A review of the past year at GFA!

Last week, staff from GFA attended the prestigious Architect’s Journal AJ100 Awards Ceremony at the Tower of London. We were honoured to have ranked 91st in the AJ Top100 list, which is a major milestone for us and the realisation of a long-cherished ambition. The icing on the cake was to be also nominated for New Member of the Year Award. This recognition is a direct result of the hard work and talent of our employees at Gaunt Francis, and this position on the AJ100 list has truly encouraged us as we strive for future success. What better excuse than for a review of the past year and the moments that have made it such an important one in our 21-year story.

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AJ100 Awards Ceremony

One of the biggest milestones for our company this year was moving our office to Womanby Street in Cardiff. Capital Tower had been our home for many years, but over the last few years we have expanded consistently and now have over 50 staff. We had therefore outgrown the space in Capital Tower and it felt like the right time to make a change. GFA now occupies a beautifully refurbished, five-storey, warehouse building on one of the oldest, most iconic and creative streets in Cardiff city centre. We’ve been here a little over two months but felt very much at home from day one. We have truly made the space our own and it marks a new beginning for us and allows us to do even more of what we do best – creating beautiful places.


Womanby Street

We were proud to be presented with the Gold Award for Best Retirement Development at the WhatHouse? Awards 2019. This Award is the biggest event that celebrates the very best homes. The winning Redwood Retirement Village in Bristol is only the second scheme for Audley that we designed as a complete new build – having already built a stylish development from scratch at award-winning Audley Chalfont Dene. This beautiful retirement village has once again moved our client’s brand forward, and perfectly complements the other restoration and refurbishment schemes we have designed for Audley across the UK, such as Audley Ellerslie Retirement Village. This scheme completed in late 2018 and Audley owners, GFA project architects, the design team, and members of the local community came together to celebrate the opening.


Audley Redwood Retirement Village

More recently, GFA has been appointed as Architects for an ambitious project to redevelop two historic buildings on Westgate Street. The old Post Office and adjoining County Court buildings next to the Principality Stadium will be extended and transformed into a 175-bedroom luxury hotel, which will commence in July 2019 subject to planning consent. 


Westgate Hotel, Cardiff

A key part of growing our business has been to develop graduates entering the profession into fully fledged registered Architects, mentoring and helping them to realise the final component of their architectural education. This commitment has been demonstrated by two of our employees, Maxim Hutton and Bianca Dumea, who recently gained their Part III Postgraduate Diploma in Architecture from Cardiff University and who will both soon be registered by the ARB. Bianca was also awarded the prestigious Stanley Cox Prize for best Diploma student at the Welsh School of Architecture. The whole GFA family could not be more proud of them, and all our staff at GFA, without whom none of the achievement of the past year would be possible. Here’s to another 21 years of success. 


New Cardiff office images revealed!


We are very excited to share with you images of our new office in Cardiff city centre! Womanby Street is one of the oldest and most iconic streets in Cardiff and has been our home for a little over two months, but felt very much at home from day one!


We now occupy a beautifully refurbished, five-storey warehouse building in the heart of the city centre in an area where Cardiff Council hopes to establish a creative and musical quarter.


GFA Managing Director, Alan Francis, says: “We were looking for good quality accommodation in Cardiff with a less corporate feel. We were drawn to the strong architectural style and character of the property which reflects our role as a creative commercial design studio. Another important aspect was the large, well proportioned windows which provide a generous amount of natural light.


“Womanby Street is one of the oldest streets in Cardiff with such a colourful historical background and a great location close to the Principality Stadium , Castle Street, and St. Mary Street.”


More images in the slideshow below!

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We have some very exciting news to share with you all. WE ARE MOVING!  The Capital Tower in Cardiff city centre has been our home for the past 21 years, but having undergone a period of rapid expansion, we have now outgrown its office space and felt it was time to make a change. Our change in address will be effective from 9am on 29th April 2019.

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We will be occupying a five-storey, former quayside building on one of the oldest and most iconic streets in Cardiff city centre, Womanby Street, which we have spent the last 6 months converting and upgrading on behalf of our new landlords, Kames Capital. 

Gaunt Francis Managing Director, Alan Francis said: “Womanby Street is one of the oldest streets in Cardiff with a colourful historical background and a great location close to Cardiff Central train station, the Principality Stadium, Cardiff Castle and St. Mary Street. In the longer term our intention is to convert the rooftop area into a terrace garden to extend our creative space and offer excellent views over the city.” 

