Fergus Feilden, partner at Feilden Fowles, on how a speculative approach to a client paid dividends for his practice
We founded the practice in 2010 straight out of Part 2, having delivered our first project, Ty Pren, a passive long house in the Brecon Beacons, while studying.
We always had the ambition to quickly progress from domestic work to larger, more complex projects with a social impact. The education sector was therefore of great interest but, as a new practice, our chance of winning work through local authority tenders was limited so we needed an alternative route.
Our first project emerged from an approach to my old school, Ralph Allen in Bath, about helping students to access architecture and design courses. On revisiting the school it was clear there had been no pattern to recent development, and it needed a long-term, holistic vision for the future growth of the campus.
We discussed this with the school and agreed a small fee to develop six ‘quick-win’ projects that would tackle the site’s most pressing needs and develop a long-term masterplan to guide future expansion.
Feilden Fowles delivered these projects over the following two years, giving the team confidence to apply for further funding, initially from the local authority, to fund the school’s £1.4 million sixth-form building, the Lee Centre. The relationship and trust we had built up with the school was a critical factor in us winning this project at tender stage.
Source: David Grandorge
During this project the school became an academy and was able to bid to the Educational Funding Agency for Priority Maintenance Grants. We assisted the school with condition reports, funding applications and the development of The Rose Building, a 10-classroom replacement teaching block. We also worked closely with the school’s business manager, Jo Marsh, to hone the designs, bids and investment strategy. So far we have helped raise £4.5 million of investment.
Feilden Fowles has recently developed the second phase of the masterplan, addressing development over the next five years with a view to attracting a further £9 million.
Many academies are now joining multi-academy trusts (MATs), further devolving power and funding from the local authorities and central government. We see great potential to apply a similar approach across a range of sites.
Publication of the projects delivered at Ralph Allen, and their recognition in RIBA and Civic Trust awards has led to us working with a further four schools, and has allowed us to develop a specialism in education work.
This experience has also helped us to branch into the arts sector, via a range of exhibition designs and redesigning the Clore learning spaces at the Hepworth Wakefield, and the heritage sector where we are supporting clients to attract funding from grant-giving trusts the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Arts Council.
We have continued to diversify quickly, often through clients with shared values and overlapping briefs. We are really excited to find ourselves working on complex masterplans and strategic visions for our clients, along with delivering a range of beautiful and wide-ranging civic buildings.
Source: David Grandorge