), reduction of on-site programme times,  saving costs through minimising on-site waste, damage and theft, plus the ability to synchronise manufacture and supply with on-site demand (just-in-time). Less obvious benefits include the ability to ensure responsible sourcing through the entire supply chain, designing buildings through their entire life cycle (including dis-assembly and re-use of modules) and improved working conditions.

For more detailed information visit to read an in-depth article on the subject>

If you would like more information about how we could help your project – whether a  residential development, single house or the refurbishment and re-design of an existing building – contact our architecture and interior design studio.

Heterarchy enter competition to design multi-faith centre

By | Architectural / Interior Design, Architecture, Religious & Sacred Architecture, Temple Design | No Comments

As part of the Heterarchy studio’s ongoing interest in designing for Religious and Spiritual groups, we have entered a competition aimed at providing multi-faith communities with solutions that enable them to house all of the different groups within one building.

As challenging as this may seem, our creative director Rosemarie Fitton has this to say, ‘If you trace back the origins of all religions and faiths, you’ll find their symbols and visual language all contain certain underlying elements that are universal. The use of sacred geometry based upon the universal laws of nature give us a great starting point when looking for common themes and meanings. We know it’s entirely feasible to design a [religious and spiritual] centre that can be used by an entire community.’

We’re currently in the process of developing design concepts, looking at both the architecture of the building as well as the interior design. For more information on temple interior design and design for religious and spiritual buildings click here.