Category Archives: Architecture

Rosemarie finally meets Kevin McCloud at Grand Designs Live.

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Lucky devils, free tickets for the Grand Designs Live Show. Rosemarie and Tony went to the show to check out the competition for garden rooms and to see what’s new on the market (as well as the ulterior motive to meet Kevin McCloud).

Reporting back, they said the show was good, in particular the build section. They came across a new hot water underfloor heating technology that can be laid on existing floors, something they are looking to install in the factory. However, throughout the day they still had a question in their minds; “I wonder if we’ll meet Kevin?”. A couple of hours went by, they were getting tired and came to the conclusion they wouldn’t see him that day. Ever positive they went away with a goody bag and this picture.

He took to long to show up so Rosemarie opted for the more reliable print version.

He took too long to show up so Rosemarie opted for the more reliable print version.

Berlin, The Jewish Museum, an Art Gallery and a street play. (Part One)

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All in a weekend. Booked the flight on Monday and before we knew it our interior architect, Jenni, was in Berlin.

Hosting an array of architecturally famous buildings, Jenni wanted to see one of the most visited museums in Germany’s capital, ‘The Jewish Museum’. The spectacular design, by New York based  architect Daniel Libeskind, attracts more visitors year on year. The museum powerfully symbolises the contributions of the Jewish people to German culture. It is now the largest Jewish museum in Europe.

The museum is broken up into voids, corridors and emotive spaces. The voids act as spaces for contemplation and are peppered throughout the building along with personal objects such as love letters, books, drawings and toys belonging to some of the victims.

The long corridors act as the Axes of Exile, Immigration and Holocaust. The corridors are a complex combination of light and dark areas, acute angles, small and large diagonal windows, uneven surfaces, ascending and descending corridors. Jenni describes the feeling of disorientation, longing and uncertainty runs throughout the museum.

The Axis of Exile leads out to ‘The Garden’, consisting of 49 slanted concrete pillars that slice up the sky and the surrounding architecture, giving the feel of imbalance. Olive trees line the top of the pillars, representing hope.

The Axis of Holocaust leads down to the ‘The Holocaust Tower’. Consisting of a 24m high, dark, cold and silent space with only a small slit of light above. It is this area that Jenni thought was very effective, giving a glimpse of how the individuals felt during this harrowing time.

The relationship between old and new is shown through the dynamic architectural work by Daniel Libeskind and the permanent exhibition of the history of the Jews in Germany. Fascinated with the sharp angles, reflective materials, thin jaggered windows and interesting areas of light and dark, Jenni has decided to write her dissertation around the subject of memorial spaces and their place within society. Good luck.

East Midlands Architecture & Design

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It’s that time of year again for the RIBA to announce the winners of the RIBA Awards 2009. Within the East Midlands category there were a number of exceptional buildings – of particular interest to us are the buildings in Leicester.  As we are based in Leicester we have been watching over the recent developments within the city, being quite impressed with the quality of the new Foreign Office Architects designed John Lewis and the surrounding development.  At long last Leicester is becoming the city that it’s inhabitants deserve – footfall within the city centre has increased dramatically, there is the growing sense that Leicester’s profile is on the up.

The winning buildings within the East Midlands category are as follows:

82 Derngate, Northampton – John McAslan & Partners
Curve, Leicester – Rafael Vinoly Architects
David Wilson Library, Leicester – Associated Architects LLP
Highfields Automotive and Engineering Training Centre – Public Space, Nottingham – Hawkins/Brown Architects

John Lewis Department Store & Cineplex, Leicester – Foreign Office Architects (FOA)

Level Centre, Rowsley, Derbyshire – Clash Associates Ltd
The Minster School, Nottinghamshire – Penoyre & Prasad LLP
New Art Exchange, Nottingham – Hawkins/Brown Architects

Intelligent design has been around for hundreds of years!

