Reflections in Practice

At DKA we have an established culture of welcoming students on placement as a key part of our team. Back in August we welcomed Nicki Maclean, a graduate from Bath University, and Harry Kemp, at graduate from UWE, into our studio. Time has flown and as we near the end of 2022 (!) we asked them to reflect back on their first few months in architectural practice. What have they learnt? What would they change? What do they want to achieve next? Harry says: I joined DKA 3 months ago after completing my part 1 architecture and planning degree at… READ MORE

The Dom-Ino Effect

DKA’s recent building experiences have involved off-site building techniques, where modular building components are fabricated off-site, then delivered and assembled on-site. The industry calls this ‘Modern Methods of Construction’ or MMC. We have been assisting The McAvoy Group in developing several such schemes for our commercial and healthcare sectors. The processes and constraints of modular build informs various aspects of the building design, even at early stages. Our recent ventures have prompted some reflection on a building technique which historically has proven to have a strong lure for architects. Lego of course, in its various guises, would be expected to… READ MORE

Back at the WSA

Last academic year 2020-2021 I was invited back to the WSA, Cardiff University after almost 15 years away from the ‘Diff as a guest design tutor for Architectural Design Module for first year. There was hope and expectation that with lots of precautions, sanitizer, fresh air and face mask this would be in person. It didn’t quite pan out like that and I learnt how to teach design and drawing via zoom; sketching live, digitally is challenging. Communicating scale and the architectural staple concepts of plan, section and elevation to a student who might be thousands of miles and several… READ MORE

Back to work!

I’m finally back at work! All updates have been applied, emails read, cakes provided and I’m happily specifying washrooms, picking floor finishes and drawing reception desks again! When I walked out of the office to work from home on the 16th March 2020, I didn’t realise I wouldn’t be working in the office again for another 624 days… I was waiting to hear if our IVF cycle had been successful and was being super-cautious, just in case (spoiler: it was). The rest of the office quickly joined in with WFH and we spent the summer keeping in touch by playing… READ MORE

Andy Batty – Author

  I wrote a story; the story became a book; the book got published (or will be, on the 28th of November). It sounds easy, it wasn’t, but I made it as easy as I could. They say, “write about something you know,” so I did. I wrote a story set in a school. I design them, so I could easily picture the classrooms, the workshops, the hall, the playgrounds, the fields and how the building looked and felt. I’ve also surveyed enough schools to know their idiosyncrasies, their smells, and their problems. But it is people that are the… READ MORE

A Crash Course in 3D Printing

I have worked within architecture for well over a decade now and a key skill I learnt early on was the ability to adapt. Over the past 18 months we have had to adapt more than ever. Whether it is simply a new project, a new client, new material, new piece of software or technology; successful people within the architectural industry have an ability to adapt quickly and embrace the changes. Those that don’t quickly get left behind. At DKA we have demonstrated this with the implementation of Building Information Modelling Management (or BIM for short). We were an early… READ MORE

DKA are Passivhaus Ready!

DKA are committed to developing design solutions to improve the built environment. In partnership with clients, consultants, contractors, local authorities and other participants in the development process, we seek to control the impact of our projects on the natural environment and local communities. We have been delivering highly sustainable buildings for over 25 years, reducing the energy consumptions of our clients’ buildings and improving the experience of the building users. Passivhaus is becoming an aspiration for many of our clients, particularly in the public sector for new school projects. The combination of a ‘fabric first’ approach combined with low energy… READ MORE

Student Mentoring in Lockdown

Oh, very young What will you leave us this time You’re only dancing on this earth for a short while… Oh, very young What will you leave us this time. A few lines from probably my favourite (Yosef) Cat Stevens song. Just a bit before my time I would add. Worth a listening to if you don’t know his work, although you’re bound to recognise some of his songs. His folky-pop, combined with messages of existential spirituality could be considered especially apt for our present situation with the pandemic. At DKA we have always taken an interest in supporting young… READ MORE

