Gaunt Francis gets involved in ‘Shape my Street’ Project

Earlier this week, Ffynnon Taf Primary School in Taff’s Well, South Wales, came to our offices in Cardiff where we got involved in their brand new project.


GFA Director, Alan Francis, talks about life as an Architect

Following the enthusiasm and engagement from the Welsh School of Architecture’s ‘Shape my Street’ project, which they won last year, the staff at Fynnon Taf decided to turn it into a full curriculum project. Year 5 and 6 pupils have been asked to submit a proposal for a brand new development of homes on their school field site in Taff’s Well. The proposal includes designing an individual home and collaborating with others to create a new community incorporating their designs.

Head teacher, Matthew Worth, expressed, “This is an exciting project for our fantastic pupils. We want them to experience all the positive and enjoyable elements of the design process, as well as to challenge them with ethics, environmental issues and conflict from the existing community of Taff’s Well.”


Alan explains the pupils’ project brief

The morning started with Gaunt Francis Director, Alan Francis, giving the pupils and teachers a brief tour of the office, to allow the children to see how real life architects work in a live practice. This was then followed by a chance for the pupils to ask Alan any questions they may have had.

Alan then introduced the project brief to them with a PowerPoint presentation, in which he gave plenty of guidance on how to approach the brief. For the first part of the project, the children have been asked to design a home and think about 6 key themes: Form, Function, Materials, Transparency, Adaptability, and Environment. The second part of the project is to design a new community and, again, have been asked to consider 6 key themes: Patterns, Density, Space, Movement, Community, and Ecology. As Alan continued to go through the project brief, the children were very enthusiastic and asked plenty of questions in order to help them prepare.


The pupils were keen to ask many questions

This project comes after a new curriculum guidance was introduced, and as such pupils are encouraged to undertake projects where all subject areas are mixed together in a holistic approach to learning . The pupils will have until the end of November to complete and present their designs. A group of architects, environmental experts and members of the local community will view the presentations before selecting a winning submission later this year.

We at Gaunt Francis can’t wait to see what these brights students come up with!

The Architecture of Paris

The city of Paris – a beautiful place filled with some of the most famous architectural masterpieces in the world such as the Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame, and the Louvre. Let’s face it, they’re the first place a tourist is going to go to capture that perfect picture for Instagram. But the people who really love architecture tend to travel in a slightly different way, which is exactly what Gaunt Francis architect Kim did.

Kim developed a passion for post-war architecture during her studies, having been tutored by architect and academic Professor Pete Salter. As a keen photographer, Kim is able to capture some stunning images, which she actively posts on her Instagram page – BetonBrut. Kim spent 3 days discovering some true hidden gems around the city, in areas which a typical tourist isn’t likely to explore as the most striking examples of Parisian Post War architecture are found beyond the ‘Périphérique’ in the zones that saw rapid expansion in the second half of the twentieth century.

Her first stop was the Beaubourg area of the 4th arrondissement of Paris, near Les Halles.

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Centre Georges Pompidou

The image, taken by Kim, is the Centre Georges Pompidou, commonly shortened to Centre Pompidou. It was designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano and British architect Richard Rogers. The project was awarded to the team thanks to an architectural design competition. It was the first time in France that international architects were allowed to participate.

It is named after George Pompidou – the President of France between 1969-1974 and officially opened in 1977. Located on 19 Rue Beaubourg, it is one of the most iconic building in Paris and houses the Mussée National d’Art Moderne which is the largest museum for modern art in Europe. Its exposed skeleton of brightly coloured tubes for mechanical systems was the beginning of a new era of architecture and is a must visit.

Ivry-sur-Seine - 02


Kim’s next destination was Ivry-sur-Seine in the Parisian banlieues. It is an 8-buildings complex and is a 60,000 inhabitant municipality that sits on the South East periphery of the city, known as an ‘Banlieues Rouge’ due to the repeated election of a communist mayor. As such the municipality has significant emphasis on social and affordable housing, with the most radical elements designed by the Architect Jean Renaudie alongside his wife Renée Gailhoustet. . The three buildings ‘Danielle Casonova’, ‘Jeanne Hachette’, and ‘Jean-Baptiste Clément’ are named respectively after a Communist resistant to the Nazi occupation, a 16th century French heroin and a member of the 1971 French commune.