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When times are tough there is a tendency for people to become short sighted and cost driven. It has always been a driving principle of ours to create design solutions that are right for the client and right for the building – considering the needs of the building and the future users of the building is not necessarily something you would immediately think about, but for larger interior design and architectural schemes it is very important.  Here is a nice example of this in action, courtesy of Stuart Brand, ‘How Buildings Learn':

“New College, Oxford, is of rather late foundations, hence the name. It was founded around the late 14th century. It has, like other colleges, a great dining hall with big oak beams across the top, yes? These might be two feet square, forty-five feet long.

A century ago, so I am told, some busy entomologist, went up into the root of the dining hall with a penknife and poked at the beams and found that they were full of beetles. This was reported to the College Council, who met in some dismay, because where would they get beams of that calibre nowadays?

One of the Junior Fellows stuck his neck out and suggested that there might be on College lands some oak. These colleges are endowed with pieces of land scattered across the country. So they called in the College Forester, who of course had not been near the college itself for some years, and asked him about oaks.

And he pulled his forelock and said, “Well sirs, we was wonderin’ when you’d be askin’.”

Upon further enquiry it was discovered that when the College was founded, a grove of oaks had been planted to replace the beams in the dinning hall when they became beetly, because oak beams always become beetly in the end. This plan had been passed down from one Forester to the next for five hundred years. “Your don’t cut them oaks. Them’s for the College Hall.”

A nice story. That’s the way to run a culture.”

Taken from ‘How Buildings Learn – What happens after they’re built’ by Stuart Brand

Changes in Planning Regulations make it easier than ever before to embark on building projects.

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Since October 1st 2008 there have been some quite significant changes with the Planning Regulations in relation to private dwellings. Classified as ‘permitted development’, the parameters have been broadened to allow more types of work to not require planning permission.

With projects such as loft conversions or house extensions, there are now size guidelines, within which a project would not require planning permission.  The process a home owner must go through is ‘self certification’ – this boils down to the council sending out a very simple tick box questionnaire, if you answer no to every question then you do not need planning permission.

This all sounds very simple, which of course it almost is!  However, in practice we have found that it is taking a while for the planning officers on the ground to fully get to grips with some of these changes.  In certain instances there are situations where different sources of planning guidance are giving contradictory advice, or other instances where language is simply ambiguous.

What should be commended, however, is the conscious effort to make the planning process more transparent and accessible.  Central to this is the new and improved planning portal website – www.planningportal.gov.uk.  Within the ‘general public’ section of the site are some very good semi-interactive, visual guides to what will and will not require planning permission.  You can even view the blog of the Director of the Planning Portal, and make your own comments and suggestions – http://portaldirector.wordpress.com/.

As part of our daily duties we use the planning portal website to submit our applications on line.  This is something which greatly improves the process for us. It’s still a bit hit and miss with the Local Authorities websites.  Once an application is submitted online, it is transferred to the website of the specific Local Authority.  Some of these are better than others at maintaining the online process, which should involve having all of the related documents available online – sadly this isn’t always the case.

To summarise, it is fair to say that there have been some definite concessions made with regard to what a home owner can do without requiring planning permission.  Combine this with the fact that the costs of employing the services of a builder are cheaper now than they have been for quite some time (there are a lot of builders with time on their hands) then there is no better time to embark upon a building project.

Working for heterarchy – placement students tell it like it is! Episode 1 – Jenni Wellings

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img_3031Having researched Heterarchy before coming for interview I had learnt that the company directors were Rosemarie Fitton and Anthony Matters, they did furniture and interiors and that was about all I knew!  So as I sat nervously waiting in my car ( having arrived quite alot earlier than needed) I looked up at the old factory building where my interview would be held  and wondered what awaited me inside…

As I entered the main part of the building I was pleasantly surprised, having been greeted by Rosemarie at the main entrance I was then introduced to another member of Heterarchy, Phoebe the cat, an unusual asset to an office you may think.   The atmosphere was calm and my interview felt very relaxed.  Rosemarie talked about projects Heterarchy were currently working on and showed me around the office and workshop.  I went away feeling that this was the job that I wanted and just hoped that they would feel the same.  A few weeks later after talking to other students about their interviews and harrassing my placement tutor everyday to see if she had heard from Heterarchy I got the news I really wanted, I had got the job along with another student, Kelly.   I was surprised but pleased that two of us had got jobs, at least I would know someone on my first day!