Freshford Lockdown Garden Project

Well, the world has been rocked to its very dusty foundations by a nasty microscopic organism. My family and I are extremely fortunate to be able to live on the outskirts of a small village outside Bath which meant that, when lockdown hit in March of this year we were able to basically isolate ourselves from the rest of the world. This did leave us with one small issue however, we had recently completed Phase 1 of an extension to our property and the pretty cottage garden we had bought had been destroyed and replaced with piles of soil and… READ MORE

Changing Places

The requirement to provide Changing Places toilets will be incorporated into the Building Regs Part M2 in the New Year. Here’s a brief overview of what they are and how DKA can help you plan for their implementation. What is it? A Changing Places (CP) toilet provides sanitary accommodation for people with disabilities who require assistance to use toilet and changing facilities. They are intended for use in specific building types, mainly large public & assembly buildings. A full list is outlined below. A CP toilet does not replace standard WC facilities, wheelchair-accessible WCs and baby changing facilities, which should… READ MORE

A Lesson in Crisis Management

For 5 minutes of your time I’ll offer a slice of hope. Those who know me, know of my love of space and astronomy. Mankind has always looked to the stars for answers, and remarkably we have a recent tale that offers applicable lessons to our current predicament. 50 years ago, NASA delivered a masterclass in crisis management. The crew of Apollo 13 were returned safely to Earth after suffering a catastrophic failure of their spacecraft. Reviewing the decisions taken during that crisis can apply to many other scenarios. For those running a business, there are clear parallels. For anyone… READ MORE

Working From Home…

It wasn’t the best decision of my life to head off to the Canary Islands in the middle of March but, you know, hindsight is a wonderful thing. Who knew when I did eventually get back and immediately start working from home that my epic tan was going to be so vital for Microsoft Teams® meetings. “DM you’re very dark can you put a light on” That’s nothing to do with the lights Mr Kent! While I was away, I knew things were getting interesting back at the studio when I was suddenly added to a DKA Whatsapp group chat…. READ MORE

Best of the Basins

We’re all spending a lot more time stood at basins and sinks these days – so, in case anyone is pondering an upgrade once this is all over, I thought I’d pick out a few of my favourites from last year’s shows… Rockwell by The Water Monopoly Based on a traditional metal basin, Rockwell is actually ceramic and comes in lots of lovely colours – I love the matching taps. Would add some quirkiness to a downstairs loo, or could be great in a school. Large versions (including double) and whole matching suite also available – if you’re feeling brave!… READ MORE

Clerkenwell Design Week 2019

Clerkenwell, an area of central London, is home to more creative businesses and architects per square mile than anywhere else on the planet. Every year, over three days at the end of May, Clerkenwell Design Week attracts 1000s* of people to showroom events, exhibitions, installations and talks. This year marks the 10th year of the festival and Kate and I once again made our way to London to see what’s new… We hopped off the tube at Farringdon, grabbed a guide and lanyard**, found a café and planned our route. This is where we ended up going: You can find… READ MORE

How to Design a Reception – Part 1

For many organisations, reception is where that first impression is made. A good reception will reinforce your brand – in terms of style and service – and will set expectations for what’s to come. It can also influence your mood: imagine how you would feel after arriving at reception for a meeting and not being sure where to go, not being able to catch the eye of the receptionist* and of being kept waiting with no-where to sit and nothing to look at but a blank wall. That mood will carry through to your meeting and, however courteous your host… READ MORE

Celebrating 25 years in style

It was with an overwhelming sense of pride that DKA Founder and Director, David Kent addressed staff and invited guests at the DKA summer garden party this month – a milestone event to celebrate the DKA journey over the last 25 years. The Holburne Museum in Sydney Pleasure Gardens was the backdrop to the garden party themed event in which Directors welcomed over 100 staff, clients, friends and supporters to raise a glass to the last 25 years and toast the next 25! Guests partied the evening away with Aperol Spritz and Garden of Eden cocktails, a fire pit BBQ… READ MORE

