Audley celebrates completion of Ellerslie Retirement Village phase II!

At an opening attended by more than 100 guests, Audley Ellerslie Phase II has officially opened its doors. Audley owners, Gaunt Francis project architects, the design team, and members of the local community came together to celebrate this key milestone with a champagne reception and lunch.


Set against the backdrop of the Worcestershire countryside, Ellerslie Retirement Village is situated in the beautiful spa town of Malvern. Construction of Ellerslie phase II began in May 2016 and comprises 101 retirement properties. Three restored Victorian mansions, including a Grade II listed building, form the centrepiece of the village, complemented by a restored Lodge and a group of sympathetically designed and carefully placed new-build properties.


The village is home to a mix of one and two bedroom apartments and offers luxury facilities including a health club, library, and restaurant, which will be accessible to both owners and the local community.


Gaunt Francis Director, Gavin Birt, expressed “We are privileged to have been given the opportunity to design and deliver another care community for the Audley Group. The village has been conceived as a series of substantial villas. These have varying styles and utilise different materials but form a cohesive whole around the jewel of Lind House – all taking advantage of the wonderful views of the Vale of Evesham from the base of the magnificent Malvern hills”.

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Ellerslie Phase I was completed last June, which consisted of 17 apartments and one cottage, all complementing the original Victorian architecture.


Pushing the Boundaries of VR

Virtual reality is developing rapidly and has found many uses in all kinds of fields. We have always embraced new technology at Gaunt Francis Architects, so we have invested in VR technology to create engaging and interactive architectural visualisation experiences and to ensure we remain at the forefront of innovation, whilst at the same time recognising there is value in the plurality of design tools at our disposal.

Although the tools of architectural communication have constantly evolved, recent technological change has allowed the rapid development of 3D building modelling. The promise of “Virtual Reality” as an architectural design tool has been lingering for several decades, perhaps more as science fiction than fact, but it is actually the popularity of gaming that has driven software and hardware development forward to the point that the systems are now genuinely interactive and immersive.

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The development of Virtual Reality, or VR, therefore presents a unique opportunity for Architects. It opens up a completely new way of designing, whereby Architects can experience spaces they are designing as they would be experienced by the end users, as well as being able to make changes and test ideas in near real time – something that simply can’t be done on traditional desktop software. It is one thing to have a physical 3D model on your desk, or a digital model on your screen, but to be able to experience it at a real world scale, walk through it, fly like a drone or even change the time of day, enables designers to get to grips with the impact of their design decisions on the end user’s experience of the building. To be able to sketch something by hand or to test massing with a physical model are still important ways of working – VR doesn’t replace them – but rather stands firmly alongside.

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Perhaps the most interesting possibility of VR is that it presents an entirely new way of communicating with our clients and other collaborators. One of the greatest challenges for Architects has always been communicating their designs to others. For the first time, a building’s end user can truly experience what it will be like to be in the spaces before they are built. It puts the end user on a level playing field with the professional team in terms of understanding and interpreting design intentions. Without VR, there are always ideas that are lost in translation purely because of the difficulties in representing a building in 2D. With VR, there is no translation needed – the client or end user is experiencing the building as it will be.

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We believe using Virtual Reality Technology as a design aid is where architectural design will be heading in the very near future, and it is important for the team at Gaunt Francis Architects to be pioneers in the field. As the development of this innovative technology moves towards stable 4K and 8K resolutions, Virtual Reality is expected to become an essential component in the design process and commonplace in architectural practices. Science fiction no longer.

Special thanks to COPA Cyrmu for helping us create such an incredible video!

Navyard Regeneration Proposal

We have just completed our most successful year since our inception as a practice 21 years ago, and in celebration we would like to share with you some images from a unique project we are currently involved with in Harwich, Essex.

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At Navyard we are promoting the re-development of an existing 10 acre container port into a new mixed-use development that will help regenerate the beautiful, but disconnected Old Town. Our scheme takes the form of a new extension to the town, comprising 320 dwellings; a small selection of Cafes, and flexible new public open space that can cater for a mix of events including farmers markets and local theatre. We are publicising the development through a two-day exhibition in the town that commences on Friday this week, seeking local opinion on the proposals.

