• Review of 2022 and the Shape of 2023

    Review of 2022 and the Shape of 2023 


    2022 was another very busy year for Shape Architecture.  Our sixteenth year as an RIBA Chartered Practice.  The range pf projects continued to demonstrate our commitment to a diversity of project type and size across London and Brighton and throughout the Southeast.   

    We undertook projects throughout Brighton and Hove and along the coast in Worthing and Eastbourne.   In London we worked in Fulham, Putney, Clapham, Battersea, Westminster, Wimbledon, Ealing, Kensington and Chelsea.  Our community project continued on site in Colchester. 

    Our smallest project was probably the redesign of a bathroom in Fulham, or else the installation of an electric car charging point in Hove.  Our largest was a six-storey listed house in Westminster and the Community Centre in Colchester.  And everything in between. 

    The projects ranged from listed buildings of which we worked on quite  a number to side infill extensions and basement developments.  Natural light, green roofs and contemporary interiors characterised much of the work. 

    A standout was our inclusion in the RIBA book ‘Transform your property: work with Architects’ of which we were one of only 30 UK practices asked to contribute.  Our project in Rugby Road, Brighton was featured. 




    Shape Architecture Sectors 

    Our website sets out the breadth of our work through a series of 12 sectors and below we review our work during 2022 in these sectors. 


    Stair Design 

    Here we continued to work on a range of stairs using 3D computer models to fully and clearly explore the design and communicate with our Clients.  Stairs are key elements of any design in their sculptural form, integration with sources of daylight and the use of materials.   



    Green Roofs

    We have continued to incorporate green sedum roofs into our portfolio of projects.  Shape Architecture has been designing green roofs for the last sixteen years.  This year several were built on site and very many of our projects have been granted planning permission with sedum roofs as a key part of the design. 

    The advantages of a green roof are many, ranging from the obvious pleasing visual aspect  

    to the thermal and acoustic benefits and the introduction of a habitat for wildlife.  Often simple side infill structures with a green roof prove successful as they have replaced an existing area of hard paving with a new green roof. 



    Interior Design 

    Interior design remains an integral part of what we do and much of our work during the year saw us designing interior spaces.  We design lighting schemes, bathrooms and kitchens and much else besides, including bespoke furniture which we describe below. 




    Furniture Design

    Very many of our private residential projects this year have incorporated bespoke furniture design.  Here we design the various items of fixed furniture as an integral part of the overall design process, both as a series of concepts and then in greater detail. Once the main contractor is appointed then his specialist joinery contractors will take on the fabrication design drawings which we then comment upon.   


    Listed Buildings

    This year we have continued to work on listed buildings in Brighton and London. 

    In Westminster we continued with our three-storey extension to a grade 2 listed house, 

    Along the seafront in Brighton and Hove and the squares behind, we continued to create contemporary homes from listed buildings.  In several instances we combined two existing smaller rooms to create one large living, kitchen and dining space with views of the sea.  It is a striking transformation. 

    Our success in working with listed buildings stems from our experience of working with the various Heritage teams and our ability to demonstrate a clear understanding of the historic value of the property we are working with.  That coupled with the use of the Pre-App system whereby we can test the water with the planning department prior to making the full listed building application proves to be a successful working methodology that allows listed buildings to evolve and adapt to modern life whilst recognizing their importance 



    Basement Projects 

    Our portfolio of basement projects has continued to expand in 2022.  We started work on our eighteenth basement extension in Fulham near Parsons Green.  The project is similar to many of our basement extensions and whole house refurbishments in that it sees the reworking of a building divided into two flats back into a family home. 


    In Hove our basement project in Third Avenue reached site and has just completed.  It truly serves to transform the property being the conversion of an underused below ground store set below our clients ground floor flat and accessed from an external door.  The flat is now a duplex as we have joined the two spaces together to create an impressive light filled contemporary home.  A technical challenge was the creation of a new front lightwell with the extension of the ground floor bay windows down into the lightwell in order to flood the new basement level with light. 