Ivry-sur-Seine - 08


France has a long tradition of state social housing intervention. In 1775 the Royal Saltworks at Arc-et-Senans was built to accommodate workers.

Renaudie’s Ivry-complex is made up of 40 social dwellings, offices and stores which are mixed on different levels composing a almost pyramid structure. Nearly forty years after its construction, the freshness of the proposal remains intact, even if people who live it often don’t know the futuristic aim of the project. The oblique angles and the green element shaped the strategy to lighten the presence of concrete, in order to mix nature and architectural structure.

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Kim’s last stop was to the suburb of Créteil to see the housing blocks known as Les Choux de Créteil (The Cauliflowers of Créteil) – a name given due to the unusual shape of their balconies. This unique structure is a group of ten cylindrical towers, where each building stands 15 storeys high and was designed by the Architect Gérard Grandval, and completed in 1974.

The project was recognised as a “Heritage of the 20th Century” from the French Ministry of Culture; at the time the work was regarded as a symbol of 1970’s French architecture. The buildings’ unique shape is intended to be functional; the apartments’ living spaces are closer to the windows, and the 2-meter-tall balconies provide outdoor access and privacy at the same time. The round balconies were intended to evoke gardens and seasons.

In 1998, the municipality opted to upgrade the area. The central sprout, largely dedicated to families of precarious means, was rebuilt. To encourage social intermixing, the leaders dedicated a fourth of the apartments to students.

What remains striking with regards to these two projects are their unique approach to special organisation, both constructed to be symbolic centrepieces.

Part III Architectural Assistants discuss life at Gaunt Francis

Gaunt Francis is a fantastic place to work for obvious reasons – the amazing office views from the 13th floor in the Capital Tower, the friendliness of the staff, the flexible working hours, staff socials…the list goes on! But what is really great and unique about our practice is the incredible support our Architectural Assistants studying their Part III receive from the team here.

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For those who aren’t too familiar with the stages – in order to become a registered architect, you must earn three qualifications, commonly known as ‘parts’. It’s a very long process and involves an incredible amount of hard work. The Part I is usually fulfilled by a Bachelor’s degree from an ARB prescribed institution. The Part II usually consists of a year working in practice, followed by a two-year Masters program at an ARB prescribed institution. The Part III is then undertaken whilst working in practice and comes in a range of types from intensive 6-week courses to extended 2-year programmes, again at an ARB prescribed institution. The exam process includes: completing PEDR’s over 24 months, a case study of a project you have lead, a careers evaluation, an interview and a written exam. Whilst Part’s I and II are very design focused, Part III is is much more geared to preparing new architects to run a business, including all the legal and management ramifications that entails.

Some of our Architectural Assistant’s here at Gaunt Francis are currently completing, or have recently completed their Part III – an incredible achievement! They decided to share their experience about how supportive Gaunt Francis has been during their journey. Recently qualified Architect, Miranda Dettwyler, studied her part III at the Welsh School of Architecture at Cardiff University – one of the best ranked Architect Schools in the UK. Cardiff offer this programme as a 1-year full time course, or 2-year part time course – Miranda opted for the latter. Here is what she had to say:

“Gaunt Francis were incredibly supportive during my part III studies. We are required to write these reports called PEDR’s, which we write every 3 months; we write about what we’ve been doing for the last 3 months and what projects we’re working on and what kind of experience we are having. This is shown and discussed with our Practice Advisers, who will give us feedback. One of our Directors, Toby Adam, was my Practice Adviser – he was completely happy to do that and spent a lot of his time giving me as much advice as possible. It didn’t seem like a burden for him at all.


As a Part III you have to write a case study about a particular project and you need to have experience of all the RIBA stages, from 0-7. Some people I know from other firms really aren’t given the chance to do all these stages, or to go on site – they’ve usually only been given the earlier stages or the end stages. But here at GFA, they gave me a project which allowed me the opportunity to experience stages 3-7.  They then gave me another project in order for me to experience stages 0-2. I experienced every stage and got plenty of site time! I’d say my usefulness on site was a lot less than someone like one of our senior architects because I had only just finished my Part II, but they paid for me to go to these sites, paid for my train fare there and back; not only that but it’s also more of the senior architects time because it took more time to work with someone who had less experience. But again, they were happy to give me the time.

