in the news
Last week was a good one for Nicholas Thompson. First came the formal launch of Integer - his project to build intelligent, green housing - and then the team of which he is a part won the Greenwich Millennium Village competition. His practice, Cole Thompson Associates, is set to become a major player on the environmental housing scene - surprisingly, perhaps, since his experience, although wide-ranging, includes very little housing.
Instead he came to his present concerns, after Cambridge and the AA, through experience with commercial glasshouses, and an interest in automated systems. Since setting up practice on his own in 1985 (Cole is his mother's maiden name), after working for a local authority and Covell Matthews Wheatley, he has specialised in what he describes as 'exposition' work. This includes projects for the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool and the British Museum, as well as several garden centres and the Queen Elizabeth temperate glasshouse at Savill Gardens in Windsor. All these were based on commercial glasshouse technology, which Thompson describes as 'wonderful - a developed technology at low cost'.
Thompson's interests led him to join the European Intelligent Building Group - a 'marvellous organisation, with members from all sides of the industry. The resulting realisation that techniques becoming widely accepted in commercial buildings were still virtually unknown in housing led to the genesis of the Integer group two years ago, with the initial aim of building 50 houses. Since then it has grown impressively, with BRE and Berkeley Homes as partners, and 12 local authorities and housing associations signed up. Construction will start on sites in Harlow and West Bromw ich th is year to des igns by Thompson . 'We have worked on it for two years without payment - now I need to earn some fees.'
Thompson, who is convinced of the UK's inherent conservatism, is delighted that his ideas are going to become reality, and also that the Hunt Thompson/Ralph Erskine team with which he is working won the Millennium Village competition. 'Prescott wants the new technology and systems of the Millennium Village replicated throughout the country. Integer is creating an opportunity for that to happen.'
Nonetheless, he still rates his greatest achievement as the series of 15 'worksearch' seminars he set up around the country under then RIBA president Max Hutchinson in the depths of recession in 1991-92. 'I still meet people who talk about that initiative, ' he says.