The three elements of our brand – Studio, Thrive and Works – are used to guide and inform the holistic approach of our teams to every project.

Studio puts the imagination, emotion and instinct into our designs. Thrive supports the design and delivery of projects that will enhance our environment and improve our health and wellbeing. Works champions the digital delivery of projects.

Thought leaders representing these elements guide, inform and support the detailed research and analysis that we undertake for every project, enabling our project teams to develop the full potential of everything we work on.

We asked our teams to share their inspirations for design, sustainability and technology in the built environment from 2021. Here are the Top 21.

1.LUX is a remarkable new media exhibition in London that brings together 12 artists and collectives at the cutting edge of audio-visual technology to showcase how art and technology can be used in a space to make a large impact on human senses. Visitors experience how interactive, fully immersive sensory spaces can influence emotions and senses, something that we are exploring in our own research into enhancing and measuring user enjoyment of and wellbeing in architecture.  The exhibition runs until 6th February 2022 [Image courtesy 180 Strand]Review: LUX At 180 The Strand Is Mesmerising, But Is It Memorable? | Londonist

2.Peter Braithwaite, Director of Engineering Sustainability at the University of Birmingham, is collaborating with academics, students and local industry to rethink design methodology based on the availability of materials. Their discussions on how to design using innovative low-carbon materials resonate with our own Studio research into how to apply circular economy principles in our architectural design work. We are developing a new settlement in Surrey based on repurposing existing structures. We are trying to produce a kind of invisible architecture by blending buildings with art and with the landscape using circular economy principles.

3.We have enjoyed Parametric Architecture’s global virtual discussions and lectures showcasing projects created using powerful design software. Computational design is an exciting area of architectural design that links with biological and ecological structures, and one that our technical and design teams are working together on to develop new typologies in our work.

4.We are constantly inspired by progressive clients who work with us to buck the trend and are willing to take risks and push boundaries in the design of their buildings. Laurie Chetwood picks a few who he admires: “Patrick McGillycuddy formerly of Gazeley, now chairman of Glencar Construction, is someone I admire immensely, and we continue to work with Nick Cook at GLP to drive innovation in logistics warehousing.  This year we have also enjoyed working up imaginative ideas to achieve planning consent for U+I’s ground-breaking mixed-use project on SIL land at Morden Wharf, and developing a new concept with the City of London Corporation for the relocation of the city’s three historic wholesale food markets – Smithfield, Billingsgate and New Spitalfields – to Dagenham Dock.”

5.The Waste Age Exhibition at London’s Design Museum until 20 February 2022 is a must-see. It demonstrates the history and scale of waste creation, especially as it pertains to consumer products, and shares the multitude of existing and developing solutions that can help us transition to a waste-free society. [Image credit Design Museum]

6.Education is an exciting sector to be designing for. Creating buildings that support the well-being and learning of students has always been central to our architectural work for forward-thinking schools such as Rugby School, which is now developing an international group of schools based on its own successful template in the UK. The impact of the pandemic on education has inspired the push to make the new school buildings we are working on even more adaptable and resilient, as well as aiming for net zero in response to climate change”.

7.Steve Malkin and the Planet Mark team have supported a tremendous international effort to help companies certify their efforts to improve their operational impact through the tracking and reduction of energy and waste. We were delighted to achieve Climate Positive status ourselves this year.

8.“Our work in China during 2021 has been notable for the inspiring approach of clients and designers to brave design that marries art, architecture and landscape. We developed our Metro Stations in Shenzhen and Xian in collaboration with Jiang & Associates Design (J&A). It was an inspiring partnership that created the ecology, history and cultural referenced interior designs for the different station contexts.”  Reza Esmaeeli, Director

9.EvolveLAB is a company we have got a lot of ideas and inspiration from. They are leading in computational design and automation systems which are very relevant to our Works team’s implementation of data-driven design solutions for our own projects.