It was really difficult balancing all the work on top of my personal life – looking after 2 children and having a husband who travels a lot for work, it can be hard. But everyone here is just really willing to put energy and effort into me, which makes me want to stay here and continue to work for them. They spent so much time helping me with my case study to make it better, they even gave me paid study leave, and if I ever needed an hour here or there to talk about contract law, they would take the time to do that – and that’s their working time, they were more than happy to help and that makes me feel so appreciated here.”


Bianca, our Architectural Assistant is in her 2nd year of her Part III studies. Bianca is also studying it at the Welsh School of Architecture at Cardiff University. She expressed: ” The support I have received from Gaunt Francis has been really amazing. For my PEDR’s they have arranged for meetings and discussions whenever I have needed them and allowed me site visits when possible. Giving me paid study leave was something I really appreciated – many companies out there would make you take it as a holiday or unpaid so I feel very lucky that they did this.  The course at WSA is generally structured in such a way that enables logical and rigorous understanding of what is being learnt, as well as  where and why to go for supplementary information. The support provided by GFA is key as it further augments this with real, practical examples. You get the best of both worlds: rigorous and comprehensive theory through the academic environment fused with the exciting and unpredictable theory through practice.

It hasn’t so much been difficult but rather it has required constant focus, attention, energy, patience and perseverance – the fact that often, if not daily, time needs to be dedicated after work, including weekends, public holidays etc. for Part III study. But it’s all worth it.”

David, Architectural Assistant, is studying for his Part III at RIBA North. This is what David had to say: “RIBA North is based in Liverpool where I studied Part I and II and so I have a close relationship with the university. What I find great is that this course is predominantly distance learning which makes it more flexible in terms of studying – compared to WSA which is a lot more intense as you have either 1 or 2 years to complete it. The RIBA North offers candidates to take the final exam (which takes place over 3 days) in either the Spring or Autumn each year, which allows a lot of flexibility with writing the case study and gaining the right amount of experience. This year I have attended 8 days of seminar held at Chester University.


What I found really useful when attending the seminar sessions was realising what I had already been exposed to here at Gaunt Francis as I have been working on a complex project with many parties involved. This projects forms the basis of my case study and provides a wealth of experiencing the complexities of contracts, the various different stakeholders involved, attending site, attending design team meetings etc. Often it is not necessary for myself to attend these but Gaunt Francis encourage my participation to broaden my knowledge and see how various situations are negotiated. However, the work load is significant. Especially with the sunny weather, finding the motivation to study after a long day or week has been challenging!

In addition to all of this, lunchtime discussions with GFA Director, Toby, about various legal issues have been extremely helpful, as well as discussing things with other Part III students. Everyone is happy to take some time our of their busy day to answer any questions you may have and are willing to share their knowledge with you and we all learn from each other – even people who have been here for many years and have lots of experience are still learning from others. I feel a valued member of the GFA team.”

GFA Staff Social – a night at the Alchemist!

Last Friday, some of the team at Gaunt Francis decided it was time for another work social, and so we thought we’d check out the new restaurant that had recently opened in Cardiff – The Alchemist. It was an easy decision as the majority of us are real foodies and were keen to try their very theatrical cocktails!

We had a lot of fun – we received a warm welcome by the staff and were seated to our tables where we enjoyed an array of tasty food – with plenty of options to cater for all sorts of dietary requirements. The cocktails were weird and wonderful – like nothing we’d ever seen before! Some contained dry ice, jelly, white chocolate cream foam, and one was even topped with a giant kale leaf!

It’s great to really get to know one another in a relaxed and fun environment – but most importantly it is also a really good chance for the newest members of the team to get to know some of the others at Gaunt Francis over food and drink. There will certainly be more fun work socials later this year!

Gaunt Francis I.T manager – the next Bruce Lee?

At Gaunt Francis we take a great interest in our staff’s extracurricular activities; it’s a great way to connect with each other and let them know we appreciate and support them. Our I.T Manager, Simon Dodd, has been training in Shotokan Karate for an incredible 22 years!

