Charles Bettes shares his thoughts on alternative routes into the profession of architecture in Building Design.

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ARB’s proposed education reforms offer the perfect opportunity to reimagine the profession, writes Charles Bettes

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The traditional three-part route to qualifying as an architect in the UK is outdated and exclusive. It doesn’t cater for those who can’t afford it or who learn in different ways; it hasn’t done enough to encourage individuals from diverse backgrounds and nor does it do enough to retain them.

During my education I felt that much of the course was focused on creating the ‘master architect’, which doesn’t relate to the real job done by most architects and is an outdated vision of what the architect should and could be. It also wasn’t what I wanted to be, which meant that I finished my Part 1 unsure about a career in the industry.

This master architect stereotype and training limits our areas of influence within the built environment and how we can communicate and relate to the rest of the team involved with creating buildings, as well as those who use them. For me, my interest in architecture started when I began working after my Part 1 and got experience on real projects in the city.

The skills I was able to learn and use whilst working felt far more real than what I felt was an overly conceptual environment at university. I was problem solving, building confidence by communicating with people, learning, thinking about the impact on the city and helping to build things.

For me these skills were more relevant and created a passion for the job. I always felt that there should be a different way to become an architect that was focused more on practice-based learning, where skills like problem solving, communication and analytical thinking can be celebrated and developed.

Anyone should have the opportunity to become an architect
During the pandemic, our practice talked about what we could do to support the industry and through discussions with POoR Collective, these conversations focused on how to make the industry more inclusive. Our views on education helped shape these conversations.

We shared the thought that anyone who has the passion and interest should have the opportunity to become an architect and that this should be achievable whilst earning a salary and learning in practice. Build The Way internship was our response to this and is focused on providing a real opportunity for someone with the right energy, drive, and passion to learn about and contribute to the built environment, but who had no architectural experience.

The intern would gain exposure to the industry and learn whilst contributing to live projects. They would develop office-based skills as well as architectural – computer modelling, CAD, etc. Whilst doing this they would earn a salary to ensure the opportunity was open to as many people as possible.

This was hard to make work from a business perspective; we are a small practice navigating a difficult market, but we felt that the internship had value and the interns could also add value back. That said it’s been one of the topics that has been hard to balance as we need to make sure Build The Way has longevity and can be expanded to other small practices.

It’s not just about alternative routes but new entry points too, which can help remove the financial barriers and help the profession be more inclusive.

The profession needs to be more responsive to learning styles, individual skills and the changing global context
A lot can change in seven years. Policies have changed and continue to do so, especially with tragic incidents such as Grenfell. As architects we have a responsibility to continue to learn and adapt the way we work to be able to create safe and responsible architecture.

Therefore the work place should already be a learning environment. That said, there feels like a large disconnect between the two and an opportunity to work together to strive for well-rounded architects with the skills to continuously learn and adapt to meet society’s needs and operate effectively within the industry.

There’s an opportunity for more learning to take place in practice, not only easing the financial burden on students who can earn while they learn, but also to provide a feedback loop between education and practice.

Being a partner practice at the London School of Architecture (LSA) over the past few years has opened our eyes to the change that can happen with a more collaborative approach. And the internship has also shown us that there are some areas that practice is not set up to teach. We’ve also learned that some people may still benefit from full time education, but there needs to be a choice.

The emergence of new training options, such as the RIBA’s Level 6 & 7 apprenticeship and LSA’s Part 4 modular learning, represents a great step forward. There’s an appetite for change and it excites us when we’re thinking about how to expand Build The Way and how we can partner with other internship/learning programmes.

Changing the perception of an architect
Architects have a varied reputation amongst society, often being seen as too egotistical, too expensive, too male, too white. The ARB reviewing their current accreditation system offers an opportunity to reframe what an architect is and does in relation to society and other areas of the built environment. Practice can support this change.

It feel like an opportunity to broaden the concept, celebrate the diversity of skills, approaches and backgrounds that an architect possesses, as well as reassessing how we participate in the built environment. It is also a chance to broaden who plays this role as a designer, making the profession more relevant, adaptable and equitable.

We need to ensure that practice and education supports the growth of these individuals

Architects have a range of skills and play a range of roles in the shaping of our built environment. We need to ensure that practice and education supports the growth of these individuals in a way that ensures high quality training, but allows for specialism and individualism.

We hope Build The Way will play a part in breaking down the stereotype of who an architect is by supporting and encouraging underrepresented groups and providing a more affordable route into the profession. Our aim with this programme is to inspire more people to explore a career in architecture and create a blueprint to support smaller organisations hire entry level positions for longer periods.

This isn’t ground-breaking or wildly innovative – it’s about creating options and opportunities, and creating an industry which is progressive and accepts change is necessary.


