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First Base’s head of design Daniel May: ‘We want architects who challenge us’

Daniel May
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Daniel May, head of design at First Base, discusses what the residential developer likes to see in new design talent

Where do you see First Base going over the next 10 years?
A decade is a long time in the construction industry, especially if you think back to how things were in 2008! That said, part of my role as head of design is to understand future trends, ways in which we live, work and play, and ultimately how they will translate into our developments.

One area of focus for the business, which embraces the shift in lifestyle, is ‘multiple-use’ buildings – a proposition that brings together a broad range of uses into one building, alongside an operational partner, under a single ownership.

Many of our urban centres suffer from siloed or segregated uses, which is at odds with the diversity and juxtaposition of use that the city accommodated historically. We see this as a model that could reinvigorate high streets and town centres, and we are gaining a great deal of interest from local authorities and investors in the concept that we have developed with Woods Bagot.

What’s coming up in the development pipeline?
The Edward Street Quarter in Brighton begins on site in spring 2019. We’re working with BuckleyGrayYeoman to deliver 14,900m2 of office accommodation, along with 168 flats and a range of complementary commercial uses at the lower floors. We had wanted to work with BuckleyGrayYeoman for a while as we liked their experience across a broad spectrum of uses, and in the case of Edward Street Quarter, their expertise in commercial and retail in particular was appealing. Their focus on interiors as well as the exterior also played a key part in our decision making.

Edward Street Quarter, Brighton

Edward Street Quarter, Brighton

Edward Street Quarter, Brighton

We’re also advancing our planning application for our large town centre regeneration project in Romford, a joint venture with the London Borough of Havering, working with Fletcher Priest, Allies and Morrison and Maccreanor Lavington, with SpaceHub as landscape architect.

We appointed Maccreanor Lavington and Allies and Morrison following a design competition. The two architects are now working alongside Fletcher Priest, a renowned firm from a small pool of leading masterplanners and a practice with whom we have a long-standing relationship.

I am hopeful that we will be announcing at least two new projects in the very near future too, which bodes very well for 2019 and beyond.

How will you procure architects for upcoming First Base schemes?
We like to work with architects that share our vision, who have strength of character and, most importantly are able to challenge us. With our in-house expertise across a multitude of disciplines, we can be quite a testing client but we are always open to good ideas.

I’m frequently contacted by architects looking for gift-wrapped projects to work on

All too frequently I am contacted by architects looking for gift-wrapped projects to work on. There are many small-to-medium architectural practices that have great ideas, excellent research and have the expertise to initiate development opportunities. We want to work with these like-minded firms. The preferable scenario would be to come to us with interesting, original and applicable research or sites that we can explore and develop collaboratively.

Which projects have impressed you in the last 12 months?

I really dislike this question! I can take pleasure from all manner of architectural elements, whether it is a one-off clever detail that resolves a nagging issue, a well-mannered façade or simply a beautifully proportioned and considered plan. I am a fan of 40 Beak Street, by Stiff & Trevillion. It’s subtly distinctive within a rich cityscape with great attention to the detailing. 

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