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/team_a season of change

With the warmer weather finally making an appearance we've been enjoying seeing the gardens around us spring to life and the sound of the bees busily enjoying the flowers in bloom. It's not only the gardens around us that are blossoming, we as a team are also growing and we have welcomed another new member to the STUDIO/gather team.

We welcome Emma from the sunny climes of Scotland. She joins us with a passion for sustainable architecture and is already getting stuck into one of our more complex near PassivHaus retrofit projects based on the South Coast.


/projects_in the spotlight

Our 'spotlight' project this month has been a labour of love for all involved and works have commenced on site at 'White Wings'. A technically challenging and forward-thinking project has only come to fruition from the passion of our clients and the unwavering technical optimism of both Pete and Dan who are leading this near-passive house project in Falmouth. You can read more about the project here.

This complex build of hidden gutters, a floating staircase and disappearing corner glazing complete with a timber frame and plenty of steico products. We can't wait to see Ollie and his team at Berryman Construction bring this project to life.



We were both saddened and shocked at the article published by the IPCC. The IPCC "prepares comprehensive Assessment Reports about the state of scientific, technical and socio-economic knowledge on climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for reducing the rate at which climate change is taking place". We will be talking more in-depth about this soon as we, as a practice, create a strategy to ensure we are doing absolutely everything we can to be a part of the solution and not the problem. If you haven't read the IPCC report yourself you can find a link to it here. AR6 Synthesis Report: Climate Change 2023


/sustain_a deep retrofit story on the north coast - update

Our project on the North Coast is nearing completion and this extension/renovation has recently undertaken an air tightness test and reached incredibly good results now the plaster is on the walls. With Dan's knowledge and attention to detail, he has been keeping the contractors on their toes with experimental material, Diathonite. Diathonite is a cork and lime mixed internal insulation which allows walls to breathe, the capillary motion of solid construction to not cause issues, improves thermal performance, creates an air tightness layer and is a full natural application.


/create_a parish council reaction

As a practice, we strive to design and build sustainable, future-proofed homes sometimes pushing the boundaries of 'normal' materials and processes. As we continue to learn and try to put this at the heart of every project we do, it's a delight when our schemes are met with such positivity and applause. Our most recent Parish Council meeting for a house in Praa Sands got a resounding thumbs up and we are excited to see this Scandi beach house progress.



‘As we hit the midway mark in the year we also hit 2 years of STUDIO/gather. From a humble garden studio to an inspiring and creative team of 6. With projects on site, some nearing completion and plenty of things in the pipeline we are looking forward to seeing what the future brings!

STUDIO/gather was built on the foundations of a team with a shared optimism that the built environment can offer a transformative effect against the current climate and biodiversity global crisis.

By us learning from a building's natural setting, we can enhance and protect it through architectural intervention.

We are already seeing this manifesto play out in which properties and sites that we have worked on with the return of rich and diverse flora and fauna in their garden and into the lives of the owners. Buildings running on only renewable energy creating a happy and healthy place to live.

This increased connection to our surroundings brings positive energy to us and our client's lives. This feeds back into allowing more time for play, for time with family and friends and to do more of what makes us feel at our best. We feel this can only be seen as what sustainability is - when the dividing forces are in equilibrium and everyone begins to benefit. Having these goals means to design individually with each house/home being unique to its setting and to our clients. We explore what this means together, collaborating on the design and journey and becoming a stronger team for it. This makes us happy architects, with engaged clients and a creative architectural output.

Cheers to each and every one of you who have been with us on this journey since the start and those who have joined us along the way, we wouldn't be here without your continued support.'

Julian J Mills.

Founding Director

/team_we welcome a new team member

Is it too late to wish you all a happy and healthy 2023? We are well and truly back in the swing of things and have lots of new, old and exciting news to share with you all. First up, towards the end of last year, we welcomed another new member to the team. Pete Dangerfield joins us with a wealth of knowledge, detail and general unwavering optimism for the most complex of projects and as soon as we have dug him out from under a mountain of technical drawings we will gather a few words from him for our next newsletter instalment.

