hy architects bother to create those one-off grand designs

Ric Blenkharn
Ric Blenkharn
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Ric Blenkharn, Bramhall Blenkharn Architects, www.brable.com

Why do I bother about design? It is a question I often ask myself, since the route to creating good architecture can be tortuous and prolonged. It demands a certain tenacity to overcome the many bureaucratic hurdles along the way, and indeed like a race itself, the process can often leave you drained of energy.

The acid test, is the appreciation of the buildings that are created. I often use social professional media, such as Linkedin to showcase projects that I am currently working on, and it is great to receive positive comments. Not all comments are positive, and I am equally pleased, since design is subjective and a matter of personal taste. Life would be very dull if we all liked the same things, dressed the same way, drove vehicles the same, and lived in houses all the same. Every person is unique and individual, and as such, design should be a positive response to those unique qualities of life.

Design does not need to be bold, daring and challenging. In fact, good design should be considerate and understanding. A well-considered design should be timeless. Timeless buildings are the basic building blocks of our towns and cities. They represent the important heritage we have as a country. The listed building stock represents those qualities of timelessness.

As a profession, architects have a duty of care to uphold those sentiments in considerate design, which respects the communities in which they are built. Not only must buildings respond to the brief of a client, they also have a wider social mission to respect the built fabric in which they are set. The setting of buildings around external space, forms the visual theatre we enjoy on a daily basis.

I often take stock of the buildings I have worked on in the past and go back to see how they are fitting into their setting. It is great to go back to buildings and see them loved and well maintained. This to me is the most satisfying aspect of the profession. It is testament to the travails taken to achieve good buildings.

In some cases, the projects when built have been seen as marmite buildings. They are buildings that have split opinion. They have created an emotional response in the passer by. Yet, over time, they have settled in to become part of the urban fabric.

The challenge to the casual observer, when looking at buildings, is trying to appreciate the reasoning behind their creation. When assessing buildings, try to understand the parameters around why they were created. Be inquisitive and think about the constraints of a design. What is the building responding to? Is it a suitable neighbour? Does the building exhibit calmness? Does it feel right? Test out your emotions. Looking at buildings quizzically will help shape our understanding of architecture and in so doing, perhaps help us make more informed decisions when we come to buy property, or even commission our own.

Creating your own building is usually a once in a lifetime experience. It is daunting to be presented by a blank canvas and the common response is to say “I’ll have one of those”, referring to an already built home. Yet, if we encourage the uniqueness of each person, then we are able to create a bespoke solution. A solution that flatters the owner, rather like a tailor made suit.

The current series of Grand Designs, showcasing the RIBA house of the year, is a great series to highlight the wide variety of solutions which creativity can bring. Each building has its own merits. Some I like more than others, but in them all I can see the result of close working relationships between client, architect and builder. Results that tell me the very reason why I bother.