We are delighted to be able to make this new space our own. Our new office marks a new beginning and allows us to do even more of what we do best – creating beautiful places. 

Images of our brand new office will be coming soon!



New Retirement Village images unveiled!


We are thrilled to show you all some of our brand new professional photographs of Audley Ellerslie Retirement Village.


The images were taken by the talented Will Pryce and showcase the very best of our architects’ work of Audley Ellerslie.

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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 is accessible to both owners and the local community.


Be sure to follow Gaunt Francis Architects on our official Instagram page to see more beautiful images of our previous and current projects.

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GFA ranks in BD’s 2019 “Ones to Watch” list!

Gaunt Francis Architects is thrilled to have ranked in BD’s “Ones to watch” list of architectural practices worldwide.

Building Design magazine, or “BD”, has cited Gaunt Francis Architects among the “Ones to Watch” for 2019 as part of their prestigious annual World Architecture 100 list of largest architect practices (WA100). Along with 21 other UK firms, we have ranked in the 120th spot, which is a huge achievement and one we could not be more proud of.

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BD, a weekly architectural publication, surveyed over 1000 architecture practices across the globe to rank the top 100 according to the number of fee-earning architects they employ, plus another 25 falling just outside. WA100 serves as a valuable source of insight into architectural growth trends and opportunities.


Gaunt Francis Architects Managing Director, Alan Francis, said “It is an incredible achievement to make the BD “Ones to Watch” list. This ranking is a tribute to the sheer hard work and talent of our employees at Gaunt Francis Architects, and this position on the list will encourage us as we strive for future growth”.

Now in its fifteenth year, the BD World Architecture 100 is published each year and stands as the definitive and most respected annual survey of the world’s largest practices, and is the key reference for clients looking for architects on every continent.


Brand new Retirement Village images unveiled!

We are very pleased to show you all a glimpse of our professional photographs of Audley Redwood Retirement Village.


The images were taken by the talented Will Pryce and showcase the very best of our architects’ work of Audley Redwood, which is situated just outside Bristol.


The photographs capture a real sense of  grandeur and place-making, as well as the stunning interior which is packed with wow-factor furnishings, generating a welcoming vibrancy designed to bring its community together.


Be sure to follow Gaunt Francis Architects on our official Instagram page to see more beautiful images of our previous and current projects.

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Planning approval for Audley Chalfont Dene Retirement Village extension

Gaunt Francis Architects is thrilled to have received planning permission for the extension of our award-winning Audley Chalfont Dene Care Community.


Aerial view of the planned proposal of Chalfont Dene Retirement Village

Our proposals for the site comprises an additional 58 new units, which will seek to maintain the openness of the green-belt, reflect the vernacular architecture of the locality, and build on the success and high quality established at Chalfont Dene.


New Community Hall

In the heart of the scheme we have designed a new “village hall” to serve both the retirement village residents and the wider community in Chalfont St. Peter. The Community Hall will serve as a multi-function flexible space; supplemented by store, a bar and kitchenette and ancillary accommodation, it will also contain a studio which will be used for arts and crafts activities.


Audley Chalfont Dene


Audley Chalfont Dene

Chalfont Dene retirement village lies close to Buckinghamshire’s Chiltern Hills within Chalfont St. Peter. The existing village is built in the style of the local Arts and Crafts movement and is home to 84 luxury cottages and apartments, as well as the Lutyens inspired Main House facilities including the Health and Well-being spa and Bar and Restaurant.


Audley Chalfont Dene

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Audley Chalfont Dene

Redwood Retirement Village wins GOLD at the WhatHouse? Awards!


The WhatHouse? Awards is the country’s biggest event that celebrates the very best homes. This year’s event took place at the Grosvenor House Hotel, in London’s Park Lane, with more than 1600 senior industry figures attending the ceremony to celebrate the winners of 20 different categories, covering the wide spectrum of property types and companies in the home building industry. The 37th year of the event was presented by comedian Jack Whitehall, former rugby captain Lawrence Dallaglio, and TV presenter, Gabby Logan.


