HGP Architects has helped shape the built-landscape on the south coast with award winning projects. Director Matthew Williams shares his views from a busy practice with a special focus on waterside regeneration.
Who is HGP Architects?
HGP Architects has a reputation built on nearly five decades of inspired building design for clients across diverse sectors. Established in 1968 on the South Coast, the success of it’s earliest projects in banking and office development led to rapid diversification into marinas, residential and other sectors. The work of the HGP team has attracted industry recognition in recent years with awards that include The Times Conservation Award and RICS Project of the Year Award. The iconic Spinnaker Tower, designed by HGP, is rated among the nation’s top five buildings people are most proud of.
How did you get started in Architecture?
I loved architecture and buildings from an early age. I was very fortunate to experience a lot of travelling with my parents when I was younger, seeing different areas of the world. We went to America quite a lot, so I was exposed to the work of architects like Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Kahn. Interest in a few of their buildings gave me the bug. My family were involved in property development, buying land and building on it, so from a young age I was interested in everything related to construction.
“For me it’s walking into the finished article and seeing the customer or the client’s face light up when they see the final product.”
How long have you been with HGP Architecture?
I started with HGP in my student days as well as getting some experience in a number of other practices. I came back to HGP Architects and 18 years later, having worked up the ranks, I am now one of the owners. Most of my time is spent working on regeneration projects and within the practice we have developed a specialism in waterside regeneration. We are known for doing waterside mixed-use buildings that include restaurants, apartments and leisure. We have delivered marina schemes on the south coast and around the world. It’s HGP’s 50th Anniversary this year and we are marking this achievement with a number of events and celebrations.
The founder Hedley Greentree sadly passed away last year but we continue to build on his reputation; the company now has 80 employees, 2 offices and is looking to expand all the time. Our local client base is also spreading its wings so we would like to expand our service with them across the south coast.
What do you love about Architecture?
For me it’s walking into the finished article and seeing the customer or the client’s face light up when they see the final product. I still get a thrill from taking a project from an initial sketch to the point of exploring the spaces with them for the first time. I remember when we were doing the Ben Ainslie Racing Building, walking around the building with Ben when it was finished and he was just so happy with the way the staff interacted with the building. They had moved from temporary accommodation to this fantastic purpose designed facility and they were saying how unbelievable it was to see its impact on productivity with staff in a relaxed mood. The new building allowed them to achieve more because of the way work flow went from the production of the boat to the design of the boat and back again, facilitating how the sailing team could interact with the boat’s designers.
How did you get so involved with the house builders?
We are lucky to have developed close working agreements with companies such as Crest Nicholson and I now chair the architect’s panel for them. They have 5 practices they currently use and the panel’s role is to make sure set procedures are followed, ensuring efficiencies are achieved through the drawing package and into procurement. We have probably got about 5 large regeneration projects on for Crest Nicholson at the moment, nationwide. We enjoy this relationship and find that when you have repeat business you gain an understanding of their work flows and procedures, this allows us to deliver efficiencies and the clients get quality architecture.
HGP Architects has been involved in many award winning projects. What has been your favourite to date?
HGP architects designed the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth Harbour while I was still a student and of course it is now a national landmark. The main project that is special in my heart has to be the BAR building, that’s won 6 awards and its innovation is still being featured in the architectural press. The actual process of delivering that building was done over 18 months from inception of the idea to BAR holding the regatta out of the building. To achieve this, we utilised offsite fabrication and BIM played a major role in its development.
How relevant is the expansion of offsite construction to Architects?
I hear all the time from my clients and site teams that they can’t get the quality of tradesmen now that they had in the past. The required levels of quality and expertise onsite are getting increasingly rare, we are happy to encourage the use of offsite fabrication to maintain the quality. This is a trend I can see developing further, at pace. The brick laying trade is particularly difficult and for example, they were really badly affected by this year’s weather, a lot of sites were snowed off. Offsite fabrication is not weather dependant and no matter what time of year you go to site, the quality is still being maintained.
As far as integrating offsite fabrication into our design model, it gives us a better idea of how the co-ordination is going to work. We use BIM Models from the manufacturer and can rely on those details being accurate onsite, so this is a great boost to the design management of the whole project.
“Levels of quality and expertise onsite are getting increasingly rare so we are happy to encourage the use of offsite fabrication to maintain the quality”