Most Outstanding for Restoration Architecture 2017 award winner NFA architects is an established and experienced practice formed of a senior director with dedicated architects, designers and technologists based in Kent. We interviewed the firm’s Nick Farnell to write more about his firm’s work and how it feels to win this prestigious award.

Within their team, NFA architects enjoy the creative process and the satisfaction of delivering client focused site sensitive architecture. Nick has been in practice for over 20 years, he has gained vast and varied experience over a long and successful career. “The key to achieving the very best for a client is to understand more than the brief, the client themselves, to combine both needs and desires and ultimately delivering more than the client first imagined possible” Nick begins.
Having worked across a variety of sectors in both small and large practices, Nick understands the importance of creating a dedicated team to support and develop each project. NFA is architect lead creating a focused design inspired philosophy that benefits the client.
NFA Architects was formed on the success of the highly acclaimed Third Space Health Club, which won ‘The Best Health Club in The World’ – international Design Award presented by British Airways in 2003, and as recently as 2010 & 2011 won the London lifestyle awards. Ever since, the practice has achieved considerable success becoming widely respected for its innovative modern and bespoke approach to architecture and has featured numerous times in the press. Nick then explains more about the firm in his own words.
“We work in several sectors, predominantly residential but also commercial and education. Our forte is designing wining schemes in sensitive locations such as working on grade I listed buildings in some of the most prestigious locations across London and further afield. Our work covers all work stages so we can guide our clients seamlessly from concept to completion on site.
“We also offer a range of services to aid developers. Often commercially sensitive decisions are time critical and we assist in developing a commercial case for a site or project to establish the feasibility, we can then take on the project should it go forward to completion.”
Philosophy & inspiration The firm’s philosophy is to blend the individual needs with site specific responses thereby creating bespoke solutions that are of their ‘place’. They understand their responsibility to clients and the world around us for now and future generations. Nick goes on to detail his thoughts on the firm’s philosophy and inspiration that surrounds the work they do.
“For us sustainable solutions are produced when common sense is combined with intelligent design. Advances in technology are useful aids but so is understanding our environment. Understanding the way, we want to use our homes is vital to limiting waste and extending the life span of what we build.

“Fundamentally architecture is about making places. It operates on the macro level, shaping cities and responding to external influences, reflecting our interests, attitudes and passions in our homes, places of work, worship and recreation.”
“In addition, our inspiration is varied as it begins with the client and their aspirations for their project. We are contemporary designers and look to architects such as Carlo Scarpa and Tom Kundig for their play between new and old but our methods are fluid enough to tailor to the client not impose a style or ideal on a person. We also look to the context for inspiration, sometime this means working sympathetically with the context and sometimes working in contrast, it is this fluidity that produces sometimes unexpected but always beautiful designs appropriate to the individual constraints.”

Most Outstanding for Restoration Architecture 2017 On winning the Most Outstanding Renovation Architecture award 2017, Nick says it is great to be honoured in this way. NFA architects strive for success for all their clients he adds.

“Our approach is bespoke to each project and keeps the design process fresh. Taking the time to understand our clients and appreciating how they wish to live helps us to achieve the perfect solution. The key to our success in the residential sector is designing the big architectural moves that will create amazing spaces while applying the details that are personal to the client. This award is greatly received especially considering the length of time each project takes from the moment the first discussions ensue to the time when we can hand the keys back to our eager client.

“This award means a huge amount for the firm as it is great to be honoured for our endeavours and rewards the painstaking crafting of the architecture we create. Obviously, any positive press and awards helps create the atmosphere off a successful company and helps instill in our client base a trust and empathy with our skill and dedication. The office is extremely happy to receive this award for their professional and unstoppable work ethic.

Understanding and exceeding expectations The clients of NFA architects range from corporate to residential client. Their clients are their top priority, indeed understanding and then exceeding their requirements is the firm’s ultimate aim Nick underlines.
“We pride ourselves on our track record of delivering projects to the highest standards. It is our firm commitment to each and every client to deliver the best possible solution within the limits they chose to impose. We craft our designs and nurture the initial concept to develop well considered projects that leave our clients delighted. By our nature, we lead clients through the process making it as enjoyable as possible.

“Often, we find clients chose to return or introduce friends as they have enjoyed the process so much and the working relationship developed through it. It is our firm commitment to each and every client to deliver the best possible solution within the limits they chose to impose.

“We craft our designs and nurture the initial concept to develop well considered projects that leave our clients delighted. By our nature, we lead clients through the process making it as enjoyable as possible.”

A close-knit team The role staff play in the firm is fundamental to the continued success of each and every project Nick goes on to tell us. Enthusiasm and positivity drive the office, a point he proceeds to expand upon.

“The love of creating and the appreciation of the clients helps to sustain the high levels of energy and determination to get the project through the many stages. A close-knit team is essential to delivering the high standard of work required and being part of an encouraging, creative and busy team means all aspects of our work benefits.

“In addition, keeping up to date with current trends is vital as our clients have high standards and expect the best from us, however our view is that great design does not necessarily come from being ‘on trend’ rather from an appreciation of space, light, place, time and people. Often it is the constraints that lead ultimately to the best designs as finding solutions rather than compromise challenges the designer to create better more considered architecture.”

Plans for the future The firm’s plans for 2017 is to keep pushing forward promoting good design led architecture. This year, unlike others, has seen them take a wider step forward into new uncharted territory. For instance, this year they are looking to commence their first in-house development project in the UK, plus they have been appointed to carry out two new large scale build projects in the Caribbean.

So, times are exciting for the firm, and they hope to be in need of extra talented staff towards the end of this summer to build further upon their success. Nick then explains the wider industry challenges facing the firm.

“In 2017, there are some specific industry based challenges facing the industry, and not just the challenges faced by global warming or ecological necessity there is the financial uncertainty caused by the rise in Stamp Duty, the upcoming election and Brexit, and to the role of the UK globally once we have left the EU. This is having a remarkable effect on the higher property values in London especially and we have seen this market decrease considerably over the past 18 months. The knock down effect this is having on the periphery may not be felt for some time.

“Equally the knock on effect this is having in terms of funding potential for clients and developers is being felt. We have found clients holding back where they would once relish spending their money in the certainty it would be safe in the square meterage of their new building. We have seen this coming for some time and like most professional companies have looked to other potential markets to see if we can engineer a way forward. The testament to this is the fact we are now embarking upon our first development project and have secured work abroad for the first time outside of the EU.