We are very lucky at HM to come across some very inspiring interior and architecture companies in our work and today we’re sharing this brilliant Q&A with the wonderfully talented Richard Hastings who is the founder of RJH Architecture. Read on to find out more…
What is your background and why did you decide to set up RJH Architecture?
From a young age I had a real passion for the build-environment and proceeded to study Architectural Studies and later Advanced Architectural Design at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.
Quickly after finishing my studies a large UK based development firm offered me a full-time position at their Isle of Man office where I had worked a few summers previously. In conjunction with that offer, I had been presented an opportunity to convert a sandwich factory in Morden, London to residential apartments. At that stage of my career it was a terrifying decision to make for many reasons; in the end, I opted to work 2-weeks on the Isle of Man and work on London based private work for the remaining 2-weeks of the month.
I pushed myself to do this to learn and grow from the experienced team on the Isle of Man whilst pushing at the front-end of the projects back in London, polarising my experience at a variety of working stages. I continued to juggle both roles for around a year when it was clear I needed to make a decision one way or another because packing every second weekend and being away from my family so often was challenging. The London based work was really picking up steam and I felt confident with more of my time invested in this, it could grow into the business I had always dreamed of.
Can you describe a typical day in the life of what you do?
Well, that is a tough one!
No two-days at work are the same for me; I generally host a variety of client meetings, design team meetings for live projects, calls/meetings with planning and conservation officers, design work (still can’t beat a pen and trace sometimes!), diving into CAD work to help the team where necessary, mentoring team members, finance reports/projections and general admin.
Variety is so important in the work-place, it keeps the mind active and excited; I push for this to present within all roles at RJHArchitecture. I find it incredibly exciting to go from early design phase work, straight to inspect a live site finishing the fit-out phase then onward to a potential new client pitch. At times, to remember all of the many project specific details can be challenging but I absolutely love every minute of it.
How do you begin working on a new project? Can it differ?
This truly depends on both the client and the particular project; we strive to create new, exciting and unique designs for each and every one of our projects.
This ethos is carried through all of our working processes and especially within our approach to our clients; every client is different, they respond to different medium, they engage in different ways and it is critical to present a variety of presentation techniques early in the concept phase to establish what approach works best for the particular client.
What’s your dream project/ client?
We have been extremely fortunate to have some spectacular clients that have allowed us to create their dream spaces whilst entrusting in our professional capacity to take a leap-of-faith with us to break boundaries and create unique spaces. Thankfully to date all of the reviews from clients have been extremely positive!
I would love to collaborate more often with other designers, or perhaps on a project for a designer where the property is their own home as the idea of sitting with a huge role of trace paper and brainstorming together, becoming increasingly excited by the design process, sketching ideas out and really feeding off one-another’s ideas and creativity would be an extremely enjoyable and unique process to be a part of.
How important is sustainability/ the protection of the environment to your clients when they are planning new projects?
Sustainability is increasing in importance by the day and I believe designers have a unique opportunity to present the critical information and opportunities to their clients, allowing positive changes to made through our work.
We recently completed a sustainable project in Sunbury-on-Thames. The property was severely damaged by extensive flooding and left the owners no option but to re-build. The clients were forwarded thinking and wanted to turn this terrible circumstance into an exciting beginning for their young family.
We utilised solar energy and water source technology which allowed us to harvest from the river even during flood periods (2-3 times a year) allowing them to continue their day-to-day lives with electricity to cook and light the house etc at all times. The project was a self-build with our clients and the property achieved Code-5 on the sustainable homes scale (this rating has since been renamed/updated).
The debris of the flood damaged property was broken up and used to build-up the river banks for future water defence, further ensuring our carbon footprint on the project was kept to a minimum.
This project was such an exciting and rewarding project; located in the Green Belt meant there were several stringent planning policies to comply/satisfy, however, we managed to work extremely successfully with the Council to deliver a home that our clients still to this day share pictures of most months with us.
What is your favourite part of the design process?
The early design phase is extremely exciting when you are running through options, ideas, possible solutions to meet the clients brief.
The collaboration here in the office when brainstorming and testing options is another personal favourite of mine with perhaps being awarded the top prize for my ‘favourite part’ being when you start seeing the designs for our clients come to life on site.
There is no better feeling after months of hard work, when you are on site with your client and when they walk into the space and just say ‘wow’ with a huge smile, it makes everything worthwhile.
What is your essential ‘must-have’ item in a new project?
I watched a documentary on Richard Rogers early in my career and whilst being interviewed in his own home he said something along the lines of ‘what more is there to life than light and space?’
This sentence has stayed with me and is my favourite architectural quote and it is this that remains at the forefront of all our design as what more is there but space and light?
What would you suggest is a good starting point for those embarking on a new project?
Don’t be afraid to explore all opportunities, consider your project from every angle (even all of the options you initially think will not work!) – this will ensure your design/approach is the optimal solution for your unique requirements.
Sometimes by learning more of what you don’t want, you move a lot closer to what you do want.
What’s next for RJH Architecture in 2018?
2018 is shaping up to be our most exciting year yet! We have several renovation and extensions schemes in Kensington starting on site over the next 1-2 months and early Spring our first international project will commence on site; amalgamating the top 2-storeys of an existing luxury-apartment block in the Middle-East,… so watch this space!
Images kindly sent by RJH Architecture, image credits – Paul Craig Photography