The emotional impact of buildings on the people who use them, and the stories a building can be designed to tell, are key elements of our approach to architecture. Our Studio, Thrive and Works teams are actively researching and designing buildings where technology can measure the levels of user wellbeing and enjoyment. We are also working on projects that repurpose or incorporate existing structures in a sustainable way, and blend art, architecture and landscape to deliver connected environmental and human benefits.
The ambition to create meaningful, enjoyable and responsible buildings is shared across our teams. Our colleague Diana Grigorie graduated with first class honours from Birmingham City University School of Architecture last year, and won a RIBA Bronze Medal Nomination for her outstanding final year project which reflects many of Chetwoods’ approaches to design.
Diana’s Identity Revival project is a concept for a new community archive and cultural centre where local residents and visitors will explore the historical context of the town of Moseley near Birmingham through the story of its architectural development.
The design creates an experiential sequence of spaces and events that engage with the imaginations of the people in them. The proposed scheme combines existing listed buildings and new structures, using natural light, materiality, textures, patterns, and blurring indoor and outdoor thresholds to create distinctive atmospheres, and guide visitors on a journey through the history of Moseley’s buildings and communities.
The central archive area has been designed as a space for people to experience a nostalgic, emotional sense of place, and gain a new understanding of the legacy of the town’s past to help inform its future direction. The design intent was to encourage and facilitate social interaction, discussion and debate about ongoing development plans for the local neighbourhood while reviving a sense of civic identity.
Diana’s particular interest in conservation evolved during her work with Chetwoods on the retrofit of 19th Century Bittesby House and its adjacent farm outbuildings in Lutterworth, an involvement that informed her approach to the Identity Revival project.
“Our strategy was to retain the house’s identity and features, conserving and restoring the external envelope and internal fabric, while integrating new meeting and exhibition spaces. It required a sensitive approach to balance the demands of the client and project constraints while producing a design that combines the qualities of the old with the benefits of the new”.
“My experience on this project helped inform my approach to my university project, in particular the proposal for the existing structures, where the principles of protection and preservation have been central to the project philosophy. These principles have been reflected throughout the treatment of the site by retaining as much of the existing listed Georgian buildings as possible and repairing their historic fabric, and also reusing, repurposing and recycling the remnant structures to create atmospheric meaning that represents the memories that will inform the future”.
We asked Diana a bit more about herself and her work at Chetwoods:
What inspired you to follow a career in architecture?
I’ve always had a strong interest in art and design from a very young age, and I wanted to follow a career path that allowed me to utilise my passion to positively influence people’s lives. My ambition to pursue architecture has led to my studies with the ultimate goal of qualifying as a Chartered Architect, expanding my knowledge and my skillset along the way. The idea of creating habitable spaces, which begin on paper and are translated into built form is a very rewarding prospect that I find both exciting and fulfilling. Every project is different, bringing its own individual experiences and challenges which makes each day unique.
What type of projects have you been working on at Chetwoods?
I’ve been involved on various projects throughout all the RIBA work stages. I have produced numerous industrial layouts for different schemes, contributed to master planning development, produced concept sketches, technical details and construction drawings. I’ve also taken an active involvement with projects on site, attending design team meetings and site visits. I’m also a part of the Chetwoods ‘Studio’ team, which consists of a group of designers who explore innovative ideas, including developing a way to measure human responses to design using cutting-edge technology.
As you’re at the start of your architecture career, how is collaboration with other designers informing your evolving approach?
We have a number of collaborative sessions each month where colleagues from all levels of seniority and experience across Chetwoods come together to discuss projects from the point of view that particularly interests them: whether through Studio’s design eyes, with a Thrive sustainability hat on, or as a potential Works technology opportunity. The open forum format encourages people to share ideas and experiences in a more conversational manner that allows everyone to have a voice and contribute meaningfully.
Over the past few months, I’ve been involved in these sessions from the perspective of the Studio team. This has given me an opportunity to communicate directly with the other Chetwoods designers to discuss new ideas and identify areas for greater collaboration. The discussions and presentations delivered by the various participants have highlighted different perspectives and approaches that have and will continue to inform my own approach to design and work in general.
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