2hD Director Chris Heuvel appointed RIBA Fellow

Tom Hughes

Our director Chris Heuvel is one of only 15 architects to be awarded Royal Institute of British Architects Fellow status in the 2018 list. The RIBA says of the award that "Fellow Membership gives us the opportunity to recognise our inspirational Chartered Members, the sometimes unsung heroes of the profession, who have made a real contribution to architecture, and the community."


Chris' full citation reads as follows:

"Chris is a Director at 2hD Architecture Workshop and a lecturer at Nottingham Trent University (NTU), where he delivers the professional practice elements of both the undergraduate and postgraduate architectural programmes, in addition to acting as Professional Studies Advisor for students in practice. He also runs the Design Studio module followed by first year undergraduates.

Chris champions architectural education as an integral aspect of professional practice, and is currently undertaking a major research project on behalf of NTU into how practitioners’ engagement with their local communities can be compatible with their business development objectives. All his teaching is substantially informed by a lifetime of active involvement in community engagement projects – previously in Norfolk and now in Nottingham, where (in conjunction with 2hD Ltd) he is currently helping a local group develop a business plan for the revival of their recently closed community centre."

Congratulations Chris, the recognition is thoroughly well deserved!

Can architectural skills help save a local landmark?

Tom Hughes

Tom and Chris have been working with a 'community alliance' in Sneinton, Nottingham.  A local historic building, much loved by the community, is under threat of demolition. We've offered our community engagement and architectural skills to "dOSH" (Development of the Old School Hall) which has formed to find a sustainable use for the site.

Bringing the community together to share knowledge and ideas.

The Old School Hall building dates from the 1840s. Originally a school standing on the boundary between Sneinton and Nottingham, the building served generations of pupils. When in the 1960s a new modern school was opened just up the road, the Old School Hall community centre was created on the site. Many local residents have positive associations with the building as both a school and community centre, so the news that it had closed, and would face demolition, came as a significant blow.

Through his work with Sneinton Neighbourhood Forum, meeting with local Councillors, residents and community groups, Tom helped to arrange a public meeting to bring together all interested people and groups. The strategy was to ensure good information was in the public realm about the threat faced by the building, and to find out whether there was an appetite to try and save the building or to reuse the site for another purpose. The Council had revealed that the building would require a significant investment to make it safe for use and for refurbishment. Despite this, a strong will was identified to try and find a new use for the building, retaining some element of community access whilst securing a viable income stream to maintain the building for the future

Tom attended these meetings and helped the group to come together, structured appropriately as an 'Unincorporated Association' with a clearly defined remit: "To help save the Old School Hall by meeting to discuss feasibility and develop ideas arising from the community to create a business plan". He also researched the history of the site, created posters, spread the word through social media and set up a website and blog for the dOSH group: www.doshsneinton.org.uk

By happy coincidence at this point, Chris was putting the word out to community groups, offering free consultancy as part of his research at Nottingham Trent University. He has been advising the dOSH group on understanding the existing building, seeking advice on the structural stability and condition including liaising with structural engineers and reviewing existing condition reports.

The challenges facing the group are extensive, but the collaborative approach we have helped to foster, in getting organised and understanding both problems and visions, has started things off on the right foot.

The groups represented in dOSH include:

2hD offering free architectural consultancy for community groups

Chris Heuvel

If you are a community group and feel you could benefit from some free advice, please get in touch! As part of my research at Nottingham Trent University, I am exploring the ways in which architects can make links between their business and local communities for the mutual benefit of both. This means I'm in a position to offer my services to a community group, free of charge, to advise them on a particular project. This would need to be undertaken between October 2016 and April 2017.

In particular I am looking for opportunities to work with people on the redesign of spaces and places of community value. This might involve planning issues, landscaping, construction issues or internal reorganisation of spaces — if you make initial contact with me I'd be delighted to discuss your needs and ideas.

As I am doing this in conjunction with Nottingham Trent University, please contact me via my NTU email: chris.heuvel@ntu.ac.uk 

Tom's running in aid of local charity School for Parents

Tom Hughes

I'm running my first half marathon on September 25th to support a great local charity.

All too often, parents of disabled children don’t know where to turn – they may feel isolated, powerless or depressed. School for Parents is based in 2hD's local neighbourhood of Sneinton in Nottingham. Most of their work involves children with motor learning difficulties or motor development delay. They encourage these children to develop basic motor, sensory and self help skills such as sitting, standing, touching, listening, looking, eating and playing. 

