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Richard Gill - Paul Archer Design

2nd Sep 2014

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Paul Archer Design is an award-winning architectural practice based in London's Farringdon that focuses on delivering the highest standard of design in architecture and interior design. The practice was founded in 1999 by its director Paul Archer. Archer's CV includes positions as Mellor & Partners, Architecton, Tonkin Design in Hong Kong and Tonkin Architects, back in the UK, where he was appointed founding director in 1996. Paul Archer Design's pursuit of innovation in residential design has defined its work since day one. Projects to date include new-build, extensions, renovation and remodelling, including the renovation of historic listed buildings. It is the ambition of the practice to apply green solutions to a Modernist aesthetic, as exemplified in the practice’s first new-build house, Green Orchard in Bristol, completed in 2012. Other notable projects include Coity House in Camden, Cross Street in Islington, Jimi House in Hackney and Power House in Highbury. 

When asked about their most prominent works and how they're influenced by the world we live in, the firm are quick to expand on Power House, a private house in Highbury. Richard Gill, lead architect on the project, reveals more on the project itself and his life as an architect...

“Power House is a refurbishment of a private house in Highbury that includes a highly sculptural timber-clad rear extension. The focal point is a spacious double-height kitchen/diner at the rear of the property, created from the interplay of interlocking volumes, made of frameless glass and linear timber panels.

The scheme was inspired by the family’s love of the outdoors and taste for Nordic design. The brief was to create a home of simple design which felt warm and clean, without the starkness sometimes associated with modern design. Each space had to be functional yet with a sense of fun to cater for the family of six.

To meet these requirements, a whole new lower-ground floor level was created beneath the original house. This open-plan space forms the hub of the house where a variety of activities – cooking, dining and relaxing – can all take place simultaneously in an arrangement conducive to 21st-century family living. Fully glazed folding doors give direct access to the garden deck, making sure that the garden never feels too far away.

The Nordic influence is probably best characterised by the way the architecture captures, softens and dissipates natural light throughout the space. This can be seen in the way the structural glass box allows direct sunlight to penetrate deep into the plan. The upper floors of the extension are clad with a skin of Douglas fir battens, which run both inside and out as exterior cladding and interior wall lining. The cladding extends partly over the glass, patterning the light and providing shading below. On the roof of the extension between the first and second floors, the cladding has been allowed to reach skywards to form a balustrade to a sun terrace, echoing the work of iconic Finnish architect Alvar Aalto.

Despite being below street level, the lower ground floor never feels dark; a walkover roof light to the front, glazed side access door and concealed roof light above the kitchen units all allow pools of natural light to form, helping you navigate through the sequence of spaces. A glass panel at the end wall of the first-floor music/playroom creates a balcony overlooking the main space, flooding light into the original house and making a connection between the two spaces.

Wood is used to striking effect throughout, from the linear cladding, external decking and interior floors, to the bench seating and an island unit with breakfast bar that runs the length of the kitchen. Tall timber units in the kitchen conceal a utility and pantry, and merge with the carpentry of the stairs leading up to the ground floor. The palette of natural materials provides the ideal setting for the client’s collection of modern Scandinavian furniture. Where Power House uses Nordic architectural influences throughout, it allows the project to perfectly demonstrate how natural light and materials can be combined to create a backdrop for simple yet contemporary furnishings.”


Richard, what inspired you to start a career in architecture?
I spent a childhood drawing, making things and playing on building sites. It also helped that my grandfather was a contractor.

Where did you learn your profession?
I studied at the Hull School of Architecture. The school has since move to Lincoln following the merging of both universities.

What does architecture mean to you?
Architecture to me is a mixture of emotions ranging from delight to despair, fun to frustration and emotive to exciting.

How long have you been at Paul Archer Design?
Nine years.

Describe Paul Archer Design in three words
Modern, perceptive and discerning.

What piece of architecture do you wish you had designed?
Fallingwater by Frank Lloyd Wright.

What country inspires you the most of its architecture?
Scandinavian architecture for its simplicity and use of natural light.

What has been your biggest career challenge?
Keeping the architectural design fresh and inventive without becoming cliché.

Career highlight?
George Clark complimented us on the 'exquisite' detailing on Power House after we collected the Blue Ribbon Award for best Conversion/Refurbishment of the Year 2014 at the Ideal Home Show.

What architectural trends can you foresee?
The advancements with 3D printing offer fantastic opportunities. Long term, the material Graphene could prove to be a game changer.

What has been your favourite project to work on?
For me, Jindal's Pavilion stands out for its simplicity.

What’s in store for the future?
We have several really exciting new-build projects in development at present.

If you weren’t an architect, what would you be?
Probably something like a pro snowboarder.

What’s your USP?
I enjoy a very hands-on approach to building. I think the physical process of making things makes you a better designer.

Watch a collection of Paul Archer Design films on YouTube.

Paul Archer Design, 103 Farringdon Road, London EC1R;