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Out of town

Hugh Pearman

A stirling-shortlisted practice sets up shop in a spa town on the Kent/Sussex border. New school buildings arise in a Thames-side village in Berkshire.  A modern house in the Arts and Crafts tradition starts construction in the Surrey hills. These are southern satellite developments, if you like – not in London, but to some extent owing their existence to the gravitational pull of the capital. And the architects? With one based in Bath, one in Lymington, Hants, and one in Tunbridge Wells, they are all in the affluent South but have opted for a different work/life pattern from the stereotypical Clerkenwell or Hackney studio. In one case, there is some reverse commuting involved. In all cases, office overheads are considerably lower than the capital.
Is there a trend here? It used to be axiomatic that being in the non-London South made you invisible compared to those in the great regional cities or the capital itself. But as the national prominence of Feilden Clegg Bradley (Bath) or Adam Architecture (Winchester) suggests, such perceptions can change, and were doing before those practices got round to opening their London branches.  Nobody would argue that HAT Projects or Quinlan and Francis Terry are any lesser architects for having Colchester postcodes. Our news last month, that four well-regarded Hampshire practices are joining forces to bid for larger projects under the name of the Southern Architects Alliance, is another straw in the wind. 

Perhaps this goes with the revival of southern coastal towns, or just the sobering expense and cut-throat competition of London.