A key part of their work is to help parents understand and accept their child’s disability and teach them how to help their child. Staff give parents and siblings the emotional support they need to help them cope, as well as offering practical advice and information.

And I think that's awesome.

If you'd like to help me support this wonderful cause, please visit my Justgiving page and consider making a donation. Thank you!

Update 01/12/16: I completed the run in just under 1 hour 55 minutes, and thanks to my generous sponsors raised £461.43 for the School for Parents! A great experience but, by far, the hardest physical challenge of my life.

Tom & Chris working on NTU research project

Tom Hughes

We were out and about in Sneinton, the area around our Nottingham base, yesterday as part of a research project at Nottingham Trent University's School of Architecture and The Built Environment. This was an orientation walk for researchers and student volunteers involved in a project to map Nottingham's identity, and we were able to contribute our local knowledge of the area's history and recent developments. Leading the walk was Community Organiser Shabana Najib of Sneinton Alchemy, who are the local community partners in the project.

Visiting local community project Growin' Spaces at Dale Allotments in Sneinton

Visiting local community project Growin' Spaces at Dale Allotments in Sneinton

The research will also cover Carrington in Nottingham, with outputs and further engagement planned for the Nottingham Central Library in September. You can find out more and get involved via the research project blog.

Chris interviews Turner Prize winner Assemble

Chris Heuvel

In conjunction with my research into how architects can develop their practice through engagement with members of a community, I will be hosting a talk by Lewis Jones of the 2015 Turner Prize winning collective Assemble

2hD director Chris Heuvel (left) with the speaker from Assemble, Lewis Jones (right)

2hD director Chris Heuvel (left) with the speaker from Assemble, Lewis Jones (right)

My interview will be conducted in public as part of the Norfolk Contemporary Art Society's programme in The Curve Auditorium, Norwich Forum on Wednesday 6th July 2016 at 7:30pm.

For more information, see the NCAS website.

Community inspired architecture

Tom Hughes

I teach with fellow 2hD Director Chris Heuvel at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) and I'm a director of Sneinton Alchemy — a Community Interest Company based in Sneinton, 2hD's local neighbourhood in Nottingham. Sometimes this mix of roles is a bit demanding, but more often than not there's a symbiosis, bringing strength and depth all round.

And so it was with a recently-completed project to design a small community allotment building for the "Growin Spaces" project in Sneinton.

Alchemy has been training a team of Community Organisers over the last few years: dedicated individuals who go out into the community to listen carefully to people on the streets, in pubs, in mosques, churches and homes. They listen to the young and old, to workers, business owners, those in power and the disenfranchised. They build community networks and gradually empower people to take action, follow their dreams and build a stronger community. And it works.

Growin' Spaces

One "proof of the pudding" is the Growin' Spaces project - set up by Stevie Doig. He had an idea about a community allotment which, over time working as a volunteer Community Organiser, he built into a reality. Listening with our team at Alchemy helped him build the mandate he needed to get the wider community on board. This ensured the sustainability of the project and gave him confidence to make broader links and gain important contracts and supply lines.

Now Growin' Spaces has transformed many abandoned allotments into productive growing space, providing work experience and structure for long term unemployed along the way. The project also feeds hundreds of local people each month, using allotment produce and "Fare Share" food wasted by supermarkets.

Low-tech architecture

The success of the project has generated the need for small buildings on site at the allotments. Initially a place to shelter and lock up equipment, this might expand over time to provide a learning space and other facilities. So Stevie asked me, with my 2hD hat on, if I might be able to help him explore design ideas.

I teamed up with Chris and we identified an opportunity at NTU to create an architecture studio student design project. Chris got the students out on to the allotments, meeting Stevie and his volunteers, and pitching-in with some clearance work. This experience inspired them to create imaginative but buildable designs for a small wooden building using low-tech timber framing. 

Stevie and the Community Organiser team then came to NTU to interview the students and select their favourite designs. These projects were displayed at the "Our Sneinton" public event, with a winner being chosen by popular vote. Over the summer, the building will be built!

Great outcomes, including for NTU meeting a number of the objectives of its new Strategic Plan, including "enriching society", "valuing ideas", "creating opportunity" and "empowering people".