Simon is currently black belt 4th Dan (Yondan), or in simple terms – he’s pretty damn talented –  and has been a club instructor in St. Athan for the last 11 years. His interest in the martial arts developed at the age of 8 when Simon and his friend were bullied in school, and so he wanted to learn self defence and gain confidence – not to mention his role model was the legend that is Bruce Lee! After trying out all sorts of martial arts such as Muay Thai, Tae Kwon Do, Kick Boxing, Judo and Jujtsu, Simon soon realised that Karate was the one for him and he has been fortunate to train with many famous instructors over the years, including Dave Hazard and Wayne Otto.

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The Welsh Karate Organisation is run by Paul Watson along with other instructors – all of whom are volunteers. Simon first volunteered and coached as a teenager and got his coaching certificate at 18 years of age; he has been running classes for the past 11 years in St. Athan. In fact, this club is the first club in the Vale of Glamorgan and first martial arts club in Wales to receive a Silver insport Disability Award – a major achievement!

Although not the most important thing for Simon, he was a great competitor and competed at a national level – he even made it onto the Welsh Squad. He soon left and retired from competition around 7 years ago, however is now slowly moving back into competition to support some of his students who have recently shown an interest.

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Over the last few years, Simon had hoped to pursue an academic career using martial arts as the focal point, to get a PhD scholarship and to try to bring martial arts to a greater recognition in the UK – but sadly being unsuccessful with the funding has meant that Simon hasn’t been able to pursue his ultimate goal.

Despite this, Simon has had some great success; his undergraduate thesis was published at Cardiff Met University which won an award, and his Masters thesis was published in an international journal, which was translated into several European languages. This soon led to an invitation to an international martial arts conference in Portugal where Simon presented his work. Simon has also written the foreword to a martial arts book and hopes to be writing a chapter in an academic publication later this year.

Here is Simon in action:

The GFA monthly CRIT Meeting


Samples and Booklets laid out ready for the CRIT meeting

Once a month in the Gaunt Francis office, a CRIT meeting is held for all of our staff to attend, which sees a member of staff present to the rest of the team about one of the current projects they are working on. It is a great chance for everyone to see what others are involved in, as well as to provide some useful feedback. This week’s CRIT meeting was slightly different, but just as interesting!

This week, our Part III Architectural Assistant, Bianca Dumea, gave a presentation on luxury Italian glass items fashioned by J&J, an Italian company and brand of beautiful, high class and bespoke collections. During her trip to Italy earlier this summer, Bianca visited the factories of J&J, which she found incredibly fascinating and decided to share this interesting topic with the rest of the GFA team.


Samples of the stunning glass collection by J&J

Her presentation began with a short history of glass, going on to explain how glass was discovered in 2500 BC, and is one of the oldest forms of sculpture in the world. Man-made glass is made out of ordinary materials, sand being the main ingredient. The use of glass was first developed in the Middle East to decorate beads and small vessels, and was later used in Egypt and Asia to make decorative valuables. Today, Italy -among other countries – is considered most famous for its glass craftsmanship and design. These techniques even migrated to America where they further customised their design and process – such as global brand Tiffany & Co. Needless to say, glass today is used everywhere.


Beautiful gold glass

Bianca went on to talk about J&J and their approach – “We refine and create high-value models through our craftsmanship and Italian design”. J&J was founded in 1985 and specialises in the production of stained glass and products that are characterised by the exclusivity and originality of their features. From mirrors and vases to living and bathroom furniture – just about anything can be made from glass. With the growth in production volume, J&J has become an affirmed leader in the production of Murano glass. Today, the J&J brand is synonymous with quality, elegance and traditions.


Individual Swarovski crystals are delicately placed onto the glass

The presentation also covered interesting facts about the process of producing the items, in which they use the ‘Muranese’ technique – a hybrid between Artigianale & Industrial  manufacturing and machinery; this involves high pressure water-jet cuts and washing, manual smoothing, fusion in 800°C ovens, using a spray room, and drying and assembling. The production time is around 10 days for orders out of their catalogue and 25 days for customised orders – this alone tells you how complex and intricate the process is in creating these incredible pieces.

