01. Design is a Dialogue

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Reflecting on all the projects I have worked on that went well, each involved a specific and good quality dialogue.  

We have learnt first-hand from successful projects, that challenges are often solved through discourse and lively debate, sometimes between client and architect, regularly as part of a wider team of professionals. Studio Hoodless believes strong relationships built through open and frank dialogue is the make-or-break factor for it all. 

From the inception of a Design Guide for Nord Anglia Education, we learnt from work done on Dulwich College Management’s (Now EiM) vision and delivery of SE21, that debate over the definition of the project itself reveals the actual task. For NAE it was a marriage between a strong international brand and an ultra-progressive vision for teaching and learning. Recordings of our dialogue founded ongoing research into a new lexicon of learning environments, specific to their organisation. This prompted a distillation process to clarify 10 principles for design that underpinned everything that followed. 

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When developing the concept for Fettes College Guangzhou, we debated the requirements of each place, inside and out, then each building, with both the school in Edinburgh and the developer/operator in China. Bridging the gaps in understanding between UK school operations and Chinese design code our dialogue created mutually understood sketch solutions for a compact, but extra-large boarding school campus. The new urban village we created embodies the pastoral excellence and biophilic perspective of both client groups. Technical dialogue with the local architects resolved challenges like access, parking and the hybrid cultural and historic context of a UK independent school and Chinese site. 

The development of this dialogue throughout a project’s lifecycle gives it transparency and clarity. 

We knew when taking our competition winning design for the world leading high rise Nexus International School (Singapore) through to Schematic Design (RIBA Stage 3), continual dialogue between academic stakeholders, the design team and operations group was key to its success. We were coming up with a new format of learning with them, and a flexible series of places to deliver it. These needed to exist in the physical realm, have structure, be serviced, and generate a high value cost effective asset for many future generations. It was the dialogue between this team of more than 20 professionals and countless academics and the FM team that saw our design brief be brought to a transparent and reassuring close in parallel to the schematic design. This dialogue up to the handover to our local executive architect was continued through the design guardianship stages of the project’s construction as a soft landing for all the building users when it completed in 2020.  

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Working with the supply chain on Sir John Deane’s College taught us the key to a successful detail. From this experience, Studio Hoodless is an architecture practice without the archetypal ego. We believe in making, the process undertaken by skilled fabricators and tradespeople with whom inspirational dialogue happens, ideally as early as possible in a project process. Dialogue delivers results on site, especially those relating to environmental performance, and the clean resolution of complex geometry.  

Open conversations align different parties to common goals, working towards a singular vision. This is what good design looks like for us.

Studio Hoodless is currently in dialogue with schools from Switzerland to Singapore, affiliated designers 

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