We imagine buildings that exceed their habitual needs, investing in them a level of quality and pride that will come to inspire and elevate people for generations. It is this legacy that motivates us to continue to develop our ideas.
Established in Newcastle in 1962, through the amalgamation of WH Williamson & Partners and HF Brown, we set out with the ambition to deliver buildings of national significance. This was soon rewarded with prestigious awards from the RIBA and Civic Trust for the delivery of Jesmond Library and Nottingham University Library, leading to commissions for a further eleven university libraries.
From our new home ‘Dobson House’, a culture of innovation and research enabled us to pioneer the development of the sports building typology. The construction of Europe’s largest dome at Lightfoot Sports Centre marked a shift in the perception of sport facility design. This, alongside technical innovations in playing surface performance, helped establish our long held association with sport.
The free-form leisure pool at Bletchley was a significant development as it represented the evolution of a number of new leisure concepts, designed to meet growing public demand.
Later, we were commissioned by the Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Executive to produce a design guide for the new network of Metro stations. Subsequently, this knowledge informed our approach to the refurbishment of stations on the London Underground system.
As a result of increasing workload we expanded. Holding a strong belief in design management we contributed to a number of National initiatives - including the RIBA Plan of Works - and became a founding partner in the National Building Specification (NBS).
A proliferation of sports and leisure projects brought new opportunities and ideas. The novel concept of ‘leisure ice’ was introduced into Doncaster Leisure Dome and our development at Poole signalled a new breed of commercial leisure destinations in the UK. On Shetland, Clickimin Sports Centre was the first of ten new community centres for the Isles.
The changing socio-political environment was reflected in the new Civic Offices at Chester-Le-Street, with a design symbolising a more open local government. Our previous experience in the typology was applied to deliver three new libraries for the universities of Durham and Newcastle, and Maynooth College.
Sheffield and Manchester were selected to host the World Student Games and the Commonwealth Games respectively. Our aquatic venue for the Student Games at Ponds Forge, included one of the most technically advanced pools in the world, delivering numerous world record times. The UK’s first indoor velodrome in Manchester also recorded world record times at the Track Cycling World Championships and became home to British Cycling. Designs were prepared for the Commonwealth Games aquatic centre and a flexible multi-sport facility and tennis centre at Sports City.
Exciting new concepts in a variety of combinations were realised, including indoor water parks, ice trails and multi-screen cinemas. Competition success brought our first overseas project at ‘s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands, delivering a blend of traditional sports and leisure facilities. This would be the first of many.
The changing nature of how we spend our money and leisure time spurred innovative concepts combining retail with entertainment. Xscape at Milton Keynes, Castleford and Braehead showcased the emergence of this new breed of leisure destination, introducing a real snow piste to a mix of attractions and retail. In Manchester, Chill Factore saw the delivery of the longest indoor piste in the UK. In France, our retail portfolio was augmented through a major regeneration project in Lyon.
In sport, an aquatic centre in Dubai for the world championships, a national velodrome for the Netherlands in Apeldoorn, a national ice arena in Nottingham, and the flagship training venue for the English Institute for Sport, were highlights.
New areas of work saw us engage in a national programme of school building - delivering schools at Leeds and Tameside - and complete a manufacturing and assembly plant for Airbus A380 wings.