Field Marshal

The quantity of electronic information and complexity of IT systems can quickly combine to overwhelm and befuddle any hardworking professional. Despite most company servers having enormous capacity, individuals’ C drives are packed full of work documents and emails, ‘organised’ into Escher-like folder structures that no-one else understands. Furthermore, your IT department have another great idea to rationalise your contacts database (again) but the finance department refuse to play ball as their software only runs on XP. Stop and imagine a utopian future when you have all your project data, all your business contacts, all project correspondence, all drawing issues and… READ MORE


When songwriter & producer Brian Wilson played the rest of the Beach Boys the songs that would become the Pet Sounds album, they were distinctly underwhelmed. Brian plugged away at the piano presenting the sketches for each song that would become their classic album – but the Boys were not impressed. They thought he’d flipped (which indeed he did, but not until a whole while later). Right now he was at the top of his game, so what was the problem? As he played, Brian (and only Brian) could hear what wasn’t there: where the percussion would sit, how the… READ MORE

A new direction | David Kent

The story so far… David became a member of the RIBA in 1980 and after a period of working for a practice in Cambridge, he moved with his family down to the West Country in 1983. David set up DKA in 1993, and said “We were in the teeth of a recession, there was no long term plan other than keeping the small team busy.” Now, David has spent nearly two thirds of his professional life in the Malt House and has seen the studio grow to around 42 people at its busiest. DKA has been involved in countless buildings; two that David recalls… READ MORE

A new direction | Fabien Coupat

The story so far… Fabien arrived in the UK in 1995 and graduated from the University of Bath in 2001, before rolling down Bathwick Hill and starting at DKA that summer. He completed his Part 3 with the support of his DKA colleagues in 2007. Fabien says “Considering my serious case of itchy feet, having been at DKA for 16 years is a testament to the quality of the DKA team and its workplace environment. Our open studio has definitely contributed to my personal development, enabling continuous learning from my peers over the years.”   People may not know… Although… READ MORE

A new direction | James Bastable

The story so far… James graduate from the Welsh School of Architecture in 2004 and completed his Part 3 studies in 2006 following two years in practice elsewhere in Bath. After deciding the time was right for a fresh challenge James joined DKA in the autumn of 2006. James says “Although I have been involved in projects across many sectors, 90% of my projects during my 11 years at DKA have been in the industrial, engineering and automotive sectors. During this time I have inherited and developed a specialist understanding of building and operational requirements in what can be a… READ MORE

A new direction | Alex Bell

The story so far… Alex joined DKA in 2002 – the year the Euro was introduced across the 12 EU member states and Gareth Gates’ Unchained Melody topped the charts for a (staggering) 4 weeks. After 6 years at the University of Bath, Alex graduated as the recipient of the RIBA Wessex Prize for design. With the world at his feet, he accepted a position at DKA, 1.4 miles from the University. Alex says “I’ve been lucky enough to run projects across many sectors over 15 years. As a young architect I designed motor dealerships and primary schools, then commercial… READ MORE

My DKA story | Simon Lawrence

After graduating from the Welsh School of Architecture and qualifying in 1981, I moved from London to Bristol in the late 1980’s working in private practice and at the University of Bristol till joining DKA . The practice started in 1993 and I joined a year later. Like any organization in the construction industry and certainly any architects’ practice, we’ve experienced a few ups and downs since then but the practice is in great shape with a strong and varied client base, some really talented people supported by the latest computing technology and software and a newly refurbished office. From… READ MORE

The Big Easy

On Wednesday 17th May, Michael Eavis CBE officially opened The Mendip School, a special school for 120 pupils aged 4 to 19 located on the Bath and West Showground near Shepton Mallet. Mendip School is an easy building; easy to build, easy to navigate, easy to use. It is not frivolous. It is functional, practical and works very well. It’s mainly about putting rooms in the right place. The primary school classrooms face south so the sun warms the external teaching space where the children spend so much of their time whereas the secondary school classrooms face north, enjoying daylight… READ MORE

