Our biggest priority is on forming client relationships. We know from long experience that the most rewarding projects, to both clients and us, are those where our client has been intrinsic to the whole design process. Most clients want to draw more from the process than they can express in a functional brief to contribute something additional to the spirit of place. By interaction, we develop a mutual understanding of the core needs and the potentials beyond them. As we’ve found with repeat clients, this enriches over successive projects, and we’re happy to furnish references attesting to the rewards of such positive relationships.
The beauty of setting up a new practice is that we can not only procure the types of staff we want, but bring them into every aspect of the design and production process. Imparting understanding of the client needs and the procurement process is vital for each team member to contribute his or her skills, learn and contribute more. This in turn promotes motivation and team morale. Enabling younger staff to study abroad, such as Lauren Hickling studying urbanisation in Mexico and Tokyo, is also valuable in making Blight Rayner the knowledge-based, ‘thinking’ practice we aim to be.
We see design and documentation technologies as means by which we can intensify crafted architecture, not as the antithesis of craft. We use Revit from concept to completion, employing parametric modelling systems like Rhino and Grasshopper for resolution of the more complex geometries. Studio Max is our preferred 3D visualisation software, and we are in the process of creating our own Virtual Reality technology to create an immersive experience of our designs. We are also working with manufacturers to tailor their fabrication processes to optimise 3-dimensional structural and cladding design.
Design emerges from a combination of experience and insights gained over time, from innate artistry and learned skills. We’re interested in how buildings and spaces look, but more so in how they are experienced – their tactility as well as their appearance. We see ourselves as curators of place-making rather than determiners. One particular aspect of our process which is different from most architects is that we work hand-in-hand with our 3D visualisation artists from the outset – we sketch, they visualise; we sketch again, and so on. This way we always see our projects in three dimensions, which is how places are experienced. This way too, our clients are equally aware and able to respond to what we are creating along the journey.
We believe in the value of collaborations, with engineers, with other designers and with artists. Some of these are continuous such as with interior design firm Twofold Studio. Collaborations with artists impart cultural meaning to projects beyond our own interpretation; with engineers by knowledge of systems that widen design scope, such as from natural structures and environmental technologies; with industrial designers by working in new materials. We nurture collaborations as they offer clients and their projects thinking beyond conventions.
We are always conscious that most places we design are for unknown inhabitants, whether for a public, cultural, educational, workplace or residential purpose. There are three methodologies that help to enable it. One by social research, another by gaining and recording post-occupancy feedback from the public or students or staff or resident as the case may be, and the third is to create effective methods to gain and synthesise community views before and during the design process. We’re committed to each of these because we believe architecture and urban design are largely about nourishing and sustaining a sense of community.