The growth of the business has also meant that we have outgrown our most humble of offices and it was time for us to say goodbye to the /Holly tin we are now located at the wonderfully creative and inspiring Potager garden. We look forward to hosting many of you around our table for meetings in the near future.


/projects_in the spotlight

We start the year by pointing our spotlight to a 'hidden-rural' project based on the Roseland. The vision for this new dwelling is inspired by the agricultural buildings which form its setting and are designed to ensure there are uninterrupted views of the rugged coastline inside it. This project has already evolved in many ways and whilst we are still working through the final design iterations, you can find us stomping across the coast path on the Roseland as we delve deeper into how this building can settle into its new surroundings.

This project has followed the guidance from the Architects' declare handbook which sets out a methodology for reviewing, adapting, exploring and analysing projects to make sure they achieve beyond sustainable design and onto regenerative design. This lead us to undertake a demolition audit to see if the replacement was right - reuse to reduce. This has given both us, the client and the future contractor a breakdown of items to reduce, reuse, recycle and recover where possible. It also set out metrics for how we kick off our life cycle calculations when looking at the replacement dwelling. We are always striving to 'do better' with intelligent design, sustainable practices, and environmentally beneficial products and this project is pushing us and our ethos to strive for 'better'.


/scope_studio gather in the community

Working in the community is just as important to us as working on the community and we have been heavily involved for the last few months in working alongside the local Parish Council of Constantine. As part of this, we have designed and presented a way of re-purposing the former local village hall. Our hope is for the asset to continue offering a multi-use space for our rural community for many years to come and future-proof our communities resilience in the face of a climate emergency. We were also kindly invited to attend the local community day and with over 150 people in attendance it was an opportunity for us to help people understand how they can make their homes more energy efficient. From simple solutions such as additional insulation to more information on more intensive retrofits. As part of this presentation, we were delighted to share the case study of our team member Pete's PassivHause retrofit.

It was such a fantastic way to open up the conversation around energy use, and sustainable practices and products. We can't help but wonder if more people would benefit from a little ‘Ask the Architect’ pop-up in your local community. please do get in touch, we would love to help.


/sustain_a deep retrofit story on the north coast

Our project on the North coast is well underway and consists of a deep retrofit & renovation. Dan has been spearheading the project along with Samuel Winn Design & Build and Martin Perry Associates. The cement render has been painstakingly hacked off with a new lime render replacing it. Rotten floors have been dug out and a new insulated slab poured in its place. The small rooms have been opened up and connected to create more space and light and the exposed steel structure is certainly taking centre stage. Internal cork insulation has been sprayed on, triple glazed windows replacing leaky UPVC and timber along with inset PV on the roof, MVHR and air source installed.

Dan has specialised training under the AECB retrofit programme giving him more than just a book read knowledge on this subject. He has certainly been put to practice with what has turned out to be a very complicated retrofit; three different wall types, two different wall types, party wall issues, build-over agreements, highly crafted finish aspirations and a humble budget. The existing building has not made it easy, but it feels like we are now on the home straight.


/create_why model making is for you

We all know the benefits of digital design, 3D realities, renders, and montages but as a studio that prides itself on creativity, we find both ourselves and our clients glean a lot from physical models. As such, this year we will be putting more time aside to just /create. The process is not only therapeutic but also gives us an idea of how a home sits in its current and proposed environment, how the light will move around, the unique spaces inside and outside feel and how it will be viewed by the many that will pass it for years to come. Model-making sparks imagination which opens up a realm of collaborative creativity which some other mediums we use fall short. It’s a fantastic design tool for our clients to get a hands-on approach and they can quickly see the before and after of the proposal.


/close_the lone surfer

‘The lone surfer.