DKA refurbishment

For those of you who follow us on social media, have been to the studio in the past 6 months, or have called up for a chat and heard the echoes of a building site in the background will know we’ve been undergoing a studio refurbishment. We’re so close to the finish line we can almost taste it! We’ve been planning this for some time now and over the last year we felt we were in the right place to bite the bullet and go for it. We’ve still got a few loose ends to tie up but the majority… READ MORE

DKA Presents | by Andy Batty

Every fortnight at DKA we take it in turns to present something design based to the whole team and we’re calling it DKA presents. Presenting to our peers means we get the opportunity to practice our presenting skills and share our passions with our colleagues. We get anonymous feedback from the audience to help us develop our presenting style and everyone gets to eat pizza! So all in all, everyone looks forward to every other Wednesday lunchtime! We asked Andy to tell us about his recent presentation for the blog: School in a box I have never had an overriding ambition to… READ MORE

DKA Presents | by David Yeates

Every fortnight at DKA we take it in turns to present something design based to the whole team and we’re calling it DKA presents. Presenting to our peers means we get the opportunity to practice our presenting skills and share our passions with our colleagues. We get anonymous feedback from the audience to help us develop our presenting style and everyone gets to eat pizza! So all in all, everyone looks forward to every other Wednesday lunchtime! We interviewed David Yeates to tell us about his recent presentation for the blog. Tell us about your topic My topic for this… READ MORE

Enter, Stranger! 

The other afternoon I was stationed at the front desk and answered the front door to a chap I didn’t know from a bar of soap. He had a large oil painting with him and was reluctant to leave without palming it off on somebody. Your correspondent’s explanation that there is another business at The Malthouse, albeit down stairs from us and through a different front door, was drawn out and painful. The rest of the DKA crowd listened with mild amusement as I slowly reasoned that yes, this was the right building…but no, he wouldn’t find the lady in… READ MORE

DKA Presents | by Alex Bell

Every fortnight at DKA we take it in turns to present something design based to the whole team and we’re calling it DKA presents. Presenting to our peers means we get the opportunity to practice our presenting skills and share our passions with our colleagues. We get anonymous feedback from the audience to help us develop our presenting style and everyone gets to eat pizza! So all in all, everyone looks forward to every other Wednesday lunchtime! We asked Alex to tell us about his recent presentation for the blog: I decided to use my interest in astronomy and astrophotography… READ MORE

National Don’t Step On A Bee Day

For us honeybees, six not three is the magic number. It’s the amount of sides each of our cells in the hive have. Having six sides creates the best shape for honey production because they require less wax and can hold more honey, and we all know, the honey makes the money! The hexagonal cells are used to house larvae, as well as store honey, nectar and pollen. How about that George Clarke? I think that’s a pretty ‘amazing space’. When beekeepers extract our hard earnt honey from our hives, the comb is easily left intact, though beekeepers sell honey comb… READ MORE

Dr Who makes surprise appearance at cub camp

Wiltshire West District’s Doctor Who Cub Camp 10-12th of June 2016 The thirteenth regeneration of Dr who made a brief appearance at the Wiltshire West, District cub camp at the weekend, whisking the cubs away in the Tardis to the siege of Mafeking in 1899 where Baden Powel and a thousand or so inhabitants defended the town against 8000 Boers. Dr Who rallied an array of deadly aliens to the cause, all of whom proved to be remarkably incompetent, requiring cub scouts to the save the day, and through an ironic paradox that broke almost every rule in the known,… READ MORE

DKA Presents | The “Desert of England” by Adrian Abbs

Every fortnight at DKA we take it in turns to present something design based to the whole team and we’re calling it DKA presents. Presenting to our peers means we get the opportunity to practice our presenting skills and share our passions with our colleagues. We get anonymous feedback from the audience to help us develop our presenting style and everyone gets to eat pizza! So all in all, everyone looks forward to every other Wednesday lunchtime! We asked Adrian to tell us about his recent presentation for the blog: “Whilst visiting friends on the south coast this February we… READ MORE

