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New practice: Graeme Nicholls Architects

Gna portrait 2
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Graeme Nicholls talks about his hopes for his new practice, working with Gareth Hoskins and the influence of films and comic books on his work

Practice name Graeme Nicholls Architects
Founded 2016
Location Glasgow
Main people Graeme Nicholls 

Where have you come from?
I trained initially at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, and was then awarded a scholarship to complete a masters degree at North Carolina State University in the United States. I have gone on to work with some of the top design-led practices in both Scotland and Australia, including most recently with the late Gareth Hoskins here in Glasgow, where I was based for the last seven years. 

Working with Gareth was a real joy and he was an important mentor figure for me. The experience I gained while working there is particularly valuable as it has always been my ambition to have my own practice. For the last 10 years I have also held a role as a part-time studio tutor at the University of Strathclyde, which fosters a strong link between practice and research.

Glasnevin cemetery dublin

Glasnevin cemetery dublin

Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin

What work do you have and what kind of projects are you looking for?
I’ve previously worked on arts and cultural projects, one-off houses, and also latterly healthcare and commercial developments. Beyond this diverse sector experience, the projects which most appeal to me are those which will offer the opportunity to produce unique, interesting work in line with my design ethos. Our first few jobs include an exhibition design, a community arts installation, a one-off house, and possibly a new hotel in London. Competitions, speculative unbuilt work, and architectural education remain very important to me, so I will continue to pursue these as a foundation of the practice’s output, as it grows.

West kowloon arts pavilion crop

West kowloon arts pavilion crop

West Kowloon Arts Pavilion, Hong Kong

What are your ambitions?
It has been a long-term ambition to launch my own firm, and it now feels like the right time. I’m really excited by the challenges that lie ahead. I’ve been fortunate to work on some really exciting, high-profile projects so far in my career, and I aim to build on this and grow a leading design-led studio working both within the UK and internationally. 

What are the biggest challenges you are facing?
Procurement legislation relating to public buildings is obviously a real challenge for emerging practices such as my own. The very prescriptive requirements, which focus on experience over talent, create a bit of a barrier. However, I also look forward to making inroads into that sort of work.

I feel pretty optimistic about the future, though; potential clients have been overwhelmingly positive and supportive in response to the news of my practice launch. 

Stanley Kubrick’s work is a major influence, as is that of Richard Serra, and the comic-book writer Alan Moore

Which scheme has most inspired you?
My work is particularly concerned with developing unique formal, spatial, and material narratives for each project, so I am inspired by quite an eclectic range of sources. Stanley Kubrick’s work is a major influence, as is that of Richard Serra, and the comic-book writer Alan Moore. Generally, literature, poetry, and the visual arts also play a very important role. My great architectural heroes include Emilio Ambasz, John Hejduk, Hans van der Laan, Archigram, Superstudio, and of course Le Corbusier. I undertook a ‘pilgrimage’ last year travelling around France to see some of his most important works – Ronchamp was mind blowing.

How are you marketing yourselves?
A combination of articles in print, and online marketing via our website, social media (Twitter and Instagram), and also just getting out there and meeting people. The construction industry is so highly networked that I think talking to people face-to-face remains the most effective way to win work.

Rcg web001

Rcg web001

Entry for RIAS Centenary Garden competition for its headquarters at Rutland Square, Edinburgh 

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