One finds many parallels between being a sustainable architect and paddling out into the sea where mountains of water move. For one, you have to have a certain drive and confidence that what you believe in will happen. Secondly, although there might be some falls, some setbacks, and some cold starts, the energising feeling when all the hard work pays off is second to none.

As a practice, one could see this surfer as a metaphor for a sustainability agenda. You don’t need to be riding every big wave, but if you are still getting in, suiting up and training for the day you make it out back, that is good enough.

A goal and or vision for the future.'

Julian J Mills.

Founding Director

Practice name STUDIO/gather Based Cornwall. The practice runs two satellite offices, one on the north and one on the south coast of Cornwall, allowing shorter commutes for staff and a wider project catchment area. Founded June 2021, by Julian J Mills Main people Julian J Mills, Dan Ranson, Mel Deere

Where have you come from? We were born out of a desire to design collaboratively and create sustainable buildings, built for lifestyle and inspired by the landscape around them. It all kicked off when Dan (Ranson) and I (Julian Mills) met at the Centre of Alternative Technologies (CAT) in Wales while carrying out our Part 2s. Ten years on from mulling over the future of the built environment in the foothills of the Brecons, the idea of starting our own practice came back up.

Both of us had been through a series of larger award-winning sustainable architecture practices across the UK (Liam Russell Architects, Orme Architecture and Arco2) but it wasn’t until we had slowed the pace of working for either ourselves or for smaller firms that led to the collaboration. The team then grew quite quickly, due to our fortunate position of being catapulted into a rather large and varied workload from the get-go.

When the business rapidly took off, my partner Mel was working for a leading interior design company but had a background in marketing and business development, so when we needed a lynchpin it seemed a natural step to bring her skillset into what we were creating.

"Studying at CAT isn’t part of the ‘job spec’ but it’s a good grounding for how we work"

The team also has a number of collaborators which we have met along the way. Interestingly, all of them have shared a stint at CAT. This hasn’t necessarily been part of the ‘job spec’ but does seem to provide a good grounding for how we work currently, and wish to continue to work.

/what work do you have and what kind of projects are you looking for? We haven’t been prescriptive about project type apart from that the clients need to share our ethos: design to be just enough; considered material choices for both you and the planet; true sustainability. This seems to have given us a magnetism for truly individual projects but, more so, clients. They are more often than not people who have been creatives in their own rights, not just in design but in carving their own paths in life: artists, economists, fashionistas, self-builders, leaders and teachers, for example. This brings a diverse range of styles, project sizes and types. We currently have a number of new builds which are reaching Passivhaus standards. One takes on the form of a modern adaptation of a Cornish cottage vernacular, another is a play on a ‘1960s case study house’ and our most recent one is what we class as ‘hidden rural’ – a house that at a glance could well be a rudimentary farmstead, but is actually a cutting-edge, highly environmentally friendly family home.

It is not all bells and whistles, however, and that’s what keeps us grounded. Our backgrounds as individuals is specialising in truly sustainable design, both the grass shirt stuff and the technical number-crunching. We have a fair few deep renovation projects focusing on using natural materials to achieve high levels of insulation and airtightness, as well as minimising embodied carbon.

We have formulated a simple questionnaire for prospective clients to start thinking about how their buildings actually work and what effects this will have on keeping our global temperature below a 1.5°C rise. Taking a lot of learning from Architects Declare and the RIBA’s 2030 challenge has helped to open discussions and ultimately focus clients on what we hope to achieve with their projects.

Huefield model by STUDIO/gather /what are your ambitions? Recently we were asked the same question by a business coach and mentor we took on. It can sometimes come across as being a bit egotistical to be too ambitious these days, but we took the opportunity to nail our colours to the mast – we are a young fresh design studio after all. The outcome of the discussion was that in fact, our ambition is quite humble. We wish to balance profit with purpose and produce a high-quality design that is in line with our values.

We wish to be renowned for creating sustainable, progressive architecture along with working on jobs and with clients who put the environment first.

