FC&A: Please tell us a bit about your background
RF: I grew up in Bristol, a proud city with a lot of fine architecture – more Georgian buildings than Bath we were always being told – it was the buildings around me in Bristol that first drew me into a career in architecture.
Since graduating from the University of Nottingham, I have been a chartered architect for more than 30 years and have had opportunities to work across the UK, and in Central Europe, the Middle East and China, meeting and working with wonderful people.
FC&A: Had you always wanted to pursue a career in architecture?
RF: During school, I was rarely without a drawing pencil in my hand and I spent many lunchtimes capturing the shapes of the buildings around me; I became fascinated in particular with the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Clifton, designed by Ron Weeks in the 1970s. I did many, many pencil drawings trying to capture how Ron had carefully crafted the way daylight entered the building and fell onto the walls inside. From that moment on I was pretty sure I wanted to be an architect.
FC&A: What has been your greatest influence and source of inspiration?
RF: The UK is blessed with many fine architects and many whose skills have enabled them to become global names, they are all inspirational: if pushed though it comes back to the less well known Ron Weeks and his work in Bristol. Once qualified as an architect I did eventually get to meet Ron and even to work with him for a while which was a great privilege for me.
FC&A: What has been your most notable project to date?
RF: Every project has its fascinations and is a source of pride. But one outstanding moment during my career is delivering a carbon negative office building in Leicester that is so energy efficient it generates more energy than it uses.
The Leicester project became the inspiration for a series of workplace projects in a similar vein; most recently we’ve completed a new headquarters for British Sugar in Peterborough. This low-energy building focusses on using daylight, fresh air and flexible work spaces to improve employee wellbeing for the 300 strong team based there, the building has training and conferencing facilities, a cafe and focal atrium meeting spaces.
The award-winning Rushcliffe Arena in Nottingham is another project that has been well received by the local community and is adding to the health and happiness of people, which is very satisfying. I have also designed an office building in the heart of the city of London where I had the opportunity to visit a quarry on Portland Bill and choose the actual stone to be used for the facades (making me feel like Sir Christopher Wren, for an afternoon at least).
FC&A: What do you think is the greatest challenge for designing in sustainability?
RF: It’s much easier to design sustainable buildings when you have a blank canvas. New builds give architects much greater freedom to find sustainable and cost-effective solutions and a broader scope in providing clients with the response they are seeking. This is one of the reasons why the headquarters for British Sugar in Peterborough has been so successful in creating an environment that addresses strategic business needs and embodies the business vision.
One of the biggest challenges is managing the client’s expectations of sustainability during refurbishment or transformation projects where constraints can arise from the fabric of the building. Despite this, sometimes refurbishment is the truly sustainable and feasible option.
FC&A: What can we expect to see from CPMG over the coming months?
RF: I really believe the UK has a fantastic opportunity for exporting architecture. Design is an international language and UK architects have a global reputation. As CPMG advances its technology and skills to do what we do now, even better, I’m confident we can be seen as a practice leading both in the UK and further afield in the next few years.