My Work Experience | by Poppy Jableman

When I was younger, I always looked forward to watching Grand Designs at home with my Dad after school. I loved watching the original animated plan come to life, as Kevin McCloud gave us a commentary of what new building was to come. I enjoyed seeing a few sketches develop into a finished building, and watching the whole process along the way. Nowadays, I enjoy Design and Technology at school and am doing a GCSE in Resistant materials with Systems. I wanted to do my work experience in an architects practice, so that I could channel my love for Grand… READ MORE

My Work Experience | by Imogen Cartwright

Since I was young I have always wanted to pursue a career in design and architecture or design engineering was ideal due to my love of designing. Enrolling in an architect’s office for work experience would be perfect in acting as a springboard to my career development and would really benefit me in the future. It would also allow me to see what an architect does on a daily basis and would then allow me to see if I would like to pursue a career in it. The reason why I picked DKA is because it would allow me to… READ MORE

Exercise is bad for you.

True to my Welsh origins I like my rugby. Whilst enjoying the proper contact stuff I considered touch rugby, supposedly the gentler cousin of the full contact game, a safer and more responsible alternative. I’ve played at our local club regularly for about the past 8 years thinking it was out of harm’s way. A run out once a week, a bit of banter and some social time afterwards. A good form of exercise and a weekly antidote to the stresses and strains of life that had until now served its purpose. As a big man it was nice not… READ MORE

Constructing Excellence South West Conference

I guess every industry has its acronyms. At the Bristol Marriott on Friday 21st May the delegates got a goody bag full as the various conference speakers imparted knowledge and wisdom about their selected topic for this year’s Constructing Excellence South West Conference. We were instructed to keep our phones ON, set to stun, and to tweet furiously throughout. OMG1 I thought, YOLO2 The day didn’t start well IMHO3. Incumbent Bristol Mayor George Ferguson was AWOL4 and unable to deliver a key note address as he was stuck on an international visit. Having heard George speak many times, I would… READ MORE


If you’ve been following us on twitter, you may have noticed we’ve jumped aboard the #mondaymotivation band wagon…. …and why not?! Motivation at work is such an advantage. We spend approximately one third of our lives at work, so it goes without saying we should feel motivated when carrying out our day job. So what is ‘Motivation Mapping’? Motivational mapping is a tool to help us discover what our individual motivators are and therefore enable us to get the absolute best from our team by understanding what’s important to each of us. Motivational maps start with a simple on-line questionnaire… READ MORE

The world really is their oyster

Avid readers of my blog (thanks mum) may remember I was asked to conduct some mock interviews at St Gregory’s school in Bath at the start of the year. I was pretty pleased with myself when the school emailed me to ask if I would come back in March to help with their Career Insights day for their year 10 pupils. The first thing I had to do was work out how old year 10s were. It’s been a few years since I was at school, 26 years in fact. It appears that year 10s are 14-15 years old, that… READ MORE

Ecobuild 2016

I am becoming something of an Ecobuild veteran having made the journey to Excel over the past four or five years. It is often a barometer for the industry or trends – remember when PV suppliers took up half of the south hall? The most apparent difference in 2016 is the size – only one of the halls was used. Perhaps this was a desire for quality rather than quantity or simply to make the visitor experience more manageable. Getting around that much area in one day became practically impossible for the average desk jockey. I needed to visit a… READ MORE

Insert Inspiring Quote Here

Instagram. They love an inspiring quote over there don’t they. My favourites are the completely nonsensical ones which are so profound – here’s one for you – But the ones I think are downright depressing are the pretty pink and rose gold ‘motivators’, for example – Naughty of them, I think, suggesting that if you aren’t doing it full on with passion, you’re doing it wrong. Honestly? I love my job at DKA. I love my colleagues, I love our beautiful office and I love being the frantic swan legs under the surface of the pond which is our smooth… READ MORE