GPAD gets the green light for nine contemporary family homes built of a brownfield site in Croydon

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The site on Birchanger Road is located south of Norwood Junction station and is flanked by residential plots on the east, west and north sides, and is screened by many trees and shrubbery. The pedestrianised lane has been designed to be multifunctional allowing children across all age ranges to play and socialise with other residents on the development. The play has been integrated into the main communal garden area to encourage a community feel.

The homes provide quality internal spaces in terms of layout, scale, and volume. Mindful of light into the building, careful orientation of the houses, the creation of strategic gaps allowing natural light to flood in. The 3 bed homes each have a third-floor terrace and front and back gardens, contributing to the landscape strategy of the development.

The front façade of the nine homes twists away from the entrance to the street and the rear incorporates oriel windows, both features directing views away from neighbouring properties, establishing an intimate arrival into the homes, and ensuring privacy.

GPAD Managing Director, Charles Bettes adds “This scheme is about pushing the architecture and landscaping and being contemporary, whilst responding to the local vernacular and the constrained back land nature of the site. The form draws inspiration from the traditional with pitched roofs and twists on the bay window and brick is used by with different bonds and textures to provide interest and break down the mass. Small details like curved balustrading are introduced to provide some personality and fun to the houses.

Landscape architects Studio Bosk, builds on the existing landscape to create a vibrant and welcoming setting that aims to foster a community feel amongst the residents surrounded by mature planting. The design respects the existing matures trees which are currently living on site, by incorporating them into the landscaping.

Bettes continues “The homes are organised into three blocks that step with the level of the site and views through the site. A stepped twist incorporated into the plan looks to activate the communal landscaped areas and entrance way, whilst directing views away from neighbouring properties. These steps provide opportunities for interesting details and a variety of external spaces and greening.”

A brick façade provides a feeling of residential scale and quality with detailing to add quality, depth and interest through their textural and positive environmental qualities. Pitched mansards roofs, clad in charred timber, reflect the neighbouring homes, weather well, and add to the green qualities within the development.

A top the roofs biodiverse planting creates a variety of substrates to support a diversity of habitats and to support a mixture of plants, birds, and animals within the area.

Project Team:

Client: Northill Properties Ltd

Architect: GPAD

Planning Consultant: MJP Planning & Hillstone

Landscape Consultant: Studio Bosk

GPAD joins Notting Hill Genesis Development Framework

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We’re delighted to announce that GPAD has been selected to be on the Notting Hill Genesis development framework.

The framework will support NHG to deliver high-quality homes in vibrant, successful places, with a focus on creating thriving communities. GPAD is in small/specialist works which will deliver projects such as small new-build sites, refurbishments, and commercial fit out for NHG.

We are looking forward to attending the launch event to hear more about the framework, their development plans and to meet the rest of the members.

Notting Hill Genesis Press Release:

White Lion Street Shortlisted for an FX Award

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White Lion Street has been shortlisted for an FX award in the UK Workplace Environment, any size category.

The intention for this scheme was to create highly sustainable commercial building which improves the street scene and creates a desirable place to work. The design has a refined exposed aesthetic and introduces a contemporary identity through materiality and an open floor plate design, creating much needed workspace in the area. Drawing on the history of the building, which used to accommodate weavers/drapers, laser cut metal panels have been incorporated throughout with a pattern alluding to the sites history.

Winners are to be announced on 30th November 2022 at the awards dinner at Grosvenor House Hotel.

Build The Way 2.0

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Build The Way is an architectural traineeship for young people who are passionate about architecture and design.

Architecture should not be defined by wealth or social class. Currently, a career in architecture largely relies on being able to afford university. The cost of becoming a fully qualified architect is eye-watering. These financial barriers prevent less fortunate students from studying architecture. If we truly strive to create an inclusive, diverse, and equal industry then each of these economic hurdles must be addressed. While there has been an increase in initiatives in the industry, there still aren’t many opportunities for young people to work in an architecture office.

After a successful pilot year in 2021, GPAD took on the first Build The Way intern who has developed the skills to produce 2D & 3D drawings, engage in design discussions, and work collaboratively as part of the design team. We hope to expand the programme to create more opportunities over the next 2 years with the hope of expanding to the wider built environment in future years.

Heading into 2023 we hope to expand the programme to offer three internship opportunities across different practices in London. We hope to share more information on this soon. If you are interested in getting involved, please email

Harrow Road shortlisted for a British Homes Award 2022

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We are pleased to announce that our housing scheme on Harrow Road, Settle, has been shortlisted for a British Homes Award in the Development of the Year (up to 20 Homes) category.

This project is all about the quality of architecture and homes through a variety of methods including the use of protruding windows and the introduction of winter gardens to maximise light penetrating the properties. The scheme is a fine example of good collaboration and communication amongst the wider project team, and we are really delighted with the final outcome of these high quality homes.

