Answers to difficult questions


They say, surround yourself with good people and good things will happen. We tried it and good things did happen. We met some great people and, along the way, they asked us some difficult questions.

We met Rob and Chris from With Love Project and we were mesmerised by their road trip to meet some of the UK’s best makers. People who make things with a purpose and a passion. They asked ‘why do you do what you do?’ and people found it a really difficult question to answer. We were no different.

Thanks Rob and Chris, for making us ask why.

We met Matt and the team from Stride to develop the Raise brand with us. We were bowled over by their ability to keep coming back with more ideas. We gave them a hard time but they still delivered! They kept asking us ‘what do you want the brand to say? It was another difficult question, and it took a long time to make any progress beyond ‘we don’t know’!

Thanks Matt and team, for making us think about our voice.

We met Sharon and Sonja from Valuable Content and were blown away by their ability to make connections through generously sharing what they know and do. We learnt a lot from them, but never felt that we’d quite managed to live up to what they were telling us! They asked us ‘what do you stand for’? This question is hugely important, but also incredibly difficult to answer.

Thanks Sharon & Sonja, for making us thing about what’s really important to us.

So far, we’ve got by without fully answering those difficult questions. But if we’re going to make real progress, we’ve got to confront them.

In response, and just for starters, here's three things that we feel strongly about:

1. The people who live and work where we do

This is about community and the wider built environment:

- We are for community involvement and place making.

- We admire places like Copenhagen, Utrecht and Barking & Dagenham.

- We are against comprehensive redevelopment of city centres. It’s a broken system.

- Places become better places when local people are fully involved in decision-making.

- We’ve made a small contribution in Chester but we need to figure out what we will do in Bristol and Sherborne. There’s much more that we can do.

- Look at this short video from #wearebristol

2. The people we work for

This is about gaining a deeper understanding of the wants and needs of the people for whom we design:

- We are against the idea of the architect as master designer.

- We are for developing architecture that improves people’s lives.

- It means working harder to see things from other people’s perspectives. It means working collaboratively. It means doing the research.

- We’ve always enjoyed helping people with projects who have not employed architects before. But there’s much more that we can do.

- Look at this short video from the 2013 Stirling Prize (it’s all about what the building means to people, not about the architect).

3. The people who work with us

This is about developing the potential in our team and encouraging people to be their best:

- We are against hierarchy,

- We are for teams, creativity and learning.

- It means giving people confidence.

- We’ve always been proud of the young talent that we’ve been able to attract. But there’s much more that we can do.

- Look at this short video from Casey Neistat

Overall, we believe in Tom Whitley’s adage that:

‘If you want to live in an interesting place, you have to contribute towards it’.

Where ‘place' could mean your town, your organisation, your home.

We might not always live up to it, but that’s what we believe.