10.One of our sustainability experts was able to attend COP26 in Glasgow in November, during which the UKGBC launched the Net Zero Whole Life Carbon Roadmap for the Built Environment. The roadmap outlines a common vision and agreed actions to achieve net zero carbon in construction, operation, and demolition of buildings and infrastructure for the UK Built Environment.

11.The interdependence of our relationship with artists and landscape architects is critical to the success of many of our projects. When we were asked to design an installation as the centrepiece of the 15th United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15), in Kunming China in October, we combined art, architectural and landscape elements with environmental protection features in the ‘Future City Garden: Nature & City’  The design was inspired by the conference’s key themes of food, sleep, shelter, air and water. Structural engineers are always a key element of our holistic approach to design, and Mike Furness from Furness Partnership worked with us to develop the innovative solutions required for the complex and rapid construction of this installation.

12.The Architecture Drawing Prize 2021 was another inspiring celebration of drawing in architecture curated by Make, Sir John Soane’s Museum and the World Architecture Festival. Laurie Chetwood comments: “I’m a passionate advocate of the role of drawing in architecture, both as an art form and a skill. I use traditional drawing skills every day as a crucial part of the design development process: nothing beats sketching in real time – particularly in front of a client – to visualise and communicate ideas and concepts, whether to outline a vision or describe a detail.  I was honoured that one of my drawings ‘Phoenix Towers – Wuhan Air and Lakes’ was selected for inclusion in the Prize’s 5th Anniversary Retrospective virtual gallery here.

13.In a 9-part online Circular Series by Architects Climate Action Network (ACAN), experts from across the construction industry addressed the key challenges and opportunities for incorporating circular approaches through a project’s life within the context of the UK construction industry. [Image courtesy ACAN]

14.Channel 4’s Grayson’s Art Club used art to bring joy into our homes and unite us during the pandemic. “Art Club is a celebration of homegrown creativity and shared welcome stories of hope and joy. At Chetwoods art and storytelling are important tools for us in taking our project stakeholders on a journey through the design process.” Yianni Kattirtzis, Studio Director

15.Zoom Regenerative was conceived by Martin Brown at the start of the 2020 lockdowns. The online meet-ups have built a close community for open knowledge exchange and discussion amongst individuals working towards a regenerative future.

16.We’ve found BIM Guru’s YouTube videos a great resource for our BIM and project automation projects which provide additional value to our clients in the design, construction and management of their buildings.

17.Thousands of chemicals harmful to human and environmental health are persistent throughout many contemporary building materials, from insulations to finishes and furnishings. Healthy Materials Lab led by Jonsara Ruth & Alison Mears at the New School Parsons provides a wide range of free resources to assist architects and designers in upskilling and specifying healthy materials. [Image courtesy Healthy Materials Lab]

18.Doug Johnson, Founder and Director of MESH Energy, and his team, have consistently pulled together weekly CPDs with the top practitioners in sustainable construction, building up an extensive library of resources for best-practice. This year, they launched their free MESHWORK platform to facilitate collaboration and connection amongst the hundreds of professionals working with sustainability across the industry.

19.We’ve been looking into Morphcast’s emotional recognition AI software and how it measures physiological data on the effect of design elements such as colour and lighting on our wellbeing response. We believe this technology will help us design increased user enjoyment and wellbeing into our buildings.

20.The Future Assembly Exhibition at the Venice Biennale 2021 provided plenty of food for thought as it asked how will we live together in harmony with our planet? The display of fifty more-than-human ‘stakeholders’ from around the world, submitted by the participants of Biennale Architettura 2021, included fungi, estuaries, and ephemeral gases to represent those living and non-living entities whose rights are traditionally left out of human legislation.

21.We are big fans of the BeyondBIM podcasts hosted by our own Dr Erika Pärn – lead consultant to Chetwoods Works team and research associate at the University of Cambridge. The podcast interviews look at the ‘beyond the obvious’ digital transformations in AECO being enabled for the built environment by Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology. [Image courtesy BeyondBIM]