We were absolutely delighted to be presented with the Gold Award for Best Retirement Development. The winning Redwood Retirement Village in Bristol is our 2nd Audley scheme that we have designed as a complete new build – having already built a stylish development from scratch at award-winning Audley Chalfont Dene. We aimed to create a sense of history and grandeur, and so Redwood is focused around a ‘brand new’ manor house, Redwood Hall, with grand columns and a portico, built in a neo-classical and Georgian style. The results of this beautiful retirement village couldn’t have been achieved without members of our team at Gaunt Francis working closely in partnership with the interior designers for the scheme Inside Design Co., Project Management and cost consultants Quartz, Landscape Architects Solty’s Brewster and Services Engineers Q Design.


Here is how the WhatHouse? judges described our design at Redwood: “Packed with wow-factor furnishings, it generates a welcoming vibrancy designed to bring its community together and make owners feel special. All the way from its airy spacious reception area through to the restaurant, the space flows easily”.


A huge thank you to everyone involved. We are extremely proud to have designed the 2018 Gold Award winning retirement village!

Architectural Inspiration

“I don’t think you can teach Architecture. You can only inspire people” – a quote by the great Zaha Hadid. People often ask architects from where or whom they get their passion, drive and inspiration. Anyone with a creative bone in their body cannot fail to be inspired by something or someone.

At Gaunt Francis some of our architects decided to share who has inspired them. Here is what our Part III Architectural Assistant, Max, had to say:

“Carlo Scarpa is someone who has inspired me for many years. He was an Italian architect, and is probably one of the most enigmatic and underappreciated architects of the 20th Century. One design in particular that has truly inspired me is La Tomba Brion (Brion Cemetery), which lies in the San Vito d’Altivole near Treviso, Italy. I always had a fascination with Scarpa – especially his exquisite detailing and use of concrete. During my visit to Italy I went to visit La Tomba Brion, as well as his other design, Museo di Castelvecchio in Verona and it more than confirmed my initial thoughts.


La Tomba Brion


La Tomba Brion

“Jean Renaudie and his wife, Renée Gailhoustet, are French Architects who probably are best known for their social housing project in Ivry-sur-Seine, situated in the outskirts of Paris. It is an 8-building complex and is a 60,000 inhabitant municipality which was built between 1969 and 1975.

“I chose to study this building as part of a Modern Architectural History Module during my Masters at the University of Sydney. I was so interested that when visiting Paris, I decided to head to the ‘banlieues’ of Paris to see the buildings in the flesh.

Ivry-sur-Seine - 02


I was drawn to not only the intricacy and complexity of the architecture, but also the drawings and sketches the architects used in developing the scheme. Each apartment in the complex is individual, has at least one (but often two) private terraces and is often arranged over more than one storey. It appears to be truly ahead of its time, and many contemporary apartment schemes seem to be attempting to achieve the aims of this development.”


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Renaudie’s Sketch of the Ivry-sur-Seine

GFA Architect, Kim, has always had a passion for Brutalist architecture, so it was no surprise that she takes her inspiration from British Architects Alison and Peter Smithson. Kim expressed: “Pioneers of the ‘New Brutalism’ an Architecture concerned as much with Ethic and Aesthetic, husband and wife duo Alison and Peter Smithson looked to respond to changing society, changing cities and chaotic or transitional spaces. The couples first significant building was Hunstanton Secondary Modern School in 1950 inspired by the ideas of Mies van der Rohe and adapting to post-war cost saving using materials and fittings ‘as found’- undressed and undecorated.


Hunstanton Secondary Modern School, designed by husband and wife duo, Alison and Peter Smithson

“The principle of objects ‘as found’ (shared by the independent group) became the basis for much of their work, they were inspired by existing street life, dirt, noise and change. The ‘as found’ captured on camera by Nigel Henderson’s photographs of Bethnal Green in the 1950’s.

“The almost anthropological notion that Architecture should grow from, and respond to an existing character is something that I reflect on frequently. The Smithson’s treated each site as object of high value, its meaning already contained and ready to be extracted from its fabric.

Peter and Alison Smithson

Alison and Peter Smithson

“Although very few of their works were realised as buildings, they contributed heavily in terms of published theory.”

Part I Architectural Assistant, Ollie, get his inspiration from the incredible Renzo Piano and Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe. he said: “Renzo’s work in particular impacted me from a young age. My first book on architecture was “Piano” by Philip Jodidio, which compiles Piano’s work as case studies. This book revealed to me how the form of a building is not restricted by its functionality, but can in fact be perpetuated by it. Piano also gave me inspiration for internal spaces and how the circulation of a building can be just as important as its key spaces, influencing how I went about designing my undergraduate final project. Renzo Piano was a key motivator for me undertaking architecture, and I can now appreciate the detail of Piano’s designs and how efficiently he uses materials.


Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Center by Renzo Piano

“I also admire the minimalist movement and how such impressive spaces could be created with such simple design. Although it was more of an exhibition piece, as the German Pavilion for the 1929 Barcelona International Exhibition, the way in which the Barcelona Pavilion by Van Der Rohe and Lilly Reich stirs emotion when you move through it affected how I looked at architecture and caused me to think “how does one create such spaces?”.

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Barcelona Pavilion by Van Der Rohe and Lilly Reich

“All architecture influences my perceptions of spaces and the functionality of buildings, constantly shaping how I think about architecture; whether it is quality or not, it imparts wisdom of what works or not. As an architectural student, I have barely began to scrape the surface of what makes architecture great, but the journey ahead and discovering how to create “architecture” excites me, especially when studying architects such as these.”

Finally, Architect Manuel explained: “What inspired me to study and practice architecture has always been the built environment. I was fascinated with tall buildings as a child. I remember travelling to other cities and places, which were interesting in an unfamiliar way, and I would sit in the back of the car counting the number of storeys of every building. I’d feel this excitement every time I spotted an even taller building than the last.

“I grew up drawing buildings – or rather just blobs and big structures – fascinated by, not only my uncle’s posters of the Twin Towers, Manhattan and the Eiffel Tower, but also by the illustrations in natural science books that compared the Earth with other huge objects.

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Casa en Sierra de Arrábida by Souto de Moura

“At University in Spain, I discovered that an awful lot of hard work was involved in just about any project, so I started to prefer more simple architecture that I could understand. The early residential works of Souto de Moura and Vázquez Consuegra quickly comes to mind. The requirement to address many technical aspects alongside the social and composition studies very early in the process also resulted in smaller projects. I credit architects like Enrique Abascal, Carmen Llatas and José Pérez de Lama for this approach.

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Social Housing in Seville by Enrique Abascal

“My fascination for conflicting scales and complexity continued with masterpieces like Blade Runner, to more personal yet powerful films such as Mon Oncle and Red Desert.  Writers such as Neruda, Berger, Guattari and Pallasmaa have also broadly influenced me over the years.”

Seeking innovations at DCW 2018

Gaunt Francis I.T manager, Simon Dodd, recently headed to the Digital Construction Week in London – a 2-day event dedicated to innovation, technology, and digital services  that would serve the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction industries. The event featured interactive, hands-on demonstrations, seminars, workshops, classes, and networking events.

Its aim is to help companies explore the potential of tools and to understand how best to adopt and implement them to reduce costs and carbon emissions, improve profitability and efficiency, and create a smarter, more diverse industry. ​

Simon expressed: “As a technology wizard, when I heard of the opportunity to discover potential innovations in the AEC sector I immediately undertook a quest to London to visit Digital Construction Week.


“Always keen to find new ways to develop the practice for our architects, I have been working on a number of projects and ideas for several months, including 3D mapping technology, extended use of VR, drone photogrammetry and more, and DCW gave me the opportunity to connect with potential partners or to try some of these concepts first hand, including things I had never considered.

“One of the highlights of the trip was experiencing the Microsoft HoloLens augmented reality as a potential for seeing a design overlaid onto the real world. It is still early days, but a fantastic potential for the future. I also had the chance to meet some of our partners from Scan Computers where we discussed the potential of virtual workstations, VR technology, and future IT trends for the industry.”


(L-R) Enscape’s Division Manager, Jonathan Knoefel, Chief Marketing Office, Joerg Reschke, and GFA I.T manager, Simon Dodd.

Perhaps the best part of the day for Simon was meeting the Enscape team. Enscape is a leading technology company developing real-time Rendering & VR software for the AEC industry. GFA has been working with Enscape software since 2017 and it has, and continues, to transform working practices in Gaunt Francis.

Simon added: “I was praising the product to such an extent that other visitors to the booth started to ask me questions and not the Enscape team! Our input for the development of their system has always been well received and we discussed options for some collaboration in the future as we continue to work together.

“Overall the day was worth every minute. It was so busy that I wasn’t able to attend any of the talks or seminars. Two days will be a must next year”.