With Directors Nik Clarke and Peter Newman-Earp
Let’s start with the first client meeting…
Nik: “We love to get under the skin of what our clients really want, so those early meetings are super important to us. Understanding the client’s business model gives us deep insights into their processes and ensures our designs are fit for purpose. Depending on the project we can help shape the brief – clients come to us with problems and our job is to go away and create innovative solutions.”
Peter: “Our recent project, Point A Hotel in Dublin, is a great example. They acquired the site with some initial plans – we then reimagined the space available. Ultimately, we know hotels inside out, and we can usually take some plans and find more bedroom space. Point A originally had plans for 95 guest rooms, but we completely reinvented the scheme, producing 141 rooms in total.”
How do you engage with the building’s guests and management?
Peter: “If it’s an existing hotel, firstly we spend time there, talking to hotel management to understand exactly what’s working and which areas could be improved. We look at back of house areas as much as the existing guest spaces, making sure the hotel’s behind-the-scenes operations are as slick as possible – aided by thoughtful and clever design.”
Nik: “We often stay in the hotel ourselves to ensure we’re fully immersed in the experience the guests receive. We do a lot of people watching! We see how guests and the hotel staff move around the hotel, which spaces would be better connected and how we can optimise or add to the space available.”
Where do you look for inspiration?
Nik: “We get a lot of inspiration from hospitality – anywhere from restaurants we dine in, to a toilet! The Shard toilet, for example, has the most amazing view – the space has been thought through and is coherent with the rest of the building.”
Peter: “We’re constantly looking when we’re travelling, either for work or on holiday – we look for hotels to stay in which look unique. We also research the area ahead of time and pop in any other hotels which look particularly inspiring. The experience starts for guests when they first set eyes on the entrance, so we always take in every element of the guest journey.”
Nik: “We also take a look at (or taste!) the food and beverage menus on offer. This gives us an insight into the operational side of the hotel – the menu impacts how the operations run. From the size of the kitchen required to how you service the guests – it all impacts the flow of the hotel.”
How do you prefer to sketch those initial designs?
Peter: “I personally prefer to use an iPad and sketch it out on there.”
Nik: “Yes, I do the same then use the CAD programme to get it all to scale. Some members of the team prefer drawing sheets using pen and paper – I find it a bit easier to rub out on a screen!”
How do you go about presenting those first concepts to a client?
Nik: “It very much depends on the client and the scheme. Everything we do here is tailored to the client to meet their needs. Sometimes we will show a few options on how the designs could work but often clients prefer to trust our expertise to come up with the best possible solution.”
Peter: “As exciting as it is presenting new designs, we always work with a Quantity Surveyor early in the process to cost the scheme – this ensures that we keep within the client’s budget.”