Bianca was kind enough to bring in and display some beautiful samples of different types of textures and designs of glass for the team to see in the flesh. It was like nothing we’d ever seen before! Here are just some of the beautiful creations J&J have produced:

The J&J brand is signature of high class collections that give each home an allure of sophistication and luxury. Take a look at some of their work here: http://www.jej.it/en/

Gaunt Francis Architect contributes to Academic Publications

We are thrilled that one of our very talented Architectural Assistant’s, Dr Charles Drozynski, is contributing to a number of academic publications, due for release next year.


Along with his busy work load, Charles will be contributing to a number of academic books –  two of which will come in the form of edited books and one that Charles is co-editor of. The latter is entitled Civic spaces and Desire and is a project that has been put together by Charles, Diana Beljaars and Alicia Nahmad-Vasquez. The three have signed a contract with global publisher Routledge and the publication is planned to be released by the end of 2019.

The inspiration for this book came from a symposium organised at Cardiff University last year –  ‘Spaces of Desire’ was a conference of prominent academics from around the World including continental Europe, Australia and the UK. The project aims to explore the spatial representation of Philosophy through the intersection of Architecture and Geography. The core concept of the book is a Dleuzo-Guattarian definition of the production of Desire in an Ethical context of a civic debate.

In addition to this, Charles is writing a chapter on nostalgia in a post-Soviet context for a book edited by Professor Dak Kopec. Kopec is an Associate Professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and is an award-winning author. The subject of departure for the chapter is a particular reading of the writing by French Philosopher and Historian Michel Foucault and his theories on the role of bio-politics in the formation and re-formation of knowledge.

Charles has other publications in mind and all his research initiatives were, and are, intended to be lead by post-linguistic writing.

Charles is a Doctor of Architecture with academic relations with Universities in Australia, America and the UK. Alongside his work at Gaunt Francis, Charles is also engaged with teaching and researching at the Welsh School of Architecture and Kent School of Architecture. His previous work includes a research-post where he investigated the public perception and architectural integration of technologies with potential capacity to reduce energy consumption.


The Life of International Architects in Cardiff

Here at Gaunt Francis, we are fortunate enough to have a fantastic team of architects who come from all over the world – from across the Atlantic in North America to all the way Down Under. Each of them bring completely different things to the table. Creativity and new insights thrive in environments where people have different ideas and perspectives, which is what makes diversity so important among a team, and we really embrace that.


Cardiff Castle

For some of our Architects, life in Wales is some-what different to where they’ve grown up in terms of culture, people and architecture, and they’ve had to become accustomed to the Welsh way of life. Here’s what some of them had to say about their life in Cardiff.

Stephanie, from Germany explains: “I came to visit some friends here and fell in love with the place. There was also a serious lack of work opportunities back home, so I decided to take the plunge and go for it. Cardiff is incredibly green and has a seafront. I love the vibe, the people, the closeness to the water which has always been important to me. Cardiff is big enough to have the city feel but also the closer knit communities within their different districts. I love going for walks around Cardiff Bay and meeting friends in all the different types of coffee places – there are tonnes! I love all the places along the coast. Wales has such an amazing coastline and a lot of other small quirky places that are definitely worth visiting.

When I first moved here I found the lingo and being called ‘love’ everywhere you go took some getting used to, as well as different rules and regulations. There are a few things that I do miss back home which you sadly can’t get here – like German bakeries and the choices of fresh bread and pastries. The architecture here is one of my big bug bears – I really don’t like these typical residential communities built by one contractor and how every single new ‘community’ looks the same as the previous one. We have far more variety back home and private houses rarely look one like the other. There are many other differences between my hometown and Cardiff – for one, my hometown only has around 30,000 inhabitants and the surrounding area is a lot more rural. In terms of culture, we have a wide range of Italians, Turkish, former Yugoslavian and Russian people, whereas in Cardiff there is much bigger Asian population. I would say the best moment of my time here is the amazing people that I’ve met and made such great friends- spending time with them all and my beautiful girls is the best thing ever.”