Our ambition doesn’t lie with size or turnover but with knowing that we are not standing still, keeping an innovative mind, researching, educating and investing in processes and tools for the best sustainable solutions.

Dan keeps a good handle on this by working as a visiting lecturer and design tutor at Falmouth University, while the rest of the team are gaining more letters after their names with certifications in Passivhaus design, etc.

I guess a goal for all of us is the perhaps mythical work-life balance. We are lucky that both our personal and private lives revolve around the coast. This setting is constantly inspiring us and grounding us.

There is nothing quite as good as a site meeting that ends with a dip in the sea with a client, a contractor, or even the whole design team. /what are the biggest challenges facing yourself as a start-up and the profession generally? The climate emergency. Be you a young buck or an old bull of a practice, getting skilled up to fight climate change and putting it into practice on projects is hard work. Further to this, getting clients on board, and finding contractors who can build it right, let alone price it correctly, is then the next hurdle. An ever-changing, fluctuating and/or inflating material cost market then adds to the difficulty. It often feels like an insurmountable task but, fortunately, with a little digging you find there is a network there to help you keep pushing.

Our advice on this is to collaborate, connect, and speak to others who know more and also less (it helps keep your fire burning knowing you are sharing the knowledge).

In terms of fears, as a small firm finding its feet, it would have to be the enigma that is the Cornish property market. It feels that for some time there has been a trend to ‘make hay while the sun shines’ – a boom of city deserters post-Covid. We ask ourselves, will we see this end? And if there is a slowdown, are we prepared?

"Who are we really helping and what effect does this have on our communities?"

This also raises an almost ethical question of who we are really helping and what effect it has on our communities.

Fortunately, we feel that having a mixed project typology allows us to satiate our appetite for doing more for local people in regular houses while also getting our design fix on a choice selection of larger projects. A bit of fear does keep the wolf from the door and we will keep doing what we do as long as it looks like it works.

/which scheme, completed in the past five years, has inspired you most? We are drawn to schemes that feel they have a real place in their setting. Ones that capture the landscape and bring some drama in doing so. It's not about being flashy but something that is ‘just enough’.

There are a couple of standout practices in our mind that coincidently seem to be in a similar rugged landscape to ours – Mary Arnold-Forster Architects, Baillie Baillie and Rural Office.

To pick two: Farnham, by Rural Office Architecture. The modern twists and contextual understanding make this a standout project. Also the immense craft in the internal finishes. And Nedd, by Mary Arnold-Forster Architects. This project lets the landscape do the talking. A well-detailed, utilitarian dwelling that sits gently on the site and clearly was highly considered before pen hit the paper.

Nedd house, An Cala, Sutherland, by Mary Arnold-Forster Architects

Source: David Barbour

/how are you marketing yourselves? A little bit of marketing has been undertaken. We built a rough-and-ready website, which went live the first day we opened. It's actually still rough-and-ready but being expanded and is slowly evolving. This has generated some interest as it’s not quite the stereotypical architect's website. It has projects and a blurb, but it’s slightly more pared-back.

We are also on Instagram (@studio_gather), although this isn’t really a source for prospective projects but a nice place to pin all the work that goes on behind the scenes in the practice. It’s a mixed portfolio and is quite fun to add to. A good source of enquires is coming through from our relationships with contractors. This has helped us achieve a success rate with bids, as they have already been given a tour of the work we produce and often have spoken with current or past clients before we pick up the phone. Knowing how we work first-hand without us necessarily having to show it off speaks volumes.

It has also been really helpful for us to be educated on what does and doesn’t work on-site and upskilling the contractors on how certain types of construction go together.

Finally, it is our clients, whom we actually could not thank enough for helping us get to where we are already. Not only have they given us the opportunity – or had the belief we will complete projects above our perceived experience level – but they have told all their contacts to get in touch too.

This gives us great confidence we are doing the right thing and brings in a really nice flow of projects. Read the full article on the Architect's Journal.

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