So for 2hD, NTU, Sneinton Alchemy and Growin' Spaces, it´s a win, win, win, win situation.

Community inspired architecture at its finest!

Chris' doctorate research proposal accepted by NTU

Chris Heuvel

Further to our social sustainability ethos, we want to learn more about how we can grow as a practice as a result of (rather than in spite of) our involvement in community engagement activities.

This topic has been recognised by Nottingham Trent University School of Architecture as a suitable subject for investigation within the context of their professional doctorate programme, and Chris has therefore been developing a formal research proposal since the beginning of January.

Chris would welcome any correspondence on this subject: please read his Practice and Community blog and email him with your comments or suggestions.

Chris Heuvel: joining 2hD as a Director

Chris Heuvel

I am delighted that my appointment as a Director of 2hD has been confirmed today. Most immediately, my enhanced role with the practice will involve me in reviewing our quality systems, but I am keen to develop a strategic plan for our business to begin to handle larger-scale projects. From an additional base in Norwich (Paragon House, Earlham Road, NR2 3RA), I hope also to win new commissions and to extend our network of friends, collaborators and well-wishers.

My interest in the company was originally sparked by its distinctive ethos of community engagement. In every project we undertake, there is a strong commitment to exploring the wider social context, involving ourselves in the identification of local needs and aspirations, and responding creatively with development proposals that will bring long-term benefits — not merely to our immediate clients but to the whole neighbourhood.

I am committed to 2hD keeping hold of these very special ‘social sustainability’ ideals as our business grows. I have therefore embarked upon a three-year research programme supported by Nottingham Trent University, looking at how architectural practices such as ours can develop and expand through promotion of, and involvement in, community-based projects. I take the view that 2hD’s specialist skills in drawing local people into our design activities — practised through our architectural work, regular teaching activities and involvement in our local communities — should be harnessed as an asset and promoted as a primary feature of the way we work.  

If you’d like to follow the development of my research, please look from time to time at my Practice and Community blog (and let me know what you think).

Support for Neighbourhood Planning

Tom Hughes

Under English planning laws introduced in 2011, local communities are able to put together a Neighbourhood Plan. This is a planning document with 'teeth' in the system, which can set out policies formulated by the local community for their particular area.

The local area around the 2hD HQ, the Sneinton neighbourhood of Nottingham, is getting together to produce their own Neighbourhood Plan, and 2hD are signed up as members of the Sneinton Neighbourhood Forum which will produce it. I'm giving support as a Steering Group member and helping with the consultation process, mapping, graphics and communications. To explain the big idea of Neighbourhood Planning, I put together the short video below.

The Plan has evolved from the Sneinton Vision project, which 2hD also supported. We're delighted to see that the visioning work is going to be continued and gain real traction in the planning system. We've built up considerable expertise in meaningful consultation during the process and it's great to see our local community becoming more empowered and engaged as a result.

Self-build land shelter gets its roof

Tom Hughes

I spend a great couple of days helping put the roof on the shelter Alina designed for Iona School in Nottingham. The shelter structure consists of 8 larch tree trunks supporting a circular deck and a plywood reciprocal frame roof. Now topped with turf it blends in with its woodland setting from some angles and takes on an almost temple-like appearance from others. The shelter will be used as an outdoor classroom for pupils at the school, which offers Steiner education with activities often based on the land. 

You can find out more about the shelter, the build process and the people involved at the project blog.

A Design Vision for our neighbourhood

Tom Hughes
A Design Vision for our neighbourhood

I've been heavily involved over the last few months in the creation of a Neighbourhood Design Vision for Sneinton, the area of Nottingham where 2hD are based. I'm delighted to say that the Vision has now been launched to the public, with its own website and a downloadable PDF document.

In June last year I picked up on a letter from the UK Chief Planner, which set out the role of Design Council CABE (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment), in giving advice on good design for neighbourhoods

The UK planning system is in the process of a major overhaul aimed at giving local communities a greater input, part of the Government's "Localism" agenda. I was interested in how Sneinton might be able to put together a grass-roots vision of its own future, to ensure that Localism works as intended for the area.

A Design Vision for our neighbourhood

The essential problem was how to set out a strong set of ideas to resist poor development, but to encourage good developers by letting them know what local people would support. If resisting the bad is hard, encouraging the good is even more difficult.

