Running a business requires a multifarious approach at the best of times. In The studio, we are constantly thinking ahead to new projects whilst remaining fully focused on the demands of current ones. However, it is also important to find the time and space to reflect upon the past year to evaluate the process of our journey and accomplishments.

The process of contemplation often presents questions and one key point that constantly emerges is how do we ensure that we have a healthy balance between business and creativity in the studio. It’s true that in order to be productive there needs to be a sense of energy in the work place and often this is born from experiences and stimuli that happen outside of the 9-5 working day.

Often, these seemingly random musings become tangible with the celebration of the passing of time. In our case this sense of substance came in the guise of the renewal of our membership to the Oxford Playhouse Business Club. What on the surface looks like a subscription to a series of networking events actually evolved into something so much more thought provoking and culturally enriching. We took time to reflect upon how these gatherings have punctuated our year and also how they have fed into our creative energy.

In September we were delighted and captivated by Moira Buffini’s fast funny and feisty ‘Hand Bagged’ which took the audience through 21 years of political satire. We had barely recovered when along came Sandy Toksvig’s ‘Silver Lining’ which was both hilarious and poignant in equal measures, tackling the often avoided issue of aging and the role of women in theatre. In July Abigail Graham’s production of ‘Death of a Salesman’ offered a bleak and enduring message about disillusionment and the dangers of living in the past. Nicholas Woodeson’s powerful portrayal of Willy Loman still llingers in our minds like the ghost of Christmas past. More recently, Max Stafford – Clark’s interpretation of Andrea Dunbar’s ‘Rita Bob and Sue’ demonstrated that plays from the past can be reinvented and reinterpreted with moral, political and social hindsight.

All our ideas, thoughts and appreciation of these productions were shared, demonstrating that art has influence outside of its own time and physical space. Another fascinating aspect of live theatre is that even if you know a play you can never know what to expect in a performance. Therefore it has a dynamic energy that is only intensified by a life audience. So we would like to say thank you to the Oxford Playhouse for injecting shards of inspiration and vitality to The Studio and helping us keep that balance.

The Ritual of Dressing

The routine of preparing food, entering a house, watching television or listening to music are all understood and repeated many times over in our daily lives. However, for some, the ritual of dressing takes precedent and becomes something other than routine.

Cumnor Hill Development Gains Planning Consent

The development for 8 apartments and new detached home, which replaces a single dwelling, has been granted planning consent by the Vale of White Horse District Council Planning Committee. The Chairman concluded, that whilst he fondly remembers attending various functions and garden parties in such expansive rear gardens, that this type space is no longer expected or wanted and that the redevelopment of these areas, particularly so close to Oxford is inevitable. The application met with significant opposition from neighbouring residents, the Town Council and Parish Council, however it is hoped that they will be reassured that once complete the proposal will be a sensitive addition to the locality.

Extension – Grafting on

Extending an existing and established family home can take on various forms, in this example grafting on provides the solution. Often, an extension blends with the main house to create a new whole. In this case, balancing the the programme and phasing requirements provides the key to overcoming this challenge.

Conceived as a separate structure, this extension respects the existing house by leaving in in tact. This provides an ideal refuge in which the construction can be monitored, surveyed and ultimately enjoyed by the inhabitants.

The main structure and fabric is to be manufactured in a factory, off-site and craned into place. Elevated at first floor, the structure above provides a void below which is to become the new flexible living space. This idea is further expressed by the upper storey bridging across a wall of glazing, supported in the similar way to a stone lintel over a window.

The result is an extension with a different language to the existing house, but subservient, familiar, well balanced and compatible.

Abingdon – New Flats

Originally a proposal for 9 flats, then amended to 7 and now currently being considered by the Local Planning Authority, the 6 one bedroom flats proposed will provide a much better use land in this suburban area whilst blending in seamlessly.

The Studio Launch

The idea of launching a studio within the curtilage of your own home triggers visions of weeks of anxiety induced nightmares where your guests have an expectation to visit, take in and be inspired by an innovative and creative workspace along with sartorial elegance, exquisite hospitality and all round coolness. So the gauntlet was thrown down in early summer and the pressure was on for the team to deliver.

The reality of the run up to the event involved a fusion of insomnia with brief interludes of frantic dreams of standing next to an ill conceived and preposterous design that seemed like such a good idea at the time. This is without the endless deliveries of garden lighting and seating along with the epic mission of procuring plants, obsessive grass watering and back breaking landscaping essential to creating the ambience required for a late summer garden party.

The guests looked forward to the impending event with polite curiosity and excitement, anticipating a slick and glossy gathering with a clan of black clad creative types with an impressive array of avant-garde spectacles and over confident body language reminiscent of Lord Flashheart of Black Adder fame. On the other hand, the team nervously considered how to approach navigating the sea of guests without the usual set of drawings to hide behind or the armoury of steel toe capped boots, hard-hat and high visibility jacket.

Joking aside, the public face of any architectural practice should showcase all the key concepts associated with the idea of credibility. Buzzwords and phrases such as ‘social purpose, sustainability, inclusivity and creativity’ are often banded about as core values, but ultimately what we do is far simpler than that and is epitomized by the idea that architecture is about people and honesty. More specifically, it’s about the client and their needs and how we can help them make their vision become a reality. On a broader level, honesty feeds into all aspects of a practices ethos from the use of materials to the culture within the team.

So back to the story… our friends, clients and collaborators came to eat, drink and be merry and proved that architecture really is about connecting with people. The live music, Moroccan feast and mobile cocktail bar certainly helped but it was the laughter and warmth that really made the event a success. Another fascinating revelation that I would like to share is that the over confident body language of architects is not always due to aesthetic arrogance or bravado but a physical manifestation of the absolute truth that they are always the last ones standing.

Reworked Master Suite

We enjoyed working with our clients in transforming an existing bedroom and tired ensuite into a new Master Suite with dedicated wardrobe area which flows out of the ensuite and is hidden behind the bed space.