Monday, 20 September 2021

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STANDARD Property wanted to know more about this weekend’s RIBA event, so she sat down with project manager and local town councillor Sarah Miller — the ‘architect’ of Henley Design Day

STANDARD Property wanted to know more about this weekend’s RIBA event, so she sat down with project manager and local town councillor Sarah Miller — the ‘architect’ of Henley Design Day

A design day sounds interesting, but what’s it all about?

Henley Design Day (HDD) is a one-stop shop to showcase architects and design experts. Basically, if you are planning to turn your garage into a bigger kitchen, add another room or just want to create more space without moving house, then this is the place to come.

The design day is the only showcase for architects in the area. They are all based locally so they have a huge amount of local knowledge and experience of the local planning system.

The design day is a great opportunity to meet architects and see who is the best fit with you.

But can’t I just pick an architect out of the Yellow Pages?

No, no, no. Choosing the right architect for you is very important. Nearly all of the architects that come to HDD are RIBA members, which means you have a professional on your side who knows the construction industry inside out.

You are working with someone who has undertaken seven years of architectural training — no other building professional is trained in design and construction to such a high level of expertise.

How did you come up with the idea for the event?

I was new to RIBA, a bit wet behind the ears, and over a coffee was chatting to a colleague about how one goes about finding the right architect.

My own views on using an architect at the time were negative. I wrongly assumed they all wore tweed, just drew plans and charged a fortune.

I was very pleasantly surprised to find out that all the above was not right — apart from one or two — but more importantly I found their experience and insight can help stretch what can be achieved within your budget and add value on top. So with 28 years of commercial event management behind me I decided to see if we could shatter this myth I and many other people have of architects and invite a handful of local architects to showcase themselves.

Having lived in Henley all my life, the venue was always going to be the town hall — one of my favourite buildings. I put out an invitation and was amazed at how many practices wanted to take part.

Our first event in 2013 had over 25 exhibitors. And we had over 300 visitors. We now include a few interior designers, landscape gardeners, kitchen and tile suppliers. It’s getting bigger and bigger each year. In 2017 we may have to set up in the Market Place as well.

Sounds fancy. But I’m only after a rear extension. Is it worth me coming along?

Of course it is. My own extension was just a garage conversion. We have a very varied crowd who rock up to the design day.

We have first-time buyers with their plans or photographs, wanting advice on how to create space. Families who want to build into the attic or cellar to create that extra room. And then we have those who wish to demolish their home and start again.

On top of this we also have visitors from larger building and construction companies. There’s a good mix of people who come along.

Ah, great. Do I need a ticket?

Entry is free to all, and you don’t need a ticket — just turn up. There will also be a pop-up coffee shop courtesy of Hot Gossip and the Mayor, Councillor Lorraine Hillier, is popping in to say hello.

You must have seen loads of incredible buildings. What takes the biscuit as the most bizarre?

The Exbury Egg. Look it up online when you can — it’s certainly bizarre. The Egg is a temporary, energy efficient, self-sustaining workspace for artist Stephen Turner in the estuary of the River Beaulieu. Basically the Egg is tethered like a boat to rise and fall with the tide. It looks odd. And I think it is odd. But each to their own.

Concrete and steel, or wood and stone?

Whatever the style, buildings should suit their environment. Modern materials are more efficient and can play a part in construction of any type. So to answer your question — both! Personally, wood and stone for me.

What architects inspire you?

Now that’s a tough question. I’ve a love-hate relationship with many, but those who inspire me include Gaudi. If you visit Barcelona, you can’t help but love his buildings — they make your eyes water.

But we have some amazing female architects in the UK right now and I admire the work of Zaha Hadid DBE. In 2004 she became the first woman recipient of the Pritzker Architecture Prize and she received the RIBA Stirling Prize in 2010 and 2011.

It’s tough for women to get ahead in architecture but Dame Zaha has done a lot to pave the way for women architects. I’d like to see more.

Can you help me get 75 per cent off my dream design?


Fair dos.

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