Professional perspectives

October 2, 2020

The team at Newcastle-based architecture practice ADP reflect on building joy in a brave new world

In the spring of 2020, ADP shifted focus. As an employee-owned business, the firm was eager to understand its place in the world. What did its 100 staff – working across the UK and internationally – bring to the communities where they lived and worked? What was the actual purpose of ADP?

The answer, the team decided, was centred on ‘joy’. Joy is a very human emotion, and it’s distinct from happiness. It encapsulates how people feel when they belong to a place, connect meaningfully with others, and feel valued within a community – whatever and wherever that might be.

It’s also clearly a part of the passion ADP’s team feels for their work. They’ve been busy developing new tools to measure the firm’s impact, using three key metrics: sustainability, belonging and engagement.

All three fall under the broader umbrella of ‘social value’ – always a central issue in architecture, but now increasingly important to clients. In fact, the team’s commitment to measuring those metrics was key to ADP’s recent appointment to the new Procure Partnerships Framework in all regions of England, including the North East.

Amrit Naru, ADP’s Newcastle director, reflects:
“The communities where we work are very important to us – they inspire every one of our buildings. As we work through projects with our clients, the new tools that we’ve created will help us figure out which actions to take.”

Real-world problems demand specialist skills – and that’s where the ADP sector directors come in. It’s their role to help the Newcastle team solve the many challenges faced by clients in the region.

So has the pandemic changed their thinking? We asked each of them to share their perspectives – from bold new concepts to the little things that make a real difference.

Jon Roylance – higher education
“It’s been a challenging year for our clients, including the ‘five- university’ framework across the North-East. The lockdown led to big losses in student fees. But there’s a more positive outlook as we enter a new academic year. UK admission numbers are on the way back up, balancing out the expected losses from international students.

“At ADP, we’re now helping universities plan for after the pandemic. Campuses will need to be less densely packed, and we’re exploring more ‘nomadic’ ways that students and staff can work and learn. This new world blends an online curriculum with valuable contact time with tutors and peers.

“We’re currently developing concepts for a new ‘third space’: somewhere students can safely meet, interact, and share ideas in smaller, safely distanced groups. This would also
give staff a place to provide contact time and pastoral support. The idea is to offer more than a conventional workplace – it’s somewhere that actively improves wellbeing.”

Chris Thornton – healthcare
“Primary care is going to bekey–andnotjustin health centres. The role of the GP is changing. Health and wellbeing professionals now cover a wider range of services: there’s no standard for how primary care fits into this very complex system, including everything from acute care to social outreach.

“This gives primary care huge crossover potential. We’re seeing new centres that bring together every combination of health, wellbeing and community services, and we’re seeing primary care networks that can combine practices virtually. It’s not just the demand that’s fuelling these facilities: it’s individuals and groups passionate for change.

“Using digital technology in new ways, or mixing healthcare with leisure, community facilities, sheltered housing, mental health services – the possibilities are endless.”

Adrian Bower – residential
“The pandemic has created many challenges beyond health and wellbeing. Phrases like ‘social distancing’, ‘self-isolation’ and ‘lockdown’ reflect new kinds of relationships between people, and we need to design with those in mind.

“Lockdown has meant that people are spending much more time in their homes and thinking about them in a new light. People are working from home more, and there’s a greater desire for green space, with the focus shifting to the countryside and the suburbs.

“With the easing of lockdown, we’ve seen signs of recovery – much of it fuelled by historic shortfalls and pent-up demand.

However, the way we design houses needs to change to fit our needs. ADP has the cross-sector skills to respond to that challenge: we’re focusing on creating sustainable neighbourhoods, where people feel they belong, where homes are built to last and respect the planet, and where there’s scope for people to change their lifestyles.”

Claire Mantle – schools
“Throughout the pandemic, we focused our attention on our own values: the little things that matter in our personal and professional lives. It’s inspired us to develop a tool which assesses our buildings based on our values. We wanted
to measure the success of architecture through three key metrics: sustainability, belonging and engagement.

“As architects, we have a responsibility to evaluate every building we complete – and to learn from those lessons. It’s important to ask challenging questions. Did we successfully meet the KPIs? How does the building perform in terms of energy? And – from a very human perspective – what are the little things that make a difference to
the people using the building?

“It’s invigorating to think that despite the challenges of lockdown, we now have the vision, inspiration and tools to design better buildings which will help our children to thrive.”


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