Interview With An Expert: Ralph Cooley, Cooley Architects

Davis Brown has worked with Cooley Architects on several commercial and residential projects throughout London over the years, including Adeline Place in Bloomsbury, Fortess Grove in Kentish Town and Old Ford Road in Bow.    Here’s an insight behind the man at the top!

Adeline Place, available to let

adelinepicrc

NAME: Ralph Cooley

JOB TITLE: Managing Director of Cooley Architects Ltd

HOW DID YOU GET STARTED AS AN ARCHITECT?

I started my career working for other practices on competition designs for major urban projects and museums. But to start my own practice, I relied on domestic extensions and refurbishments to build up experience and contacts.

WHAT SORT OF PROJECTS DO YOU TYPICALLY DEAL WITH?

We are unusual in that we work on small one off houses and flats for developers, right up to £40million student housing schemes. Typically we work on residential projects up to 100 units.

HOW DOES THE ARCHITECT FIT INTO THE DESIGN TEAM FOR A PROJECT?

Traditionally, architects were in control of projects, however with new contracts and ways of working we often get placed on the same level as any other consultant. However because of the historical arrangement we find that the other members of the design team still tend to look to us for guidance.

WHAT PROJECT DO YOU FEEL MOST PROUD TO HAVE WORKED UPON?

I was born in and went to architecture school in Portsmouth. Last year, our design for a 25 storey tower completed on site in Portsmouth City Centre. It’s a product of its economic constraints, but I think we did well to get an interesting design realised. It’s visible from my old architecture school so I guess I have to go with that one.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE BUILDING?

The TWA terminal at JFK airport, by Eero Saarinen. Its joyous enclosure of space is what architecture can be at its best. In London I like the expressive optimism of the Barbican.

WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT PRINCIPLES IN DESIGNING BUILDINGS?

Everything is important, and the skill lies in bringing it all together. We have to try and produce what we think is a good building within the cost and planning constraints of the project.

WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON PROBLEMS YOU ENCOUNTER?

Communication is key. It’s the tool that we use to get things built and if it’s not 100% clear in both directions, then it will cause problems.

WHAT ARE THE KEYS TO SUCCESS WHEN WORKING ON RESIDENTIAL PROJECTS?

For developer led residential projects that we work on, the keys to success are commercial. The scheme has to stack up financially to be realised, whilst at the same time, being of a good enough quality to obtain planning approval. The trick is to keep that in mind and still try to produce something wonderful.

HOW DO YOU THINK MOST PEOPLE COULD IMPROVE THEIR HOMES WITH THE INPUT FROM AN ARCHITECT?

An architect should be able to give the client something they never thought was possible. But the client needs to be open minded when listening to ideas.

HOW CAN PEOPLE CONTACT YOU?

ralph@cooleyarchitects.com

 

 

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