Keep on ‘in keeping’ on

‘But is it in keeping?’ Ask any architect – their most hated phrase is probably ‘in keeping’. Two horrid little words customarily trotted out as a reaction to anything new. It implies, why spoil what is here with THAT? To the designer it is an illogical rejection, inferring that whatever has gone before has reached such a zenith of design and social engineering that nothing in our wildest imaginations could hope to improve the local environment other than more of exactly the bloody same. If we tell a child that each drawing must be ‘in keeping’ with their last then… READ MORE

The future is bright

The first crisp January morning of 2016 saw me nervously approaching reception at St Gregory’s School in Bath not knowing what to expect. I may have left school 25 years ago but there was a familiarity as soon as I walked through the front doors. As the bell/siren/klaxon sounded the corridors filled with swarms of students, (not sure if that’s the collective noun but it seemed to fit) all with somewhere to be, followed closely by efficient teachers with lesson plans and bags of marked homework (were they teachers or upper sixth students?) I’m suddenly feeling very old. The smell… READ MORE

Every day’s a school day | working at DKA

‘You learn something new everyday’ I love that phrase, it’s so true. Everyday’s a school day. You may have worked with architects before, but I have compiled a list of things I’ve learnt from working with them at DKA for 3.5 years, lessons and top tips which are applicable to many a workplace I’m sure!   Be neat There was a time (I’m embarrassed to admit this) when I didn’t line things up. I was haphazard, slapdash, preferred speed over consideration and this is clearly visible in my old work and portfolio. While doing my stint as an ‘Architectural Assistant’ I had… READ MORE

BBC Three Counties – Tales of the unexpected

When we first met with the Editor of BBC Three Counties Radio we were given our brief in two parts. The first was the technical brief, driven largely by BBC Standards similar across all similar local radio stations. Compliance with this part of the brief would be relatively simple; provide this number of rooms at these sizes with a given technical performance. The second part of the brief was less easily defined;  it required the building to embody the values of the station, reach out to the listeners and create an environment to get the best out of the station… READ MORE


Wise words indeed from Grace Jones in her 1985 world-wide hit “Slave to the Rhythm” The funny thing is, if you’ve got an A’ level in Computer Science (luckily I have), or a child aged 3 or above (sadly I don’t) you can sync your iTunes library to your Fitbit activity tracker and low and behold on your Wednesday lunchtime run, (DKA gives us two hours so we have time to shower and eat too!) everything fits into place when Ms Jones pipes up with this little belter from back in the day. A smirk appeared as I pounded the… READ MORE

Acceptable in the 80’s

On the occasion of DKA’s inaugural blog posting, I can’t help but reflect on some of the changes to the office and working practices that have happened since we set ourselves up in 1993. Without a doubt digital technology has had the biggest single impact on the way we work. I can remember the first fax machine being brought into an office where I worked in the 1980’s; we all panicked at the thought of no longer being able to use the excuse ‘the drawing’s in the post’; little did we know that soon enough the very idea of printing… READ MORE

Designing to make a difference

A quarter of UK hospital patients have dementia. The recent, and heart-breaking, BBC2 programme ‘Nowhere to Go’ told the story of Evelyn, a patient with advanced dementia. She found the hospital disorientating and was becoming aggressive, at one point being restrained by security guards. Visiting hospital can be stressful for any of us, but patients with dementia can find the experience so unsettling that it impacts their recovery. A well-designed environment can help to reduce falls, length of stay, and challenging behaviour whilst increasing staff productivity. To offer the best outcomes to its patients, Bridgwater Community Hospital facilitates social engagement… READ MORE

Designing for Special Needs

Special needs is a subject with bucket loads of emotion for all involved; frustration, triumph, loneliness, friendship, anger, appreciation, pride and respect; but for me the emotion is joy. I am privileged to design schools for pupils with special needs, and there are many reasons I should be happy about it. For a start I am designing for people who are passionate about what they do, and care about what I can do for them. Secondly the brief is developed through close consultation, gradually getting to understand the school’s vision, the approach to teaching and learning; welfare and socialisation; safety… READ MORE