On 17th May we held an event at Storyhouse, the amazing new theatre and cultural centre in Chester. Over a hundred of our friends turned out to hear about our plans for the future and, amongst other things, the announcement that we have decided to change the name of the practice.
Our new name
As architects, we find ourselves thinking about the future all of the time. The act of designing is all about making decisions for the future.
"The future is not something that just happens to us; the future is something we create".
- Leonard Sweet
So in thinking about the kind of business that we want to become, one which emphasises the team and our shared sense of purpose, we realised that having someone’s name 'on the tin' didn’t feel right any more.
A lot of thought went in to the name ‘Raise’. We’re about making things better and making better things, and we liked the numerous positive connotations of the word ‘raise’. But we recognised that it also means 'to nurture’, which we felt was so appropriate in developing a young team.
Doing what we like
We’ve decided to be much more selective about the work that we do. This means only choosing to do work that interests and excites us; work that we’re good at, and hence work that we will deliver with passion.
Of course, it’s always going to be frustrating to turn work away, but we’ve already seen the benefits of this approach.
Our areas of work
When people ask us about the kind of work that we do, we often respond by saying that we focus on projects that are sensitive, difficult or complicated and which require the benefits of good design and good relations with the ‘powers-that-be’ to deliver them.
When it comes to the sectors in which we work, we’ve decided to focus on three broad client categories:
1. Residential clients.
2. Independent business owners.
3. Portfolio property owners.
We have the opportunity to grow the business, and we want to embrace this. But rather than just become bigger in one place, we’ve decided to develop by instigating other small teams in interesting locations.
In Chester, we have a presence in the local market, and we engage in numerous activities across the city for the benefit of the community. We will endeavour to do similar things in other places but exactly what we do, will be left open until we get there.
Our first moves have been to open a new office in Bristol, and we have moved our original South-West office to Sherborne in Dorset. In Chester, we will relocate to larger offices in Lower Bridge Street later this year.
Making it happen
To facilitate these changes we’ve created a new website for ‘Raise Architects’, and we’re working hard on a co-ordinated approach to social media and other forms of content. We have the best people in the business to support us with this, the never knowingly under-enthused, Valuable Content .
There’s more work to do on the design of the branding and our friends at Stride are helping us with this.
Developing as a networked practice will provide opportunities for the team, and it will help to spread the workload risk. But it comes with some added complexity, and we are working hard to develop our office culture, structure and processes in appropriate ways.
All of the above is about what we’re doing now. Looking further ahead there are three specific areas that will provide focus for us:
10x10 is our shorthand for growing as multiple small teams. It means ten people in each of ten offices. Although we don’t believe we’ll ever be quite as regimented as that (!), it does demonstrate our ambition.
It’s also what the business plan is based on. If we did become a practice of 100 people it would make us one of the larger firms of architects in the UK. So we’re really not holding back!
We're not pre-judging where the next office will be and we will only go to places that are interesting and where members of the team want to work. We won’t force it.
Design education is important to us for a number of reasons:
1. The pursuit of good design is what drives the business. Understanding that is fundamentally important.
2. We need talented people. How we train our current team and demonstrating how we do this will attract more talent.
3. Design education will also support our local place-making initiatives and is something that can be taken in to schools. We’d like to make more use of this within local communities.
We have an excellent track record of training young architects and getting them qualified as soon as possible. Each year we take on a number of work experience students, we participate in the RIBA student mentoring programme and we act as guest critics at several schools of architecture.
So, we already do quite a lot in this area but there is still more to do.
Business as a force for good
We want to use our business to do good things whenever we can.
To help us, we have committed to working towards BCorp status. BCorp is an accreditation system for ethically-minded businesses. It provides a framework for business development that considers things in a holistic way. From governance to environment to community and much more.
On any issue concerning the business, it will make us think harder about the decisions that we make and the impact that we have. BCorp is a community of businesses, and we will make many new friends who will form a support network for us. We're looking forward to that!
So that’s it for now. We have a lot of work to do.
The ‘Studio Notes’ newsletter, our monthly journal of things that crossed our minds, desks and screens, will keep you posted and we hope that you will stay tuned to see how we get on.
Thanks for listening.