Delivering Grand Designs on a smaller scale

In the news today; “Thierry Henry has lodged controversial plans to demolish his £5.9 million north London house”. Originally designed by Richard MacCormac, he plans to replace it with a larger property – incorporating a £250,000, 40ft high fish tank! This project, if it gets through Planning, would seem worthy of channel 4’s Grand Designs programme presented by interior designer Kevin McCloud.

One of our recent projects, equally unique in design terms, also attracted keen interest from the Grand Designs programme to feature it in their series. We were granted Planning Permission for ‘Badgers View Farm’, a unique one-off residence for a private client in the stunning Chilterns.

The site, situated near Chinnor in Oxfordshire, enjoys fantastic views of the Chiltern Valleys. We were asked to design a new 4000 sqft house with a contemporary appearance and a distinctive ‘wow’ factor both inside and out. The Client has a geological background and asked us to take inspiration from the physical formation of the landscape in the area. With this in mind, the design of the house draws from the Cretaceous chalk which underlies the whole of the Chilterns itself as well as vast areas of Southern England, with its most famous outcrop at the White Cliffs of Dover. In many places the chalk strata are uplifted, folded and buckled and it is precisely this that motivates the design in which blocks of rock are juxtaposed and impinge one another. The house is composed of white rendered blocks which link together over a traditional ‘knapped flint wall’. Large areas of glazing overlook the spectacular views and establish a physical connection between the building interior and the wider landscape itself.

image above. Ground floor layout (left) and First floor layout (right)

The Planning Permission document stated “The proposed development is considered to incorporate a high standard of design which will complement and respect the character and appearance of the surrounding area, with special regard to its location within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”

So whilst Lewis and Hickey are perhaps more commonly known for our larger scale commercial development experience, we also have a strong port-folio of experience in delivering smaller unique and ultra-contemporary buildings.

We are going to MIPIM. ‘THE’ global property conference.

MIPIM (Marché International des Professionnels d’Immobilier) is a trade show that its organisers describe as a “market for international property trade”. It takes place annually at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès in Cannes, France.

Mipim attracts a wide and perhaps unique range of delegates for one single conference event…

  • 90 Countries (incl. UK, Benolux, France, USA, Sweden, Russian Federation, Denmark & Poland, Czech Republic, Germany & Austria, Switzerland and Italy)
  • 18,500+ Unique Participants
  • 170 Hotel Groups
  • 240 Corporate end-users
  • 4,000 Investor and financial institutions
  • 1,800 exhibiting companies
  • 17,500m2 exhibition space

There is an action packed conference programme as well as immense networking potential to provide an understanding of where the property market is now and where it might be going in the future – on a global scale! This event attracts the great and the good of the global Property sector and as an International business ourselves; we believe our presence is necessary and important in raising our profile for both UK and global business opportunities.Lewis and Hickey will be attending the annual MIPIM conference between 6th-9th March. We will be promoting our UK architecture offices in Edinburgh, Guildford, London, Nottingham and Manchester, as well as our global bases in the Czech Republic and India.

Our focus will be on supporting and engaging with some of the key City teams attending, including; (click on cities to find out more) London, Edinburgh, Nottingham, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and no doubt many more. We are also keen to meet with Property Developers, Investors, Construction firms and Property Agents. We believe we can play a pro-active part in the mechanism of making developments and regeneration move forward in these continuing challenging economic times.

We are very keen to meet with as many companies and teams/ consortia’s at the conference, so please get in contact and perhaps we can arrange to meet up. You can email Nick Riley on

Formula One. A fusion of Architecture and Motorsport.

This week has seen the launch of McLaren F1’s MP4-27 2012 race car, ahead of the new season commencement next month. I have been a lifelong F1 fan and have attended several Grand Prix’s around the world.image above: The Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-27

Aside from the racing and the heavy influence of sponsorship and money, I think there is a very strong connection between Architecture and F1. Of all the teams on the grid, The McLaren team, established in 1966, stand out as promoting this link to the highest level. It seems clear to me that McLaren have the pursuit of leading design and technical excellence in their DNA. Whilst obviously the sport is about creating the fastest race package on the grid; car, team and drivers, McLaren take the ‘design’ ethos to another level in every aspect of their business operations, both within and outside of F1.

The McLaren technology centre, completed in 2003, is their global HQ in Woking, Surrey. It is a completely unique and very design led factory, design and research facility, designed by non-other than Foster + Partners. I think Foster’s language of design and architecture is a very obvious alignment to the ethos and brand of McLaren. The building is a truly stunning piece of architecture, with the very intelligent and considered integration of technology throughout. As well as the overall building form and façade design being somewhat unique, as with their F1 and road cars, the design focusses right into every little detail. The light fittings and venting systems are even bespoke designed for the building, again to complement the architecture and McLarens brand. Internally its surfaces and finishes are clean, understated and subtle, the focus is really on the effecient use and content of the building i.e. the cars and the operation/ activity. The building does not seek to compete with this.
image above: The McLaren Technology Centre, Woking, Surrey, UK

Looking beyond McLaren, the sports recent emergence in new racing circuits also integrates exemplary architecture and the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi, completed in 2009, is arguably the finest current example. It was designed as an ‘Arabian version of Monaco’ apparently, but I don’t necessarily see this connection myself. The centre piece for the completely man-made island complex is the Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi hotel, designed by American firm Asymptote Architecture. It’s the first and only hotel in world to be built over an F1 track.

“The building was conceived as an architectural landmark, embodying key influences and local and global inspirations ranging from the aesthetics and forms associated with speed and spectacle, to the artistry and geometries that form the basis of ancient Islamic art and craft traditions. Of architectural and engineering significance is the main feature of the hotelʼs design: a 217-meter expanse of sweeping, curvilinear glass and steel covering known as the Grid Shell: it features an LED lighting system incorporating video feeds that are transmitted over the 5,389 pivoting diamond-shaped colour changing LED panes.” (source: above: Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi hotel.

The recent blend of old and new circuits we now see in F1 adds another layer of attraction to the sport and its surroundings. So, maybe that’s why I like F1 so much – as well as the racing, there is a very real and strong connection to architecture and design.

Linking all this to Lewis and Hickey, beyond the obvious architectural association, I have a personal aspiration to see how we might make our architectural mark on the world of F1. I’m sure there must be an opportunity out there at some point in the future! Failing that we could always look at getting our branding on one of the cars (McLaren obviously), although  the seeming continual erosion of architects ‘value’/ fees might hinder that endevour! That said, I think this story demonstrates that architecture remains exciting, diverse and wide-reaching and has a very significant and permanent importance…and with that value.

Thinking of the 2012 season, due to commence in Australia on March 18th, who’s going to win the championship? It’s really too early to say. My hope is that the sport continues to diversify to ensure we get to watch the very best racing and also continue to see more amazing and unique architecture in/ around the sport. Clearly I have an allegiance to McLaren, especially as Lewis and Jenson are part of the team now, so therefore I naturally want them to win the Constructors title and Championship this year. Having experienced Silverstone, Spa, Monza and Indianapolis (2001)…which race should I target next? (Monaco is already earmarked for my next ‘big’ Birthday)…one to ponder some more…