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New practice #65: Bellis Cooley Architects

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

Bellis Cooley Architects, Clerkenwell

Founded: August 2010

Main people: Ralph Cooley and Gebina Ham

Where have you come from? Cooley was a sole practitioner after qualifying in 1999 selling his practice to Ramsden and Partners Architects in 2005 and becoming their London Director. Ham joined that office in 2006. In August 2010, Cooley and Ham left to start up the new practice to focus on projects in London and China.

What work do you have and what kind of projects are you looking for? Our core work is developer-led residential schemes and our biggest project to date is a 560 apartment student residential scheme in St Pancras for the Unite Group. We are setting up a joint venture company with a Chinese practice and we’re involved in the design of mixed- use skyscrapers and a 5-star hotel in China.

What are your ambitions? We want to grow in a controlled way. The final size of the practice doesn’t concern us, it’s the quality of the work we’re able to produce. We like being in Clerkenwell, it’s lively and well connected. We want to be known as an easy practice to work with, and for producing fresh, exciting design.

How optimistic are you as a start-up practice? London has a different economy to the rest of the country, and the effects of the recession aren’t so acutely felt. I think smaller practices can be flexible and adapt to the needs of a wider client base. We began the office in a spirit of optimism during a recession and we remain optimistic that we’ll continue to grow over the coming years.


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