I arrived on my first day after just four hours sleep. probably not a good start ( I had arrived back from France the night before as my ferry had been delayed).  I was terrified that I would fall asleep on my first day! But there was no time for that.  As soon as we arrived, Kelly and I began work on our first project, we were designing a studio for a photographer.  That day we did research and built models along with doing working drawings on Auto CAD.  I got home that night absolutely exhausted but excited about what I would do tommorrow.  That feeling has never left me, everyday we do something new and different whether it is in the office or on site.  Our work varies so much from interior design work  such as 3d modeling and Autocad to practical work including decorating and surveying, things I never imagined I would do on placement but have really enjoyed and learnt from.

Being part of a small company has been a real opportunity and I feel that there  are many things that I have learnt here that I may not have learnt at a bigger corporation such as the everyday runnings of a company from client meetings to market research.  Rosemarie and Tony have been wonderful to work for as they share such an interest in all aspects of interior design.  They have a real interest in their students and are always willing to help with anything we have needed, even offering to give advice on future projects when we have left.  Although I am looking forward to going back to university I have enjoyed my placement so much at Heterarchy that life without it just won’t be the same!

So what on earth does heterarchy mean anyway?

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network-2d1We spend a fair bit of our time saying it again but slower, spelling it out, or just generally observing people struggle with it in a multitude of ways. So why, you may ask, do we perservere with such a seemingly difficult name?  The answer is actually very simple – because it’s of such fundamental importance to the way we run our business.

If you look it up you will see that a heterarchy is the opposite of a heirarchy – a horizontal organisational structure comprised of multiple equal elements.  In relation to our business it relates to the following:

COLLABORATING WITH STRATEGIC PARTNERS

Design is most effective when used as part of a strategic vision.  Whether for a retail brand or a private house, understanding every single aspect of a situation allows for an informed strategy to be put in place that relates to the entirety of a project.  To put in place an effective strategy it is essential that the project team includes specialists who can be responsible for individual components of the strategy.  Within this project context, our role is to facilitate the process and establish and maintain the creative vision.

Since our inception in 2001 we have built up a strong network of technical and creative professionals working across a range of project types.  Our network of strategic partners is still growing.

ENCOURAGING AN INCLUSIVE CREATIVE PROCESS

Within our office and within a broader  project team we actively seek to engage the creative participation of everyone involved.  Within our office this means sharing ideas and holding open creative meetings, where an idea is judged on its own merits rather than on whose idea it is (great ideas often come from the unlikliest of places!).  Within the context of a project team, we think it is important to involve every member of the team, regardless of their role or profession, in the creative dialogue (this includes the client).  This enables a broader understanding of the project and its component parts.  Whether working with businesses or families, it allows all of the ‘stakeholders’ to have their input.

FLEXIBILITY AND ADAPTABILITY WITH CREATIVE FOCUS

This is the ultimate aim of our way of working.  We place ourselves within the centre of a project, where we establish the creative goals and vision.  Our role is to facilitate the process through every stage of the project, right through to completion.  This degree of involvement and continuity allows for the implementation to be monitored,  any issues that arise can be dealt with by the most appropriate member of the team.  This leads to a process of continual learning, which over time accumulates into a fantastic wealth of practical knowledge.

By working in this way, placing ourselves at the creative hub, we are able to provide a flexible and adaptable service.  In real terms this means working on projects of many different types, sizes and budgets.  We are not a  ‘jack of all trades’, we surround ourselves with project experts.  We maintain the creative vision.