    Small Projects

    Small projects remain of great interest to Shape Architecture.  We enjoy how a small design change can transform a property.  This year we have undertaken many, ranging from a planning application for an electric car charging point in Brighton, to the re-design of a bathroom and kitchen to a flat in Fulham.  Some small projects require planning permission, others are simply internal refurbishment. 



    Roof Terraces

    2022 was a good year for roof terrace projects at Shape Architecture.  We obtained a number of planning permissions to add to our extensive portfolio.  We are particularly pleased with our Fulham roof terrace in Danehurst Road.  This is a typical terraced house and the client owned the top floor flat but had no external space.  We obtained planning permission and oversaw the work for the addition of a rear roof terrace and reformed the flat with a dormer extension.  This top floor flat now enjoys valuable external space and our clients have an entirely different experience of their house.  A roof terrace can transform a property. 

    Another significant roof terrace planning permission was achieved in Brighton at Norfolk Road.  Here we obtained planning permission in a conservation area to create  a large roof terrace accessed by a glass cube where one section slides over the other.  This is similar to the access we designed with Glazing Vision at our mews roof terrace in Adam and Eve Mews, Kensington. 

    Shape Architecture has designed roof terraces to listed properties such as at the grade 2 listed Florin Court, Mews properties such as Adam and Eve Mews and to blocks of flats such as at Cavendish House on Brighton seafront and regency houses such as at Norfolk Terrace in Brighton.  It all began some 15 years ago with our roof terrace overlooking Clapham Junction at Strathblaine Road.  If you are interested in exploring a roof terrace for 2023 then please feel free to contact us at Shape Architecture.



    During 2022 we have invested in new rendering software to create still further stunning images and animations of our proposals.  All projects, no matter what the size, have benefitted from this approach.   From the initial survey model to the series of proposals, our clear communication through 3D imagery serves to underscore a creative and efficient dialogue between Client and Architect and ultimately a successful project.  Our practice is founded on our creative ability explored through drawing buildings and further extended through the embracement of computer graphics.  This is integral to our work.  Our Director Jason Wren was one of the first architects to gain a Master of Science degree in computer visualisation some 25 years ago and this approach remains a foundation to the way we work. 


    Glass and Glazing

    Our work is characterised by its use of glass and the transparency of our projects is a clear feature of our work.  In writing a summary of our use of daylight in our projects we think of all of our work, no matter what the size.  Our initial sketching will always look at how daylight can inform the movement through a building.  This may be from large runs of glazing, from rooflight or glazed structural panels, via lightwell or light tubes and much else besides. 


    Energy Efficiency

    Our commitment to energy efficiency in all our projects continued throughout 2022.  In our portfolio of community projects our community centre in Colchester for the Dacon Trust is nearing completion and demonstrates how a large community centre can link its heating system to n air source heat pump.  A large part of this is the energy efficiency gained by upgrading the enclosing walls and roofs.  A fabric first approach.  This is common to all of our projects and we see how the simplest residential project benefits from the energy efficiency measures explored in larger community projects.  For 26 years our Director Jason Wren has been involved in the development of energy efficient buildings and the work Shape Architecture has undertaken over the last 16 years has continued this approach. If you are interested in the energy efficient upgrade to your property, then please feel free to contact us at Shape Architecture.  


    Working with Shape Architecture

    Our process of working with Clients ranging from the first meeting at interview to completing the building project continued to underpin the success of our work.  


    The first contact is typically by phone or email.  We respond by offering a series of dates when a Director can visit you at your property to discuss your project.  There is no charge for this.  At that meeting everything can be discussed.  We will listen to your brief and respond and make suggestions.  It is always useful for us to describe similar projects and the issues that arose. 


    Following this meeting we will write back to you within a matter of days.  Our letter is detailed and reflects the conversation we had.  We list our services and you can instruct any service you require.  We are flexible.   


    We set out our proposed fee and this is a fixed lump sum plus vat.  Not a percentage of the construction value in order to give cost certainty to our Clients.  The fee is then further divided in accordance with the RIBA work stages.  You can select the services you require as if choosing from a menu.  This gives our clients a flexibility of service 


    We will set out a summary of the process and associated activities. 


