It's been amazing in as much as we've never been to the site; we've never met the consultant team face-to-face, although I have obviously met the client just the once. David (West)’s never met them. The client did a film for us walking around the site explaining the whys and wherefores. David and I haven't worked together before, but just as lockdown was happening and I started to work from home, he came over one day and we just sat around the dining room table and kicked around the first ideas and sketches. But thereafter it was all virtual and all the client meetings were virtual on Teams. And it was a really positive process. I think partly that was due to the client who was really organised; an appreciative, thinking, decisive client, and we had a good team. It was just a really interesting process and has helped me understand how in future - you know, we’d rather go to the site and we'd rather have face-to-face meetings, but in future, it isn’t impossible to do it this way
DT: Did it feel slightly odd and sort of artificial, however?
TB: I suppose to a degree it did and at masterplan level it's always slightly abstract. I would rather have been there, of course, and really sort of felt and smelt the site and really got my fingernails dirty somehow. I would rather have had a few meetings with the client, where afterwards we go for a drink and establish those relationships a bit more, but those things didn't happen. But nonetheless it worked well.
DT: Now, housing is pretty much your thing really; your bread and butter; is that fair to say?
TB: Oh absolutely. Completely. At least 80% of what we do.
DT: So how would you characterise the housing scene, if I can call it that, in London at the moment? I notice you are doing six Passivhaus projects in Ealing – is that a mini-trend perhaps influenced by Stirling Prize-winning schemes, for example?
TB: Yeah, it could be a trend. I mean I think certainly the Stirling Prize win has been amazing for the whole sector, but I think also just policy and public opinion moving in that direction. So yeah, we do a lot of work for local authorities: direct delivery housing, regeneration or infill sites, and Ealing has been the first of them to give us that Passivhaus brief and zero carbon in operation. But we're starting to see it on a couple of other briefs coming out from other clients. I'm hoping this is going to become more of a trend because as a practice we need to become much more belligerent about really only doing work which has a brief which is super-serious about the climate crisis. Life is too short. We need to be doing the thing that's right for the world, and that's what we should be doing.
Bell Phillips Architects, Dean Gardens © Secchi Smith