Miranda, from Texas says, “After many years of living in different countries, my husband got a great job at Cardiff University and we’ve been here ever since. What I really love here is the friendliness of the people, all the green space and the nearness of the sea and the mountains. However, if there was one thing that I really miss back in Texas I’d have to say proper Mexican food! There are an awful lot of cultural difference between Cardiff and back home; I find that Cardiff is much more walk-able than the US. I rarely use our car and get to most places by bike or on foot, which is much better for the environment and me. In terms of architectural differences, housing in the UK is much more dense, gardens are small and sharing a party-wall with your neighbours is normal. I had to get used to hearing people next door, but I think it does make for a more tightly-knit community. Living in Wales, I think it is important to learn the language of the country you live in, and so my understanding  of the Welsh language is fairly good as I’ve taken courses up to intermediate level and my children attend welsh-medium schools.”


Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay

Irene, from Milan says, “I decided to move to the UK because I wanted to gain more work experience and after having lived in Austria and Italy I decided to take a chance and go for it. When I chose to move to the UK I felt that Cardiff was the best option for me – it’s quite a small city therefore easy to get around by foot or by bike. I also love living by the sea, and London and Bristol are only a train ride away. Cardiff offers such a great quality of life and I absolutely love living here. It’s a wonderful city if you love nature – like myself. There are lots of parks, mountains nearby and we’re right by the coast. There is so much going on here and the cost of living in relatively low compared to bigger cities like London or Bristol. I’d say my favourite thing to do is going to the Brecon Beacons and the Glamorgan coast – it’s just beautiful.

When I moved here it took a while to get used to driving on the other side of the road! I miss my family a lot as well as proper Italian food. I also miss a really warm summer and the Mediterranean Sea. There’s a real cultural difference between here and my hometown back in Italy – just the way of life, the food, the people, the buildings, and certainly the weather. Saying that, the weather recently has been fantastic as I’ve mostly spent it at the seaside with friends and I’ve loved every minute of it. Wales is such a beautiful country and there are still so many places that I want to visit – especially Snowdonia and Pembrokeshire. ”

Max, from Sydney says, “The main draw to the UK was fulfilling my long term goal of experiencing living in another country. Also, lots of my friends had moved over here after university; other reasons included my sister and my partner both living in the UK. I was particularly drawn to Cardiff because after living in London for some time I really wanted a change of pace and to broaden my experience. My partner is from Wales and works here, so this setup is more convenient for the both of us. Cardiff has a much better quality of life than London and it has a real connection to the outdoors. I love the friendly attitude of the Welsh – it reminds me of the Australian attitude – not just the swearing, drinking and rugby prowess! There are so many great things to do in this beautiful city; for one I enjoy going to the parks and gardens around Cardiff. It’s such a green and pretty city. Seeing all the baby goslings at Roath Lake in the Spring is definitely one of my favourite things. It’s also really well connected, so activities in Wales and England are easily accessible.

Although I love living in Cardiff, I found the hardest change was moving away from my friends in London – that and fitting all my pot plant in the car during the move! Consistent good weather, smaller seagulls and proper mangoes are also just a few things that I miss from back home. There are actually a lot of similarities between Cardiff and Sydney in terms of pace and attitude, but Sydney is perhaps more fashion/body/fitness conscious. Wales is truly a stunning country, in particular Pembrokeshire – it’s where my partner’s family home is and there are fantastic beaches and dog walks. Being from New South Wales, visiting the ‘old’ South Wales coastline reminds me of home.”


Tenby, West Wales

Alejandro, from Spain expressed: ” There are a few reasons why I decided to come to the UK, but it was mainly because young architects have a really hard time finding a job in Spain. I hadn’t really thought about where I wanted to live in the UK, but my girlfriend found a job here in Cardiff and I was pleasantly surprised how great this city is. I love the size of the city, I love how well-connected it is to other places and how close everything is – getting to work is easy and takes no time at all! That would be completely different if I lived in a big city like London. I really enjoy wandering around the city and exploring new places, whether it be a church, a street, a park, or a museum. I also love going to the cinema here, it’s a lot cheaper than in Malaga. Living in Wales is great but when I first moved over, I found the language barrier a struggle but I have really improved since. I even managed to learn some Welsh: ‘Bore da, nos da, croeso, diolch…’ That´s it! I also found it hard to adjust to life without having my friends and family around me. The weather was also a big adjustment for me! There are just so many cultural differences but the biggest shock for me was the food. In Malaga I find there is more variety with certain foods compared to here. In terms of architecture there are also many differences – the colours, shapes, church buildings, castles, green zones – all of this is completely new to me and I really like it but really love and miss the Andalusian architecture. I often picture those beautiful whitewash houses with small windows, clay roof tiles and a patio. The streets in the city centre are amazing; houses are randomly placed which created irregular streets. For me, Malaga is the most amazing place to spend time exploring and discovering new and wonderful places. I want to spend more time exploring Wales and the UK. At the moment my favourite places to visit are Caerphilly Castle, Caenarfon and Snowdonia. Next on my list is the Brecon Beacons!”

