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Baobab Developments: ‘Neutra comes to Sussex’

Paul Templeton, of emerging south coast-based developer Baobab Developments, on driving development through his passion for design

What kind of schemes are you working on?
We have a three-house scheme in Brighton with John Pardey Architects in planning. It is Richard Neutra comes to Sussex. Then, as well as other more modest schemes, we are building a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired house in Roedean with Liam Russell Architects. We are also exploring larger live/work schemes with Carl Turner Architects.

Explain your ethos and what you want to become known for?

Good architecture makes people happy

Good architecture makes people happy. We want to create beautiful spaces for people to live and work. We hope to create a paradigm whereby we can commission interesting and cutting edge architecture at a price we can afford to build and at a cost that people can afford to buy. We hope to reconcile the competing interests of commerce and design.

How has the landscape changed during the recession?
We are a fledgling company so we did not know the landscape prior to the recession. When we started, the majority of sites were available as a result of bankruptcies and receivership. This was a chastening lesson. It seems prudence is more the watchword now – banks and developers are not so cavalier.

Would you class yourself as a boutique developer?
Absolutely. This is a question of scale and we are content remaining small – it allows us to devote ourselves to the details of each project and allow decision-making to be design-driven.

What do you want from an architect?
Passion, vision, originality, restraint, attention to detail and understanding of the commercial demands of developing. I don’t like ostentation in architecture and seek architects who use the fundamental components of light, material and space.

Are you looking for new talent and how do you find architects?
We are always looking out for new talent. We will hold open competitions for future projects to tap into the wealth of young talent. Architecture is an obsession of mine, so keeping abreast with what is going is one of the best parts of my job. This immersion allows us to identify architects whose approach chimes with ours.

How do you find the planning landscape – is it pro-sustainable?
It is in favour, but whether that is the product of a sea change in attitude and thinking or just ticking boxes remains to be seen.

Which house/housing scheme most inspires you and why?
I recently went to the mid-west USA and I was moved by Mies’ Farnsworth House. Its aesthetic economy, design discipline, purity of materials, integration with the landscape is inspiring.

And who is your favourite architect?
Unquestionably Mies Van Der Rohe. His aphorism of less is more is a fine philosophy, particularly when setting my building budgets…Of architects working today, obviously other than those I am currently working with, I love the work of Alberto Campo Baeza.

If you hadn’t been a developer what would you have been?
I’d either have continued on as a garden designer or stayed within the family business of education. Improving landscapes, be they internal or external.

Could one of your schemes ever win the Stirling Prize?
It is a when and not an if…I have even cleared a shelf in my office.

Who has given you the best advice and what was it?
Love what you do and you won’t work a day in your life, as told to me by my uncle and namesake.

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