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Bloch: 'We want architects who can describe the benefits of design'

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Adrienne Bloch, head of business development at social care developer Ashley House, on why they constantly revisit their schemes and what she wants from an architect

What does Ashley House do?
We specialise in identifying and partnering with organisations and individuals to create new healthcare and living environments. We achieve this through working closely with our partners, such as architects, housing and care operators, and government.

Once a development has been assessed we pull together a consortium of partners to design, construct and finance. Our business is generated through long-term relationships, procurement competitions and through partnership arrangements.

We focus on socially important projects within our areas of expertise that help to transform local aspirations into tangible developments that improve the quality of the local environment, allow people greater choices, and continue to enhance localities and healthcare outcomes.

We monitor and revisit our developments again and again to measure the continued positive outcomes

What would you like to be known for?
For enhancing the quality of life for all those who live, visit and work in our facilities. We are a founder member of the Social Stock Exchange and take our social responsibility extremely seriously. We monitor and revisit our developments again and again to measure the continued positive outcomes in terms of long-term environmental, economic and social impact.

Where does design fit into your agenda?
Design is very much at the top of our agenda and that of our clients.

Awareness of design at the individual and domestic level is becoming far more important, as is personal choice. This choice includes making decisions around style and surroundings and the quality and type of services and the individuals and organisations providing them.

Commissioners of large-scale infrastructure have always considered design in terms of form and function. You don’t need to look far to see the quality of our stations, bridges and public buildings throughout the ages. I am pleased to say that this is often a key decision factor for the procurement officers in local authorities and other agencies.

How do you go about finding and selecting your architects?
When an opportunity is identified or presents itself, we have to consider the make up of the whole team. We have our own internal design capability, and in some instances we do not use external firms. However, in large-scale and complex procurements, we usually work with leading architects, either in their field or because of their local knowledge and experience. In addition we try to get under the skin of our clients to understand more about their aspirations in terms of style and key factors, such as sustainability, to inform our decision-making process.

I lead all of the public procurements and, in the last two years, have had a successful working partnership with Penoyre & Prasad on extra care housing and nursing care in Leicester, Hampshire (below) and, most recently, in Bristol.

Penoyre prasad for Ashley house

Over the years we have worked on numerous projects together and this has helped us become efficient and understand what is expected from each other.

We also work with a small number of other architects on other types of project, again typically in longer-term relationships.

Do you ever run design competitions?
We tend to work with those we have had success with previously and those that can demonstrate a competitive advantage to our clients. Sometimes we contact two or three architects that we have shortlisted to ascertain availability and approach.

What forthcoming opportunities are in the pipeline for you?
We are currently working on a complex nursing care and multi-tenure extra care development in the South West, and are on a framework with other organisations in partnership with North Yorkshire County Council to deliver at least six schemes in the next three to five years.

I am looking for expertise and experience in managing and creating designs that meet the bid requirements

What do you want from an architect?
As I lead the formal procurement processes, I am looking for expertise and experience in managing and creating designs that meet the bid requirements as set out by our clients. Working to deadlines and being able to describe the benefits of the designs are just as important as the creativity and design quality themselves.

Track record, flare and working with like-minded people are also key factors in our decision-making, as is the ability to design a solution that can be translated into a successful planning outcome and an affordable and predictable build.

Ultimately it is the thoughtfulness and quality of individuals that are so important when working in a social sector.

What don’t you want?
Although innovation and flare are important, we do not want to take too many risks as deliverability is non-negotiable for ourselves and our clients.

What is your favourite building of the last 10 years?
We often deal with difficult situations including dementia and palliative care, and that is one of the reasons I have chosen the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin (also known as the Holocaust Memorial). It opened just over 10 years ago, and encompasses both sculpture, landscape and architecture in a seamless way, while dealing with very difficult subject matter.

It is incredible how Peter Eisenman dealt with the fraught political, religious and social divisions from the past, in a way that individuals can interpret for themselves for generations to come.

The visitor centre beneath the stones, and the entrance and spaces below are arranged to create maximum impact and hope by letting just the right amount of light through.





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