Why step into the unknown and go it alone, especially in a recession?
We were both working for different companies and were made redundant within a week of each other. Our first assignment was for Lizzie’s parents house, which won several awards and was quite well published. This launched our business, helping to win more projects and build a reputation (we’ve actually done five projects in that road now). Eventually, things spread out and we reached a critical mass. Now, five years on, we are coming out of the recession with a large portfolio of works.
What’s your view on pro-bono work?
It’s good if it’s a well thought out reason. For example, we also have a joinery practice, Fraher Joinery, which we set up because we wanted bespoke work for our projects. After looking around we thought we could do it ourselves in-house and so just set up. We did pro bono work with the Quality Chop Shop project as it was a good way of promoting the joinery services through design.
Above: The Quality Chop Shop view of shop looking towards the street and product display joinery.
Were there any particular challenges about being young architects setting up?
One of the best thing’s we did as set up a program of mentors to discuss issues as they arise. It wasn’t so much about build or delivery issues but more about how to handle certain business situations. We were trained in architecture and were good at that but at architecture school no-one teaches you how to run a business, and this is where mentor’s really helped.
When was your first big break?
The Jewell Box because it was very well published. We worked with the media by sending in professional photography to correspond with their deadlines, and this really got us noticed.
Are you intentional about working with the media?
Yes, if you are willing to be helpful they will help you to get recognized. And in the early days it’s about establishing credibility. But, also the clients like it as they have spent a lot of money so want some reassurance that you know what you are doing, and this is one way of confirming that.
Any advice or one particular tip you would give to young architects looking to set-up?
Just do it. You’ll come up against challenges, they’ll come up everyday but you’ll work them out. One thing is to really learn how to manage cash-flow, because in architecture the large amounts can be critical. It’s something we are getting better at and a good tip would be to implement an invoicing protocol so that you get smaller amounts quicker.
How have your roles changed and what do you see for the future?
We have complimentary skill sets so Liz is good at the initial design stages front-end and clients, and I’m strong on the delivery and contractors, although we can interchange as needs. But, recently we’ve had a couple of children so Liz has been on maternity leave. To accommodate things we built and moved our office to The Green Studio, which is located at the bottom of our garden. This way, she’s s able to still be involved in joint high-level management decisions while also growing a family.
In the future we will actually move out of Green Studio as we expand to sustainable numbers of around ten. But, also a bigger plot will allow us to then bring Fraher Architects, and Fraher Joinery under one roof.
…As well as Lizzie, and the two little ones.
Above: Fraher Architects office, The Green Studio.
Bio: Joe Fraher MArch 2008, DipArch (Hons) 07, MEng (Hons) 04
As a Project Architect for A-EM Joe worked on a range of award winning social housing and commercial projects – always bringing his passion for sustainable design to form an integral part of the design solution. During his time there Joe developed the practice’s environmental policies that formed a key part of their ISO9001 accreditation.
Joe currently teaches in several architectural units at Nottingham University, specialising in the technical and environmental aspects of design.
Bio: Lizzie Webster MArch 08, DipArch 07, BArch (Hons) 03
An award winning architect, with the Lord Mayor, Heggarty Award for Innovative Design and the Scott Brownrigg Award for Environmental Design already to her name. Liz established Fraher Architects with Joe to realise a commitment to innovative and challenging design, with a particular interest in materiality, texture and context in buildings.
Lizzie has worked on number of high profile projects including the refurbishment of the Renaissance and Medieval galleries at the V&A, whilst employed by Julian Harrap, alongside MUMA. It was an experience that led to an interest in the history of architecture expressed through a sense of tactility and the ability to relate designs to a particular historical context, without being slavishly bound by it.
Teaching is of particular importance to Lizzie, who like Joe teaches at Nottingham University. Working at one of the most successful architectural schools in the country helps close the gap between education and practice, whilst keeping abreast of all the latest developments across the whole spectrum of architectural practice.