When not at my desk in Solihull, you can most often find me out and about exploring the towns, villages and countryside of the West Midlands, Warwickshire and beyond with my young family.
Having grown up in rural Wiltshire, moving to Sheffield in 2001 to study architecture was a move to urban life. Although on a much larger scale, the sense of community in Sheffield made me feel instantly at home and I stayed there throughout my architectural education, completing a Bachelors and Masters degree at the University of Sheffield. Following this I joined Evans Vettori Architects where I was fortunate to experience working both on smaller residential projects through to large scale education buildings, including a primary school nursery, Special Educational Needs schools as part of the Building Schools for the Future initiative in Nottingham and the Heart of the campus project for Nottingham Trent University. This range of experience was invaluable, and gave Andy and I the confidence to set up Thread Architects in 2013. Having lived in Sheffield for over a decade, I relocated to the Knowle area of Solihull 2 years ago due to my partner changing jobs and to be closer to family in the South. I am greatly enjoying living in the more rural area of Knowle and Dorridge and developing Thread Architect projects in the Midlands and beyond. As a practice we have been enjoying the variety of project enquiries that this move has enabled, from extensive residential extensions and new build homes, to Class Q barn conversions in the farmland surrounding the area, interesting historic building conservation and reimagination, and the development of local community facilities.
I have been enjoying bringing our Thread design manifesto and passion to all of these projects. I love working with people on their homes and allowing them to unlock the potential of their current spaces as well as forming new spaces with creative and thoughtful designs, such as this house on a woodland site. Working on community facilities is also incredibly rewarding. I have worked on a number of community based projects throughout my architectural career, including many libraries that have been threatened with closure and taken over by local community volunteers, including this proposal for a library in Coventry. Through this, Thread has great experience of working with community groups and stakeholders. Ensuring everyone is heard throughout the process can be challenging, often unique means of extracting information and communicating ideas are required, which can be a creative process in itself! Throughout the process it is great to see often varied and diverse ideas develop and progress into schemes that bring best value to their communities though designs that hopefully also inspire and enhance the local area.
I have recently returned to work following maternity leave. Having my new daughter in the midst of the national lockdown earlier this year has taught me a lot about the value of home and community. Amusing a 3 year old as well as a newborn baby at home, without the usual support networks in place, has made us value our little piece of Solihull greatly. Every inch of our home became hard working, flexible space, enabling living alongside play, rest and work. The connection of our living space to the garden and the outdoors has been vital, and we have realised the importance of visibility and connection between spaces as well to enable spaces to flow and the children to play safely, but also provide privacy when needed.
This is something I had explored partly at our previous home in Sheffield where we self-built a 2 storey side extension to a 1920’s detached home to provide a large open plan kitchen and dining space that projected out into the garden with a glazed, opening corner. Lockdown has given us chance to test and develop new ideas for our current 1950’s semi-detached property, that we hope to submit for planning approval soon.
My Sheffield home project was also designed to enable us to build the majority of the structure ourselves with very little practical building experience, using SIPS (Structural Insulated Panels) and timber to form the shell, clad externally in black timber thermowood. Our time may be less freely available now, but an element of self-build I hope will again be designed into the scheme for our new house. As well as the design work, I enjoy the practical side of building, working out construction details, happily getting my hands dirty on site and being part of the evolution of projects from the drawing board into completed buildings.
As Solihull, Sheffield and much of the rest of the country move into more stringent local Covid-19 restrictions once again, the value of facilities that enable communities to continue to meet in a safe and secure environment will become as important as the home. Covid secure requirements has already formed part of a brief for a new community facility we are looking at. Although this change in requirements may have come from a negative situation our hope is that these new conditions will lead to community led spaces, either new or re-imagined existing buildings, that allow for generous, light and airy spaces throughout their design.
As a company I am proud of how we have adapted to the changing situation over the last year and that we have continued to grow and develop as a practice during this time. Although we may be meeting clients in a more virtual environment again for a time, we will once again continue to ensure that projects progress smoothly. I am looking forward to seeing more Thread projects in construction in the Midlands soon!