Build Executive Awards 2016

Build 2016 Executive Awards 4 s is often the case for businesses in such a volatile, constantly changing industry, the mission of Architecture:WK has seen subtle changes over time. When Wisam started the practice, the idea was to “save the world” with environmentally sustainable buildings. Nowadays, this aspect is part of the remit of every architect, and as Sam’s teams were finding themselves building more residential projects, the company mission shifted to making each of these individual creations an architectural gem within its setting and context. “We pride ourselves on a hardworking, ethical and professional practice that builds lasting relation- ships with staff, clients and contractors,” Wisam summarises. A few years ago, Architecture:WK developed a new initial design service to accommodate smaller projects. This involves a workshop at the clients’ property where we spend a few hours understanding their brief, wish list and requirements, answering any questions or concerns they may have and developing a proposal with them. This way, they have a better understand- ing of the limitations and possibilities of their site and proposals with fewer misunderstandings down the line. The service has been so successful that we now use it with all new clients. “I believe that the main characteristics of our practice are threefold,” Sam says. “Firstly, we are focused on good design and high quality information to enable the finished product that clients hope for. Secondly, we tend to achieve excellent value for money for our clients – albeit residential clients will have little scope for comparison. Lastly, our experience in the field, combined with our avoidance of technical jargon makes the process more accessible and, therefore, more enjoyable for our clients.” Wisam believes that, in this line of work, it is important to pay attention to detail, even going so far as to claim that “all architects require a certain level of OCD, together with a dedication to excellent client service.” However, as a business director, she recognises the importance of remembering to step back from the business periodically, to evaluate the direction of the market as well as the practice. “I believe in taking people with me,” Wisam states, “not just telling them what to do; we have a collaborative approach in the practice, and paying at- tention to the personal issues of colleagues is important – after all, we spend more time together than we do with our own families. We have regular staff meetings to make sure that everyone knows what’s going on and what their targets are; I usually ask what others think before making decisions; I think that people should be allowed to try things out and make mistakes in order to learn; we take on new graduates as well as supporting local schools, by taking on work experience students, and it is important for them to have hands-on involvement to help them learn to make their own decisions. “In order to meet our targets, we often also draw on people strengths whilst giving them the opportunity to develop new skills. On the whole, I would say that we have a collaborative leadership style, and that I am probably a democratic pace-setter.” Controlling the ebb and flow of the business in this manner is part of a carefully considered strategy by Wisam, to ensure that his firm remains just the right size to provide a consistent level of service to clients. “Having had experience in different size practices prior to setting up Architecture WK,” she explains, “I had an understanding of the issues that are important to clients and staff. Larger practices can’t always adapt sufficiently quickly to suit clients with residential project; a small practice avoids patronising clients with technical jargon and allows them to be fully involved in the design process.” As Wisam makes clear, the construction industry is invariably one of the first to suffer and the last to recover in the event of a recession; in Architecture: WK’s case, this was true of the last economic downturn. “In this particular area, comprising Greater London and the South West,” she explains, “there has been a great deal of development in recent years, and due to high property prices, clients are keen to control construction costs. “Concerns regarding Britain’s exist from Europe hover us,” Wisam acknowl- edges, “and only time will tell of the impact that this will have on the cost of materials and products, and therefore, building costs.” At the moment, the industry is buoyant with a positive outlook – until, Wisam says, in March, when Prime Minister Theresa May intends to trigger Article 50 that will see Britain begin the process of leaving the EU. The economic impact on the industry that Wisam describes might not have seen an imme- diate effect in the aftermath of the referendum, as markets remain cautious, but they appear to be looming on the near horizon. With this in mind, and having resisted the temptation to grow the practice beyond levels that might be considered optimal, largely to retain the quality of the designs and drawings that they issue, Architecture:WK are at another crossroads, where they may take a different view. “The practice now has more experience and as we update how we deliver our services, there may be more scope to grow the business, depending on the country’s economic and European future.” Architecture WK ltd Best Architecture Company Owner - South England Best Residential Architecture Project: The Green House Architecture:WK is a small, design-oriented architectural practice, with an expansive portfolio of detailed and successful domestic and commercial projects. With 16 years’ experience in delivering on design and budget, as well as onsite contract administration, Wisam Kamleh and her team deliver a client-focused, adaptable service, whilst keeping the practice at a scale that continues to offer a personal and friendly design and construction process. A BUE160002