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Napier Clarke Architects explain why they set up as a husband-and-wife team

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Amy Napier and Steven Clarke, founders of Napier Clarke Architects, on combining their shared knowledge and experience

We met in 2004 while we were working at Hopkins Architects. We had a very rewarding time there, but we’d always had an ambition to set up on our own. Michael and Patty Hopkins helped to inspire our move and Sheila O’Donnell and John Tuomey winning the RIBA Gold Medal is encouraging for any husband-and-wife practice!

In 2011, three weeks after the birth of our second child, we moved out of London and set up Napier Clarke.

Taking the jump from Hopkins was a big decision; timing was key. Steven was associate partner on the new WWF-UK Headquarters; Amy was project architect on UCH Macmillan Cancer Centre.

We were pragmatic about it. Amy left Hopkins first, while Steven remained at the firm. We started receiving a lot of referrals and winning work, so last summer Steven decided to join Napier Clarke full-time.

It helps that we both worked at the same practice before starting our own. We have a similar understanding of design and detail. We each lead specific projects, but we both work across all of them.

Switching off from work can be a challenge; boundaries diminish between home and work life and sometimes we have to say ‘let’s talk about it tomorrow’.

But the upsides are fantastic. You get so excited about your own projects. We have the freedom to make decisions together. In 2013, our first constructed project, The Boathouse in Norfolk, was shortlisted for an RIBA award in three categories.

Our portfolio is expanding, with projects such as one-off houses in Buckinghamshire and the conversion of a Grade II-listed church into affordable housing in Manchester.

As a husband-and-wife team we are combining our shared knowledge and experience to generate new ideas. We genuinely love the creative opportunities of our profession and are enjoying the challenges of developing a new practice with high-quality design that satisfies our clients.

We appreciate variety in our projects and over the next few years we will be looking to expand into some different and more ambitious sectors that reflect our wide experience on profile projects. 

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