Robert Franklin – The Practice

The practice, established in 1978, is kept deliberately small, the Principal retaining control of all design work. I.T. is now dominant in technical information and drawings, but all design work is by hand to allow the continuous development of details unique to each project, rather than the use of standard details.

Experience now ranges through hotels, restaurants, health care, light industrial and leisure buildings, to high-value private houses and gardens in town and country which form the majority of projects. These “English House” types are the result of long and affectionate study of the best examples from the past, themselves exemplary as ‘sustainable’ buildings, and also from fundamentally rethinking the principles of truly ecological modern design.

General Approach to Energy and Sustainability

High priority is given to ‘Long Life, Low Energy and Loose Fit’ as a critical approach to sustainable design. Passive design, local materials, minimal industrial processing, insulation levels far in excess of regulatory requirements, and high levels of flexibility and craftsmanship are more likely to result in minimum energy consumption over time than highly industrialised processes and materials. Our houses are designed to last hundreds of years rather than decades, and the practice is successfully persuading more clients to develop alternative energy sources, and to upgrade the thermal performance of existing and new building envelopes where this does not risk creating future problems or clash with historic building issues.

General Approach to New Buildings and Private Houses

We have no stylistic preconceptions, believing that providing good planning and craftsmanship in the style appropriate to context and to the client’s tastes, is more important than imposing a single style philosophy. We take pleasure in responding to site and buildings, whether by creative contrast in appropriate places, or careful analysis of context and seamlessly weaving within it. One-off houses in particular are closely tailored to their occupiers’ lives, and have been deeply appreciated by their owners. We have received many design awards and, where absolute privacy has not been paramount, have been given wide and appreciative press coverage.

Experience has proved that fine craftsmanship and competitive bidding are incompatible. Our preference is therefore to select contractors and specific craftsmen from those who we know are capable of the finest work, and to negotiate. Clients are recommended to engage a good cost consultant to look after their financial interests independently, and a contract manager experienced in high quality work to manage the project on site.

Private house clients normally accept that the exercise is one of investment in lifestyle rather than property value, but having said that we have been aware of some of our earlier houses changing hands for very much more than would conventionally be the case, given their size and location. Design and quality pays.

General Approach to Conservation Work

This can be summarised as a ‘minimalist’ attitude, following the precepts of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings in intervening as little as possible commensurate with structural stability, weather proofing and longevity. To conserve and preserve well is not a low-cost enterprise, but we believe that too high a budget can do more damage to a historic building than a low one. Before any proposals for repairs, restoration or alterations are made, we ask for enough time to complete a thorough analysis of the building and its problems. Needless to say, not all problems are found before work starts, but the approach pays dividends in the long term.

Robert Franklin is an assessor for the RIBA Register of Conservation Architects, and is himself entered as an SCA (Specialist Conservation Architect), recognised by English Heritage as qualified to work on Scheduled Ancient Monuments and Listed Buildings of all grades.

General Approach to garden and furniture design

Gardens by Robert Franklin lean towards the ‘architectural’, being seen as natural extensions of the house. In this way indoors and out can be integrated by continuing design themes, vistas, connections and routes through and around the house. Garden buildings too; summer-houses, pergolas, tranquility enclosures and pavilions, are designed in harmony and counterpoint to the house and planting. For the planting schemes we like to work with skilled horticulturalists who understand the architectural structure that is aimed for.

Likewise, unique one-off free-standing and built-in pieces of furniture evolve from specific needs and context. Bathrooms and kitchens too are the result of long experience in weaving together minutely detailed joinery, stone, marble, sanitaryware and the latest appliances into functionaly beautiful rooms.

Colours and fabrics are deeply personal, but when clients request help we can recommend interior decorators who will work comfortably with clients and with the architecture.