A walk along a Cornish clifftop in 2007 with fellow architect Nick Childs resulted in a conversation about how we might use our influence and experience to change the built environment in a more positive, creative and sustainable way. We agreed we wanted to be able to set the agenda for our own projects by becoming the client as well as designer.
Along with Landscape Architect Bill Ambridge, we formed a new venture, Urban Design Studios. Our vision was set out around three main aspects of work: Advocacy, Consultancy and Development
We set out our aims as:
1. Doing the right thing -we want to build the sort of places we want to live and work in.
2. Provoke others into doing things they wouldn't have otherwise considered.
3. Campaign against things that have been done badly or are just plain wrong, and for causes that we believe in.
4. Having fun and be stimulated in what we do, and work with like minded people.
Not long after this we made a successful bid for a disused warehouse in St Pauls, with an aspiration to renovate the redundant premises as affordable studio workspaces for creative and technology businesses.
Acting as client, project manager and designer, the building was renovated on a tight budget (the world was currently in economic meltdown), producing four self contained workspaces. One of these became home to Askew Architects, Bill took a second and the other two were rapidly let to creative businesses (Rob Law, inventor of Trunki and Playnicely).
The project was so successful that a second project was sought and soon found. This was a more substantial building, a former motorcycle showroom in Stokes Croft. The collaborative group was enlarged to six people and Urban Design Studios Two was formed.
The nondescript building was converted into a cool shop and six more studio workspaces around a secret courtyard. Like the first building this rapidly filled with creative startups and has remained so since.
Find out more about both projects here.