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New Practices #6: Shape

The sixth in a series of practice profiles looking at architects who have recently decided to go it alone either through choice or redundancy

Shape, Manchester (operating as part of planning practice DPP)

Founded: May 2009

Main people: Shelagh McNerney and Mick Timpson

Where have you come from? EDAW, now known as Design + Planning at AECOM. Mick was a principal, Shelagh was director of regeneration.

What work do you have?
We are continuing to build what we developed at EDAW. We don’t operate as a conventional architects practice but more a front-end practice, shaping the process of change, from strategic and policy level through to RIBA Stage D – detailed planning application and towns and neighbourhoods. Our target market is where the public and private sector work together in areas where problem solving is essential to make progress.

What are your ambitions?
We spent a long time developing a water tight, very realistic three-year business plan, which is revised and tested regularly. Our focus is UK-wide through our partnership with DPP and already, we are working in the Severn Estuary, the Lake District, the Home Counties, North Wales and the north west. We aim to have a team of 20 plus by year three and we’re on target to get there.

How optimistic are you? We are very optimistic about what we have to offer given our talents in this sector and our commitment to quality and clients’ needs. The world has changed significantly demanding a different sort of practice. We have set out to be light on our feet, quick thinking and creative. We aim to keep overheads low and spend the majority of our time on projects and clients rather than all the other stuff that bigger practices have to do deal with. We are going through a period which calls for adaptability, creativity and accelerated evolution, conditions in which a smaller practice with good creative leadership can thrive.

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