The RIBA's 'Client & Architect' report is full of important observations on an artificial divide, one that imagines that at a particular moment the 'design' is complete, and that the design intent is better 'developed' by another practice.
Design that has lost its connection with making becomes ever more self-referential and detached. A decent building can only come about when we carry good design through into good details and good construction - and this is usually best handled by the original author rather than a surrogate. If the UK profession is perceived to be failing in this then we need to fight for this role again.
Along with the loss of the original architects’ knowledge of the project up to tender, goes an entire design team who know the why’s behind lines drawn and decisions made, and who have taken and developed the brief through to this point. Out too go the understanding and relationships built across the design team and with their client. As the industry seeks to become more collaborative how can any of this help the cause?
There is also a virtuous circle in architectural practice where the designer takes a project from concept to occupation, because that designer is continually learning better ways to 'achieve' a built design, where each experience on site can inform the next design. The importance of the feedback loop from construction method to design intent is under appreciated but it is what makes better buildings, and improves practice.
In contrast, the report finds that the importance of continuity in the design process from start to finish does indeed appear to be appreciated by clients, but a host of procurement barriers have now grown up like a great wall between concept and delivery. This could be partly in response to a failure by some architectural practices to bridge design and delivery effectively, but also because many clients wish to transfer all their perceived risk, and with it the choice of designer, to the contractor at this key point in an otherwise continuous design process. We have to tackle the interconnected conundrums of design continuity and procurement, currently heading in opposite directions.
One of our current clients is The Hyde Group, for whom we have completed a series of mixed-use and residential projects as part of the regeneration of the Stonebridge Estate in north west London. Bernice Ramchandani, Head of Construction (London) of The Hyde Group says:
The continuity that Cullinans have provided on the Stonebridge regeneration scheme has been invaluable to the Hyde Group as a client, as it has ensured that our high quality vision and design for this neighbourhood has been maintained as a priority for the life of the regeneration.
We have been working with Crest Nicholson Regeneration on the Bristol Harbourside masterplan for 15 years (pictured above) and have delivered four major residential buildings within the masterplan from concept to occupation. The fifth and final residential building is now nearing completion. Importantly, just as Cullinan Studio was acting under a single, continuous appointment, so Crest Nicholson Regeneration has seen the buildings through from concept to handover under a direct build route. This ensured a commitment to the detail from start to finish with lessons learned applied to each subsequent building.