Lastly, Bianca from Romania expresses, “What drew me to the UK was the higher education system. The Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University is a fantastic school and is the the only University in the UK that offered a 5-year course with a year in industry. Cardiff is such a vibrant and picturesque city and I absolutely love exploring both the urban and natural settings. The UK is very culturally different to my hometown and so I found small things like the weather and the food a bit of a shock when I first arrived, and this took some time to adjust to. Being away from Romania makes me think about all of those things I often miss back home; I miss the unique land forms of Romania, especially the Carpathian Mountains and the hidden, idyllic skiing and spa resorts. I also miss one of my favourite open-air museums – the ASTRA Museum of Folkloric Traditional Civilisation, as well as the Neo-Renaissance Peles Castle. The list goes on! Having said that Wales really does have some beautiful places to offer -Tenby in West Wales is just one of the many wonderful towns to visit here and I’m lucky to call this place home”.

*Images courtesy of Pixabay*

GFA team visit Welsh School of Architecture student exhibition

Every year, the Welsh School of Architecture holds a Summer exhibition to celebrate their students’ creations as well as their professional relationships with architectural practices across the country.

This week, the GFA Lakes by Yoo delivery team visited the exhibition to view some of the work produced by the very talented  BSc, MArch, MAUD, MAAD and PhD students. Some of this years’ themes included Shadow Making in Architecture, Infrastructure Urbanism, Materials & Place, Craft, Refugees and Healthy Communities. Here are just some of the brilliant works:

Images of individual students’ work courtesy of the WSA, all work is on public display at the Bute Building, Cathays park, Cardiff.

Gaunt Francis joins Audley Group for update on Mayfield Concept


River Thames, London

We were delighted to join our colleagues at Audley Group for their update on the new Mayfield brand at The Building Centre on Store Street in London on Thursday.

Our Director, Toby Adam and Associate, Chris Jefford, who lead the GFA Mayfield team, were at the presentation hosted by Nick Sanderson, CEO of Audley Group.


Model of London at the Building Centre.

Nick began by reminding everyone of the history of Audley Group, and the villages that have been created under the Audley brand, many of which have been designed by GFA. Audley is a high-end product, with an enviable reputation for the quality of the interiors and communal spaces, as well as the quality of service. Audley Group intend to bring these qualities to a wider audience a more affordable level via the Mayfield concept. They will do this by providing slightly smaller apartments, and by doubling the number of units on a site from the typical Audley village of around 125, to 250. This will allow Mayfield to charge a lower monthly management fee, opening up this new vision of retirement living to whole new market.

ARCO (Associated Retirement Community Operators) Executive Director, Michael Voges was on hand to offer an overview of the retirement living industry in the UK, compared to other more mature markets such as South Africa and Australia. He gave a detailed insight into the demographics and the scale of the challenge in providing housing and care for the older generation, but also noted that this generation are mostly homeowners with a sizeable asset which could offer the solution for providing an independent lifestyle with care on demand in your own home.


Joh Nettleton, Land Director at Audley Group, presents the latest imagery of the GFA designed Mayfield Watford, which was granted planning consent recently.

Audley Group Land Director, John Nettleton, then highlighted the new GFA designed Mayfield scheme at Watford, the first Mayfield project to have been granted planning permission to date. John described the investment opportunities, the funding vehicles and the planning advantages of having a C2 use on a masterplan, reminding those present that Audley and Mayfield make compelling and persuasive partners in land development. John noted that Retirement Living with care is a beneficial planning use and helps local authorities meet their plan obligations for providing specialist housing as well as freeing up family housing that is under-occupied.

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