RIBA South West & Wessex Awards 2017

As the RIBA Awards South West & Wessex are announced, Claire Fear celebrates the area's wealth of design and craft expertise and explains that working in the countryside doesn't mean being cut off – from the architectural community or significant projects

People seem to have lost their bias towards cities. I trained in Edinburgh and did work experience in large London practices – it was where you went. But I wanted to come back to where I grew up in Wellington, Somerset and to live and work in the countryside. Now we see lots of students from Plymouth, Bristol and Cardiff, who seek out smaller practices away from the biggest cities.  

There is also an understanding that the relationship between life and work can be symbiotic. Five years ago, when I started the practice, I sought colleagues who were passionate about architecture but also had other interests. We get a broader range of ideas and input, and staff are happy and focused. 

There is something special about Somerset. We are not in the middle of nowhere, it is five minutes to the M5 so easily accessible to Exeter, Plymouth and Bristol for cultural centres. A day trip to London is perfectly feasible.

We have been described as a ‘hidden’ and this echoes throughout the South West where we are continually uncovering highly skilled architects, craftsmen, artists and restorers. It is key place for architectural conservation. Work on Wells Cathedral in the 1960s gave a huge boost to the understanding of conservation and materials here. This initiated research and specialists who radiated throughout the country. We have brilliant stonemasons, monument conservators, carpenters, lead workers and specialist roofers – but that expertise is not readily replaced.

We want to help pass these skills on to architects and co-professionals, to trades, contractors and apprentices. We have space where we will ask people to share their knowledge of conservation skills and crafts. 

For us, working in Somerset, in the countryside, does not signal detachment from the wider architectural community or even from significant and varied projects. It means working in a highly specialist, focused and determined field. It also means at lunchtime you can (and we do) go out and climb a tree. 

Claire Fear is director of Somerset-based Thread

RIBA South West & Wessex Awards 2017 – the full list

Click on the images to find out more.

 

AUB Design Studios, Poole

Design Engine Architects for Arts University Bournemouth

 
AUB Design Studios, Poole by Design Engine Architects.
AUB Design Studios, Poole by Design Engine Architects.

Cob Corner, Ivybridge

David Sheppard Architects for private client

 
Cob Corner, Ivybridge by David Sheppard Architects.
Cob Corner, Ivybridge by David Sheppard Architects. Credit: Joakim Boren

Wolfson Tree Management Centre, Tetbury

Invisible Studio for Forestry Commission

 
Wolfson Tree Management Centre, Tetbury by Invisible Studio
Wolfson Tree Management Centre, Tetbury by Invisible Studio

Houseboat, Poole

Mole Architects with Rebecca Granger Architects for Solidspace 

 
Houseboat, Poole by Mole Architects with Rebecca Granger Architects.
Houseboat, Poole by Mole Architects with Rebecca Granger Architects. Credit: Rory Gardiner

Hill House, Bath

Mike Keys and Anne Claxton for private client

 
Hill House, Bath Mike Keys and Anne Claxton.
Hill House, Bath Mike Keys and Anne Claxton. Credit: Michael Keys

Dyson Campus expansion, Malmesbury

WilkinsonEyre for Dyson 

 
Dyson Campus expansion, Malmesbury by WilkinsonEyre
Dyson Campus expansion, Malmesbury by WilkinsonEyre

Living Systems Institute, Exeter 

Hawkins\Brown for University of Exeter

 
Living Systems Institute, Exeter HawkinsBrown for University of Exeter.
Living Systems Institute, Exeter HawkinsBrown for University of Exeter. Credit: Jack Hobhouse

New Music Facilities for Wells Cathedral School, Wells

Eric Parry Architects for Wells Cathedral School

 
New Music Facilities for Wells Cathedral School, Wells by Eric Parry Architects.
New Music Facilities for Wells Cathedral School, Wells by Eric Parry Architects. Credit: Dirk Lindner

Private house, Kingsbridge 

Stan Bolt Architect for private client

 
Private house, Kingsbridge Stan Bolt Architect.
Private house, Kingsbridge Stan Bolt Architect. Credit: Kye Ottridge

Woodsman’s Treehouse, Holditch

Brownlie Ernst and Marks for Mallinson 

 
Woodsman's Treehouse, Holditch by Brownlie Ernst and Marks.
Woodsman's Treehouse, Holditch by Brownlie Ernst and Marks. Credit: Sandy Steele Perkins

Stihl Treetop Walkway, Tetbury

Glenn Howells Architects for Forestry Commission

 
Stihl Treetop Walkway, Tetbury Glenn Howells Architects.
Stihl Treetop Walkway, Tetbury Glenn Howells Architects. Credit: Rob Parrish

Studio, Totnes

David Sheppard Architects for David Sheppard Architects

 
Studio, Totnes by David Sheppard.
Studio, Totnes by David Sheppard. Credit: Joakim Boren

The Miner’s Cottages, Pensford

design storey for design storey

 
The Miner's Cottages, Pensford by design storey.
The Miner's Cottages, Pensford by design storey. Credit: Lawrence Grigg

The Quest, Dorset 

Strom Architects for private client

 
The Quest, Dorset by Strom Architects.
The Quest, Dorset by Strom Architects. Credit: Martin Gardner

The next RIBA Regional Awards will be announced on Wednesday 24 May from 11pm at www.ribaj.com.

See our special RIBA Awards 2017 section for all this year’s winners.

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