Winners are to be announced on 30th September 2022 at the awards lunch at The Londoner Hotel.

GPAD completes Vienna House in Birmingham

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Vienna House underwent a refurbishment and extension to inject personality and create characterful offices. The scope of work included improvements to the reception area and the open-plan office floor plates which have been upgraded with a contemporary, warm interior fit-out and increased floor to ceiling heights. A new build cycle pavilion element has been added to the development which houses high quality commuter facilities.



Tailor’s Corner is a finalist for a BCO Award 2022

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Tailors Corner is a finalist for the British Council for Offices Awards in the Recycled/Refurbished Workplace category. What a great start to the year, well done to the project team.

The design for Tailor’s Corner includes a complete refurbishment of the façade, including the reinstatement of a traditional shop front more in keeping with the original age of the building, refurbished interior, and new roof terraces.

The BCO awards acknowledge innovation and focuses external attention on examples of best practice. Established in 1992, the competition has grown and developed over the years with a number of innovations to categories and the way the Awards are presented.

16 Eastcheap shortlisted in the AJ Retrofit Awards 2022

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We are pleased to announce that our recent refurbishment of 16 Eastcheap has been shortlisted for an AJ Retrofit Award in the workplace £5million – £10million category.

Situated in the City of London, the original building is extremely robust and with having had several different iterations, the team felt it was imperative to keep the existing building and be the next stage of its lifecycle. 16 Eastcheap will continue to contribute to the conservation area, bringing additional social value in the City.

The AJ Retrofit Awards, brought to you by The Architects’ Journal, celebrate the design expertise behind the vital renewal and repurposing of existing buildings, slashing the industry’s carbon footprint in the process. With a huge spend on upgrading housing, commercial and industrial buildings in prospect, retrofits will play a major role in the future of UK construction. The awards cover nine categories, including healthcare, housing, higher education and listed buildings.

Adding value to office design through roof terraces; featured in OnOffice

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Due to recent circumstances the necessity for outdoor space has never been more important, not only due to the pandemic but also the general move towards improving mental and physical wellbeing within the workplace. With the average person spending 30% of their life working and the move back to office environments commencing, outdoor office space is a crucial amenity.

Currently on site, White Lion Street, is GPAD’s largest project to date. The new development is a seven storey office building in the heart of Angel, Islington. White Lion Street introduces a contemporary identity through materiality and an open floorplate design, creating much needed workspace in the area.

When the planning application was originally made back in 2018, the main focus for the developers was leading towards maximising net internal area as this is what their profits are based on. Now, more recently, we have seen a shift in tenant priorities due to employers prioritising the health and wellbeing of their employees. This created an opportunity to make a separate application whilst the site is in its construction phase to include more outside space.

Conscious to not reduce the internal workspace available, the new terraces were placed in areas which were originally flat roofs. The large roof terrace will include seating and biodiversity with wildflower planting. To ensure minimal overlooking, the design includes green screening, using a biodiverse range of tall planting and trees to minimise overlooking and provide better aspect views for the surrounding residents.

There has always been rental premium attached to space that has access to outside space, whether communal or private. However, in recent years there has been a shift in the priority for wellness in occupants for office landlords and agents. Since the beginning of the pandemic, wellness has been further promoted and deemed essential in welcoming back staff to the workspace.

For a while now we have seen the benefits of increasing indoor plants into the office, increasing oxygen and for better brain productivity. By introducing more than just seating on terraces you create a calming atmosphere with prolonged benefits. GPAD’s relationship with John Davies Landscape has showcased how their designs are more than the architecture but the environment they produce. Their award winning design for Stylus is an example of how a smaller terrace can embody a soothing environment through striking seating, planting and green walls.

Continuing their work with John Davies Landscape earlier this summer, GPAD developed a sustainable urban environment atop Tailors Corner, a new commercial refurbishment in Leeds. The creation of the garden contributes to urban greening and can help form a network of wildlife corridors, encouraging biodiversity. Not only do we notice the physical and mental health benefits introducing a roof terrace to the workplace but also the opportunity for social interaction and inclusion. Not to exclude the functional purpose of a roof terrace; for meetings, break out and lunchtime spaces.

16 Eastcheap, a refurbishment of a late-Victorian building by GPAD, includes a new roof terrace with the aim to reduce work related stress for tenants and increase workplace productivity through improving memory and focus. As well as the health benefits, the new terrace reconnects the experience of the building to its central location by unlocking panoramic views across the city.

For commercial buildings to thrive they need to stay relevant and adjust to the requirements of the tenants. This involves tackling the bigger questions currently being raised around the future of the office and how will they look post-pandemic. With a large focus on mental wellbeing in the workplace and how to encourage positive productivity, external workspaces are a step in the right direction and one GPAD are keen to continue to pursue in future developments.

As featured in OnOffice.