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Our Philosophy

We see design as a balance of analysis, innovation and habitation. – where ideas emerge almost as an inevitable consequence of a full understanding of context, site and brief.

Memory

A Studio Culture

Memory

Our designs always start with the site – whether existing or new; external or internal. We look to the memory of the site to offer clues for design.

The topography of a site, its orientation, geology or memory, is often strongly suggestive of an architectural idea.

These initial intuitive responses are valuable and usually indicate an underlying logic, to be pursued and understood.

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At Oxford Brookes University, solar control and privacy is controlled with a customised silicone ‘frit’ based on the molecular structure of the oak tree – the University emblem.

Dialogue

Dialogue

We always produce 3-dimensional models for the briefing stage which often describe spaces, layouts and adjacencies more successfully than drawings.

The art of communication throughout the whole process of making a building is imperative. From developing the brief with the client to coordinating contractors and specialists, communication forms the basis for operating.

The ability to share complex conceptual and technical aspects of a project can be improved with a narrative which the various stakeholders can use as a common reference.

A strong narrative places the emphasis on the ‘process’ of thinking and the intellectual underpinning of the design as much as the end product

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Practicing architecture opens windows into new and diverse worlds where ideas and influences come from surprising directions.

Metaphor

Metaphor

The transfer of one idea to another through suggestion is often a helpful method of sharing a concept. Often we find inspiration from nature or from the art world.

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Diagram

The Diagram is an important moment in the early life of a design; representing whole or part of an idea. It reduces complex issues to a simple model and, if successful, will be as relevant at the end of the project as it is in the beginning. Most diagrams are drawings, but they can equally be illustrated in simple models.

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The joy of building for people is to see how they adopt and adapt to their new environment.

Design

Design

We feel the most successful outcomes are those where, once built, one can no longer imagine the site without its building, its activity, or its occupants. We are rarely given flat sites, and we are thus conscious of the footprint or imprint of our architecture.

Design Engine works closely with other members of the design team to deliver holistic designs in which structure, space and environmental performance are seamlessly integrated. Thoughtful application of new technologies, together with age-old passive measures enables our buildings to receive maximum benefit from the natural environment; harnessing ‘free’ resources like solar energy and rainwater.

Reading Pedestrian Bridge

Reading Pedestrian Bridge sketch

Structure is the backbone of the design and should bring clarity and discipline to the organisation of a building. Our bridge designs, in particular, display a very pure fusion of structure and architecture, with strong sculptural and geometrical qualities that are also evident in our buildings.

Our work is always boldly contemporary whilst attaching great importance to the traditional arts of composition and proportion. Working in historic contexts is particularly challenging and rewarding, where modern intervention can accentuate the quality of both the old and the new.

Robust architecture which matures with dignity comes from an understanding of materials and the reality of making buildings. This is especially important in the small details, which are intimately experienced at a human scale.

We enjoy the process of building. Even with the best technology and the brightest minds, that ultimate gift of creating space for habitation and the small surprises that come with it cannot be substituted. The joy of building for people is to see how they adopt and adapt to their new environment.