Managing Director Chris Darling shares his thoughts on the year ahead, and the various challenges and opportunities that are waiting for us over the next 12 months.
As architects we often feel that we are working at the front edge of the economy and our new commissions reflect our client’s most apposite views on the types of buildings we should be concentrating on right here, right now.
So, what do we find in the January 2021 inbox?
Offices: Adapting workplaces for a new global vision
Our appointment as architects for the new 50,000 sqm Unilever HQ in Kingston upon Thames is a great endorsement for the future of offices as an economic and social focus of working life. Maybe occupied at a lower density, but still a vital foundation of any business. This is also a shot in the arm for what Great Britain can provide post-Brexit, a global corporation retaining its roots in the UK. We have a great team on the project who have achieved stunning progress throughout the pandemic and with a main contractor now on-board, we hope to start on site later this spring.
Residential: Build to Rent holds the key to affordability
We are still seeing growth in the number of Build to Rent schemes all across the country, particularly in university towns and cities. Lower land prices and build costs allied to a young demographic seeking homes without cumbersome mortgages increases the viability. In London, the requirement for associated affordable housing seems to knock the appraisal and many schemes stall. If only planners and policy makers would see BtR for what it is, an achievable alternative form of affordable housing, then I feel many more schemes and much needed homes would be progressed.
Retail: Redefining the High Street
Almost every week brings sad news of a further retail casualty and so our town centres are due for a thorough reboot. It seems our town centres, essentially structured in post war Britain with low density single level shops, the High Street moved into malls, expansive car parking and servicing.
The opportunity to explore and redefine the UK high street is exciting to our practice; we can achieve great new places to live, alongside offices, shops and restaurants, all with a focus on an inclusive and welcoming public realm. In parallel, we have an interesting and exciting design initiative underway which explores repurposing departments stores, so watch this space.
Climate Crisis: How we can create a healthier, cleaner, more prosperous future
Climate change is above all the greatest challenge for our generation.
This will be a big year for addressing climate change and there is positive momentum for turning the tide with new pro-environmental administrations in the US and UK, as well as the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow this November. At Darling Associates we are now seeing carbon neutral buildings in operation as the norm, and continue our work striving to specify and design responsibly.
In my opinion, the most important aspect of 2021 lies in being proactive in our approach to decision making. Do we want to endlessly chase unattainable and unrealistic goals or do we want to actually get something done? We can balance pragmatism with ambition, perhaps taking smaller steps and acknowledging that every gain no matter how small, adds up in the long run.
At Darling Associates, we know there are many obstacles on the horizon, but with creativity, proactivity and flair, we will tackle these challenges to provide beautiful, sustainable places to live, work and relax.