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RIBA Regional Awards 2014: South

RIBA Regional Awards 2014: South

Rupert Cook, Winchester: Winchester, where Architecture PLB was founded just over 40 years ago, sustains a high density of architects and practices. Many have spun out in some form or another from the council’s Hampshire County Architects, whose catchment has expanded significantly in ­recent years due to procurement initiatives, to deliver projects with other major authorities in the area. Many are sole practitioners or with a few staff catering to people investing in their own homes through extensions or major refurbishment, and to smaller scaled public and civic projects. 

We were also fortunate to benefit from Hampshire commissioning, during the  public sector procurement drought of the 1980s, which helped establish our strong reputation for school design. Looking back at the final years of Building Schools for the Future (circa 2008-9) – where our reputation and projects were national – we suffered less badly than some; three projects were stopped for review. Portsmouth was cancelled, Herts and West Sussex Academies were re-started. The first major project for Herts is now complete, has morphed into the primary expansion program and is beginning to address the transition to secondary. 

We faced a choice; export our education expertise or concentrate more locally, even in a mature market. The schools work is now mainly London or for unitary authorities. Our local concentration was on housing in Winchester and around. More importantly, our London effort has been on some major clients in the university sector. In addition, we took a sideways step into student residences – a sector badly needing some design.

Smaller practices in the area seem to have weathered the storm of recession better: an old college friend (efrancisarchitects) who also moved here from London maintains an ever growing waiting list. The challenge remains, as ours was 15+ years ago and again recently, on how to diversify, remain recession proof and enjoy the day-job.

Rupert Cook is director at Architecture PLB


Special Awards
Conservation Award: McCall MacBain Graduate Study Centre
Small Project Award: Exbury Egg 
Sustainability Award: John Henry Brookes Building
Client of the Year: The Mary Rose Trust for The Mary Rose Museum
Architect of the Year: Design Engine Architects
Emerging Architect of the Year: PAD Studio
Building of the Year: John Henry Brookes