Blog

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

Goosebumpability

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

#MondayMotivation?

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

NEVER STOP THE ACTION, KEEP IT UP! KEEP IT UP!

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

Welcome, to the DKA blog

Firstly, welcome to DKA’s Blog! It is a great pleasure to welcome you, and be one of the first people to write a post on our shiny new blog. I can’t remember precisely when we decided to add a blog feature to our website, but someone mentioned it in a meeting and I snuck off to do some research and design, then pitched my ideas to the team. I got excited at the prospect of blogging, probably because I knew it had the potential to be a real success. Not only are our team a collection of very talented architects,… 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

Midfield Dynamo – Advice for recent graduates

Creative people have good ideas, but it takes a team of creative people to achieve great things. Neil Armstrong didn’t get to the Moon on his own, and Damien Hirst doesn’t always pickle his own cows. For some people, recognition is their reward. For others it is enough knowing they were there and getting their hands dirty. For most, I imagine, the design process is where they find enjoyment, solving problems elegantly and learning new things. Within a creative team everyone can flourish. Together the team is greater than the sum of its parts with each person bringing different skills,… READ MORE

Pivot, filter, step ball-change

When I first started work in a dusty old accounts office way back in 1992, there was an odd mix of carbon paper, manual ledgers and tiny green screened monitors attached to terminals that allowed us access to either the Purchase Ledger or the Sales Ledger but not both and only the people down the hall knew anything about the Nominal Ledger or a budget. However, there was one other thing in that dusty attic room of the rather stately mansion house that I worked in, the computer that had Lotus 123 installed on it (and probably not much else)…. 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