As a director of Sneinton Alchemy, a non-profit company run by local people for the benefit of Sneinton, I wrote to Design Council CABE with a copy of the Chief Planner's letter. I asked the question: "What can you do for us?"

The upshot of this was a sucessful joint bid for Design Council CABE funding with OPUN (the architecture centre for the East Midlands), and a 6-month long project to develop the Sneinton Design Vision. You can read the story of how the Vision was created on the Sneinton Alchemy website.

One of the most rewarding parts of the process was the involvement of students from the School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment at Nottingham Trent University, where I'm a part-time lecturer. Second year architecture students put forward designs for three high-profile sites in Sneinton, the best of which then went forward to an OPUN design review. This saw a panel of industry experts reviewing both the student's designs and a draft version of the Sneinton Vision. 

Developing the Vision has been involved and tough for the local community to support, but the outcome is something we can be proud of. The hope is that this will form the basis of a Neighbourhood Design Plan for Sneinton, which can have real teeth in the planning process.

Portfolio project
The Lost Cuckoo

Thibaut Devulder

We have put together this short video about our Lost Cuckoo project with artist Marcus Rowlands from the DVD produced by the Lakeside Art Centre, who hosted the event last year.  The project was great fun and we are looking forward to developing this concept in other art festivals this year!

A public art and participation project by Marcus Rowlands artist and 2hD architects, involving pupils, parents and staff from Brocklewood, Melbury and Portland schools in Nottingham. Funded by The Arts Council, Lakeside Arts Centre and Nottingham Education Improvement Partnership, with support from Faspak and Staples. Original footage and sound by Vent Media. 2011.

The Lost Cuckoo project was commissioned and supported by the Arts Council England and Nottingham Lakeside Arts.

A living-room in a children's home

Tom Hughes

The proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the making. I spent Sunday volunteering at the site of our Childrens' Home project, helping them to get the building phase of their Living Room project underway.

The shared living room, before we started

It's been a fascinating project to be involved in. We were approached by The Mighty Creatives who were looking for someone who could work with the staff and residents at the Home to redesign their living room, making use of IT to communicate and visualise the process. In the end, we used StickyWorld and SketchUp with the LightUp plug-in… and if we could have found another software with a JoinedUp name, we'd have considered that too.

It's a tiny but intense project, and I found the design process really challenging. Working on occupied houses is always pretty involved, as being invited into the home requires a great deal of sensitivity to residents' preferences and relationships. At the same time, your own knowledge and experience as 'the professional' needs to be given a voice. As you'd imagine this particular living space is charged with a lot of meaning for many different people... But, by working together, we gradually achieved a design that everyone could take pride in.

The idea is that as much of the making work as possible is done by the staff and residents of the home, but I invited myself along on Sunday to lend a hand as they got underway. The electrian had already been in to do the first fix, so the next stage was setting out the studwork for the 'portal' feature, the lighting raft and the storage/entertainment wall. We made pretty good progress- a bit slowed by the effort of breaking up the world's densest fireplace hearth, but by the end of the day the design was beginning to pop off the page and in to the space. I loved being there to see this happen and hope to be back again as the project progresses.

In the meantime, we made a little film to celebrate the success of the collaborative design, and keep spirits up during the hard messy work ahead:

Living Room Project from 2hD Architecture Workshop on Vimeo.

Lost Cuckoo report

Thibaut Devulder

The Lost Cuckoo project culminated last weekend with an event at the Wheee! International Childrens' Theatre and Dance Festival at Nottingham's Lakeside Arts Centre. Nearly 1000 visitors participated in this live public art project, building imaginative and gravity-defying structures.

In the weeks leading up to the festival, we designed with artist Marcus Rowlands and families from three schools in Bilborough, a cardboard building “module”. In essence, a box with a “secret corner” that could be popped in to join boxes together at interesting and unpredictable angles.

We've blogged about the project before: You can read more about the process, the event, and catch up on our live blog from the event itself.

We really enjoyed working on this project and are very proud of the results. This is largely down to our brilliant collaborators: Marcus Rowlands, Ruth Lewis-Jones from the Lakeside and — most importantly of all — the children, parents and staff from Portland, Melbury and Brocklewood schools.

Thanks also must go out for the generous support given by the Lakeside Arts Centre, the Arts Council England, Faspak, Staples and Nottingham Education Improvement Partnership.