Last month we had the first annual study trip of two years – a time to strengthen our team and build our skills together. In an effort to live out a commitment to reducing our carbon footprint, we kept our explorations within the UK, and set off one Friday for sunny Sussex.
En route, we stopped at Stonehenge to check out the recently opened visitors centre and consider how the contemporary sits among the ancient. Next up, we visited the recently acclaimed Lovedon Fields development to gain inspiration for some of our own projects in the office. A generally attractive scheme, it is especially generous in the way it only occupies a portion of the site and gives the remainder to a wildflower meadow – a haven of biodiversity for the community. One happy resident welcomed us into her home and was delighted with the dual-aspect living space, views across the fields and exceptionally low energy bills.
The climax of the trip was a tailor-made sketching course at the Weald & Downland Museum – home to both BBC2’s The Repair Shop and Cullinan’s Downland Gridshell, amongst others. In an industry always pushing the next BIM level, it can be easy to get so lost in our computer screens that we forget the art and importance of sketching. The course gave us the chance to learn news techniques and try them out on the eclectic mix of buildings rescued from all parts of the UK. The best part for many was being granted two hours’ uninterrupted sketching time where we could give our pen and paper the time it deserves but so rarely gets! We left feeling inspired to get out our sketchbooks again on holiday (family and friends beware) and more confident to try colour washes and alternative styles to represent our observations and ideas.
Sunday was a trip down memory lane for Chris and Spencer, who met while studying at Portsmouth University. We toured the peninsular before arriving at the historic dockyard for a peek inside the Mary Rose Museum. It was a fantastic display of Henry VIII’s ruined flagship – including the surgeon’s saws and the skeleton of the cook’s dog, but didn’t convince any of us to down tools and make our living aboard a 16th century battleship.
There was time for just one more stop before returning to Bath – a visit to the New Art Centre at Roche Court. We could have happily spent hours losing ourselves among the sculptures and contemporary architecture, my personal favourite of which was Antony Gormley’s Quantum Cloud XIV (2000) [pictured below]. By connecting simple stainless-steel rods, he conveys how many of us feel with plates spinning, emails whirring and ideas darting back and forth.