Meet the people behind Berrys – Richard Cole

Published August 24th, 2016

This week we are interviewing Architectural Technician, Richard Cole who works at Berrys Shrewsbury office. Richard studied at the Architectural School of Lincoln before starting his role at Berrys in March 2014.

Could you explain what an architectural technician does? An architectural technician is someone that gets involved in all aspects of designing buildings; from master planning through to designing individual unique designs, through to detailed drawings.

Have you always wanted to work in architectural services?
Yes, I’ve always enjoyed designing things and have always had an interest in buildings. I like the idea of starting from point one of a design process, be that with a blank field or a house in need of remodelling or renovating, and embarking through the processes to finish with an innovative end product that is both aesthetically pleasing and performs perfectly for its designed function. To see something you have designed make a difference to someone is an incredibly satisfying feeling.

What does an average day look like?
An ‘average’ day for me in the office… It generally starts with a cup of tea, a look through the news and across various architectural websites to both inspire and motivate me. After this point, things tend to get pretty hectic. I am often working across several projects at once which all tend to require drawing work or site visits. I tend to balance my day out by trying to get through tasks attributed to each job, but to also be free for any majorly urgent work that requires me to be incredibly reactive too. It’s always full on, but I enjoy it.

What makes Berrys different?

Berrys is different because we are able to offer an all-round service due to our expertise in many differing sectors. It is very rare that we have a question that no one in the office can answer, and even then, a colleague from one of our other offices is likely to have the answer. In terms of architecture, we work very closely with our planning department which is something that is normally outsourced by many small to medium sized architectural firms.  We also move through varying design sectors although my personal favourite is residential contemporary design.

What aspect of your work do you enjoy most?

The aspect of my work I enjoy the most is when I am able to get my sketchpad and release some of my creativity and get sketching. Anytime that I can get my ideas onto paper makes me happy. As mentioned above, I also like seeing something from nothing, influencing a build from start to end. Knowing that I had a big contribution into a design that started as a paper dream or an idea in a client’s mind, that I have extracted and helped turn into tangible dream, a visible structure which satisfies a client’s wants and needs and to gratify my sense of achievement.

Have you got any funny/unusual stories that you’ve come across in your career at Berrys?
I once went out to a site visit at a barn conversion whereby the only way up to the first floor was by a ladder. This would be fine normally, but I happened to be wearing some fairly tight trousers. When attempting to return to ground level, getting on the ladder turned out to be fairly eventful. Something that both my colleague and the builder found hilarious and still mock me for to this day.

What are your future expectations for the industry?
Brexit seems to have created a shadow looming over the construction industry due to the uncertainties of the future. Share prices in national property developers have dropped, with several big firms also announcing a deceleration in their building forecasts for the near future. This will inevitably have a knock on effect to the design world but I am unsure as of yet to how big this will be. What I do know however, is that change creates opportunity. We may find that the government releases new housing schemes to do with self-build plots or a relaxation in planning rules, which would benefit my profession immensely, although this could also be wishful thinking. The problem at current is that it’s incredibly hard to predict what Theresa May, Phillip Hammond, Greg Clark and the rest of the new cabinet will decide to do and to anticipate how long our separation from the EU will take.

In a more positive perspective, looking at the current trends in the market there is also seemingly new desire and mass call for modern extensions. The pinnacle of the build fashion currently seems to be a craving for glass and a modern contemporary style extensions that utilise big bi-fold doors or folding glass walls to create large open expanses for open plan living. This is something I relish and excitably anticipate, as I prefer the style and am at ease with light and airy designs and enjoy the challenge of finding an aesthetically pleasing and practical solution for the juxtaposition between the old and the new.

Which finalised project are you most proud of?
The project I am most proud of so far in my Berrys career, would be the renovation of two historical barns with the addition of a contemporary living space connected to the barns via a glass link, a visible separation of old and new. This is a project which really allowed me to show my design skills and display my creative vision through many different mediums which I thoroughly enjoyed.

What advice would you give to clients when they come to you for a brand new residential project? The first thing I would do, is tell the clients to start thinking about how they use their current home and to think about their reasons for wanting to embark on a new journey to design their own home. I would advise this mainly because I believe good design is imperatively linked with functionality, human interaction and aesthetics, and by providing a harmony between the three will create a realisation of what our clients will really want. Once this becomes apparent it becomes easier to extract what people desire from their house in terms of their style of living and interaction with the building, which then helps me to create a perfect design solution to their brief.

A client approaches you for a new design what happens next?

Once a client has approached us for a new design, we would go for a site visit to analyse the plot and gather any information which may inform aspects of the design at a later stage such as orientation of the plot/building and its relationships with the sun and the immediate environment through to the site topography and a feel for the local vernacular. We would then meet with our client and have a relaxed and informative discussion about their budget and brief, to which we will work our designs towards. We would then take them through our five stage process whereby we help them go from concept designs, through to planning drawings, achieving planning permission and then drafting building regulation compliant drawings and construction notes ready to move on to site.

Any other tips you can give to potential clients?
Other than my advice above, considering functionality and the daily relationship with their house and therefore how it really needs to be designed, I would also recommend looking through construction magazines and interior design magazines. As some forethought into how the finished house will look could help us to add little tweaks and amendments to the designs pre-construction phase, which may help to achieve a quicker, seamless and possibly cheaper build. Also, if an idea strikes, then draw it or write it down and then pick up the phone!