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New practice: Cal Architects

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Founded last year, London and Leed based Cal Architects want to build on their sucess delivering low cost, sustainable housing

Main people James Thomson and Simon North

Based Leeds and Clerkenwell (London)

Founded May 2014

Where have you come from?  
We worked together at Sturgeon North Architects in Leeds for five years. 

What did you learn there?
For a small-sized practice working on large-scale schemes, such as City Park in Bradford and Little Kelham in Sheffield, we had to develop effective and efficient methods of resourcing that faired us well through the economic dark days. If anything the recession has made us more commercially astute without undermining our love of design and process.

What work do you have?
We’ve carried Little Kelham on from our previous practice. The scheme, which is on site, is a low-carbon development of 153 family homes and other community–minded uses such as a bakery, a nursery and start-up offices. The houses use the UK’s first pre-accredited Passivhaus build system. We’re also working closely with a number of local councils across the country, helping them to unlock sites and deliver low-cost, sustainable housing.

What are your ambitions?
Our work is not limited to a particular sector; we respond positively to the challenges of any brief and any site. Our approach is always hands on – we draw and make models, not as finished products but as tools, intrinsic in the design process. We work quickly to communicate concepts that respond to the brief, the context and the commercial constraints.

We aim to further diversify and expand both our Leeds and London offices, but any growth will be controlled such that our core principles can be sustained.

What are the biggest challenges facing yourself as a start-up and the profession generally?
Growth and resourcing is still a challenge while financial hesitance remains. Conveying and justifying the value and relevance of architects and architecture seems to require an ongoing effort.

Which scheme, completed in the last five years, has inspired you most?
Accordia, Cambridge. It is a project that we seem to keep coming back to, and has had an enduring influence on the way we approach housing projects.



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