    Once employed by a Client and we are instructed through the signing of the last page of our proposals letter where the client can tick which services they wish to instruct, our first action is to visit the property and undertake an on-site survey.  We carry out the site surveys ourselves, as this enables us to get to grips with the building quickly and is a quicker service for our clients.  Once instructed we will attend site in a matter of days and the survey will be drawn up in a week.  We have our own digital survey equipment.  We will then issue a measured survey brochure to our client.  This will also include a 3D model of the existing property which will be developed as the project progresses. 


    The next step is the concept design phase where the design process starts.  Here we will explore a variety of proposals, four or five.  We will use 3D computer models extensively and provide realistic computer images to clearly explain each proposal.   We also draw by hand and in 2D CAD. 


    The process is one of working towards a preferred scheme and the submission of a planning application. 

    Once the preferred scheme is decided then we will prepare the planning application drawings.  This will consist of a Site location plan, site block plan, survey plans, elevations and sections, proposal drawings, this is all supported by design and access statement.  In some instances further reports will be required such as flood risk assessments, acoustic studies etc, in each instance we will obtain quotes from the relevant consultants that we work with. 


    We submit the planning application on our clients behalf using the planning portal website. 


    The planning authority will then validate the application, which is to check that all the required information has been supplied and in the right format.  Once validated and this takes between 5 and 10 working days, the submission is allocated a reference number, case officer and target decision date, which should be 8 weeks from point of validation. 


    During the planning process we will liaise with our case officer and update our client as necessary. 


    Once approved we will receive the planning decision notice.  Attached will be a series of planning conditions.  These are typically points to be aware of such as to build within 3 years of the permission and in accordance with the approved drawings.  Some projects will have several conditions which should be discharged either before works start, before an element is started or before the project is occupied.  Typically these concern those parts of a project where the planners require a greater level of detail. 


    Detailed Technical Design

    We move onto the detailed technical design phase.  Here we get to grips with all aspects the building design.  We will provide large scale plans of every room, design bathrooms and kitchens, lighting and electrical layouts, floor finishes and bespoke furniture, garden design.  All at a great level of detail.  We will work with structural engineers and any other consultants such as services engineers and quantity surveyors.  Always acting on behalf of our client and helping them through the process.  We are particularly strong in the interior design of projects and can work with our clients to design the light filled contemporary spaces they require.  Our 3D computer graphics brings these spaces to life and greatly helps in design decision making. 


    The Tender Process 

    Once we have a detailed and fully integrated technical pack we move into the tender process, whereby a series of competitive quotes are sought from our list of trusted contractors.  We are always happy for a client to suggest contractors they know to add to the list.  The key document is the schedule of works which itemises every part of the building from a door being item 2.1.1 to the cost of the specified light switch.  Once our contractors have completed this document we will write a Tender report for our clients providing analysis of the tender returns and this will be the basis for the selection of the preferred Contractor. 


    A project on Site

    Once the contractor has been selected through the tender process, we will move towards starting on site.  Shape Architecture will put in place the building contract on behalf of our Client.  We will visit site on a regular basis and at each visit prepare a Site Visit Report.  For larger projects we will run a formal Site Progress Meeting every 4 weeks to an agenda.  We will deal with the financial side of the project.  A contractor will raise a valuation and we will visit site and review the works described in the valuation.  We will then prepare an Architects Certificate which our Client will pay.  The Architects Certificate retains 5% of the Contractors valuation.  A retained figure paid to the Contractor at the end of the Contract in accordance with the provisions of the Contract.  At the end of the project we will carry out a snagging list to be discharged by the Contractor and assist the client in the settlement of the final account alongside co-ordinating a folder including guarantees and warrantees associated with the various parts, fixtures and fittings of the building.  Our contractors have all built many buildings with us and all provide an excellent after sales service. 



    In 2023 we look forward to continuing to transform Clients homes and bringing our expertise in energy efficient design to all our projects.  A creative and technical approach all underscored by clear 3D computer modelling.  We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 


    Feel free to contact us at Shape Architecture in 2023 to discuss your ideas and how we can help transform your home.