So we've had that. We’ve had Coronavirus; we've had lots of little hurdles put in the way along there. But you know, we've survived and come through that much stronger, I think. The focus of the business really was about depth, hence the word fathom. That is the complexity. That's the collaboration and depth of care. And complexity really came from an ability to work on complex sites. Those sites could be complex in terms of mixing of use or be by a railway or over a river; it could be a laboratory combined with sensitive sites. So listed buildings, conservation areas, and so forth, and there are quite an unusual mix of skills. We felt that was a really strong place to focus our time.
Fast forwarding to now, projects that have come out of that focus really reflect that. Sometimes it would be nice, just have a really simple project! (laughs). But difficult is what we focus on; collaboration.
We've grown as a network of people. I've always been a bit frustrated that architecture practices are these big things that are quite clunky and heavy. My business partner, Tom, comes from film production. In a film, you set up a film, and you go: okay, who do I need today to bring together to do that? If you’re doing Star Wars – I’ve got a good friend, who's an art designer, and he worked on Star Wars, but you probably wouldn't put him on Poldark. It's about picking and choosing the right people for that.
We have a core of architects and we have some really good experts like lab planners who can work in digital environments and designers and things that we bring in to bolster that. So it’s a much looser, more fluid way of working, and much more collaborative. And then care is really the kind of the projects that can add to that. That extra time that we take to solve those complex projects. We’re doing a project on Blackfriars Road at the moment; we have got a 20-storey office and 62 alms houses and a new public garden. And it's been led by a charity, so you know, development for social good. That's a really different process to working with a developer, or a landed estate, and so forth. It’s that care you take looking after those people that really pays off in the long term.
What would you say would be the one tip that you would impart to other people who are considering making a similar move and setting up in practice right now?
I think ‘be resilient’. You've got to really just keep going. (laughs)
Things get thrown at you along the way. Be very light on your feet and nimble to move quickly, change direction quickly. Lots of things get thrown at us, and I think that's the thing that keeps you going. That could just be in terms of pure running a business, but also in terms of, you know, an office building now is completely different to what it was five years ago. The residential world is changing, sustainability is changing…
…And retail is changing, obviously; you recently did some work on an ideas piece about thinking about the future of retail? What are your thoughts about London's position regarding retail, and perhaps in the central zone?