The latest in a series of practice profiles looking at architects who have recently decided to go it alone
J Foster Architects, London N7
Main people Jeremy Foster (pictured), Tom Melson and Michael Phipps
Based London N7
Where have you come from?
I spent years in big, award-winning practices working on multi-million-pound London developments: two years at Ian Simpson, six-and-a-half at Eric Parry and recently one-and-a-half years at Patel Taylor on the Shell Centre. Tackling big-budget, city-shaping projects was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but it was my own small flat conversion in Islington that sparked the desire to set up a practice.
What work do you have and what are you looking for?
We’re fortunate to have a range of projects at the outset – modern residential within listed buildings and conservation areas and some top-secret retail work. My background is large-scale residential and high-end commercial/retail, and the aim is to attract jobs in these sectors over the coming months. Competitions are a must.
What are your ambitions?
I still believe, as I did as a student that we can elevate the everyday with awe-inspiring spaces and environments. I’d like us to grow to a dozen, based in London, and seek work in the UK and abroad. We aim to build a reputation for the quality of design and output synonymous with big practice but with a personal touch.
What are the challenges you face as a start-up?
Finding new clients and beating the competition. Pacing yourself. Once you set your own agenda, the temptation is to work around the clock but, with a young family in tow that’s not sustainable.
What are your fears?
Cycling in London and finding the whereabouts of that next project.
Which scheme of the past five years has inspired you most?
At Eric Parry I was project architect for Eagle Place, Piccadilly. I spent an exhilarating few years taking it to site in collaboration with artists and master masons to revive a revered part of St James’s.
How are you marketing yourselves?
Old-fashioned networking. Reaching out to contacts (and making new ones) to put the word out: we’re open for business.