In our latest Behind the B, Senior Architect, David Coulson, discusses what good design means to him and his interest in designing homes and spaces to support senior living.
What drew you to a career in architecture?
At school I had an interest in product design, and even harboured ambitions to become a car designer. However, when I was around 16, I remember watching a programme about Ralph Erskine and his work on the Byker Wall scheme in Newcastle. My family is from the North East, so it captured my attention, and I was struck by the way in which architecture married my interest in design with the potential to improve people’s lives. It was from that point that I decided to pursue it further.
As I’ve progressed through my career, I’ve aimed to deliver projects that continue themes similar to those of architects like Ralph Erskine, in creating communities and improving the lives of their occupants and users.
What does ‘good design’ mean to you?
I recognise that good design is a hugely subjective topic, but I would lean towards the belief that the design of buildings should be centred on the users and the occupants first, rather than lead with an aesthetically driven concept. For me, good design is something which is long lasting, well thought-out and fit for its intended purpose, but it should also be inspirational and provide a positive contribution to its environment.
What’s your favourite thing about your role at Buttress?
I really enjoy the process of design through to construction and working alongside the highly skilled designers within the studio. I also enjoy the variety of projects that Buttress works on from historic and listed buildings to residential and commercial schemes. It’s also a really warm and welcoming place to work.
You’ve recently worked on a number of Extra Care projects, what is it about those schemes that you find interesting?
These are often really interesting schemes because you’re not just creating a home for an individual, but you also have to consider a range of health and social care needs first, which brings a range of new challenges. This might be ensuring that the building layout is simplified and that unhelpful stimuli are removed to support the physical, cognitive, and sensory needs of an individual living with dementia or creating a connection to the outdoors to aid residents’ mental and physical well-being.
It’s also heart-warming to create places that allow someone who might have been living on their own or in a building that’s unsuitable for them, to move into a supportive environment that’s fit for their situation and where they can become part of a wider community.
What is your favourite Buttress project to date?
I would say Heathlands Village in Prestwich, a care home that provides support and care for independent and nursing led residents.
Over the years, the building had undergone piecemeal design and development which had resulted in a jumbled layout. Our redevelopment saw the creation of a new entrance and reception area to provide a clear point of arrival to what had become a confused elevation, alongside improved external landscaping to create a sense of identity and place. Internally, communal area such as the day care, dining room and café were also improved.
The project presented many challenges, but I enjoyed the process of unlocking the building and solving its puzzle to create better-quality spaces so that the people working and living there could feel more comfortable and more at home.
What are the highlights from your time at Buttress?
Standout moments from my time at Buttress would have to be passing my final exams and meeting my partner while working at the practice. In recent years, it has also been great to witness the studio grow, achieve awards successes, and see the practice become a destination for new colleagues within the industry.