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Green Street

Gaunt Francis Project Architect, Miranda Dettwyler, expressed: “The proposal for this site is to create an addition to the town of Harwich, taking the grain and density of the existing place, but populating these new streets with a modern terrace architecture, focusing on high-quality public space and maximising views to the sea.

“This is a sympathetic use for the site that would create a series of new and important public places in Harwich, while also greatly improving current flood defences”.

Northern Promenade

Northern Promenade

Mann Lines, who currently operate from the site, will be re-locating their business locally should the proposals of the site be approved by the council.

Bill Binks, CEO of Mann Lines said: “Navyard has served us well for over 50 years but with the nature of the shipping business ever changing it’s time to re-locate locally to enable us to build a stronger business in the future. The regeneration of the Navyard site is both an exciting and important opportunity for Harwich. With our close association to the town over many decades the views of the community are important to us in helping to shape the future plans for Navyard.”

Click here to watch a short fly-through animation of the proposed regeneration.

GFA sponsors local football team!

We are delighted to be sponsoring St. Albans mini football team, which will fund the teams’ waterproof training tops for the next 2 years.


The team rocking their Gaunt Francis waterproof hoodies.

Toby Adam, Director at Gaunt Francis Architects expressed, “We are thrilled to be sponsoring the Under 11’s mini football team. My son, Noah, is on the team and has been a core member for the past 4 years, of which I am extremely proud”.

Nicknamed ‘The Buns’, the team play mini football, which is slightly different to league football. The WFA have set out rules and regulations, in which instead there are rolling subs, no referee, no offside, and the goals and pitches are smaller.


With the season running from September to May, the team train every Wednesday night in Tremorfa Park and Splott, and play 7-a-side against 3 other teams every Saturday –  a total of 3 matches of 20 minutes each. We wish the boys the best of luck for the season!


The team in action!




RIBA Client Adviser

Gaunt Francis Director, Toby Adam, is an accredited RIBA Client Adviser. With over 20 years of industry experience across a range of project sectors, Toby is able to offer strategic advice and guidance to clients to assist in maximising the value and quality of their projects.

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A RIBA Client Adviser, who is a highly trained and experienced Architect, will work with the client’s team helping to manage the design process from its earliest stages, and will help define and deliver the best long-term solution for their organisation, one that will fulfil all the aims and requirements of the project.

The UK Government recommends the early appointment of an independent client adviser (like a RIBA Client Adviser) to provide high level expert advice and to help protect the client’s interests.

RIBA Client Advisers are selected by the Royal Institute of British Architects from its membership for their all-round procurement expertise, design experience, business knowledge and track-record of delivering results in construction projects.

GFA staff take part in charity cycle ride!

On Saturday 15th September some of the staff at Gaunt Francis Architects took part in the Giro D’Capitale charity cycle ride in support of Wooden Spoon Wales – a charity event organised by Capital Law.


The GFA team! – (from left) Rachel, Sophie, Bianca, Katja, Alan, Ken, Phillip and Toby

Wooden Spoon is a fantastic charity that aims to positively change children’s lives with a disability or facing disadvantages across the UK and Ireland through the power of rugby. Their rugby heritage drives their core values of passion, integrity, teamwork, and fun. They fund around 70 projects every year including community programmes and medical treatment centres. They have been established for an amazing 35 years and have distributed over £26 million to more than 700 projects, helping more than 1 million children.


All ready for the ride!

There was a choice of two cycle routes around Cardiff and the Vale – a 30 mile route for intermediate cyclists and a 50 mile route for advanced cyclists. The cycle ride was followed by some well-deserved food and drinks back at the Capital law office.


Half way point!

Every year, Capital Law employees vote on a charity to support, and this year Wooden Spoon was chosen. All money from fundraising throughout the year  – such as cake bakes and sport events –  went towards the total funds raised for the charity. Each rider received a free top, water bottle, wrist band, water before and during the ride, as well as a curry and free bar after the ride.

A huge well done to everyone who took part in this cycle – it was for a great cause, and an incredible £2,978 was raised for Wooden Spoon. 

A few pictures of the team in action!

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.

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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.

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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!