Housebuilding and me: Emily Newton of Assael Architecture

January 30, 2018 / Keith Osborne
Housebuilding and me: Emily Newton of Assael Architecture

Recently promoted and with a portfolio that includes a range of impressive developments around London, architect Emily Newton tells us about how her qualifications and skills have led to a career with a vital connection to the UK housebuilding industry.

Please tell us about your role and the qualification/training/career path that took you there.

My decision to study architecture was a big leap into the unknown. However, I’m now an associate director at Assael Architecture, a practice of nearly 90 employees based in Putney. My role focuses primarily on the early stage design, and achieving planning consent for the renewal of difficult and constrained sites, often involve heritage buildings.

The path to get here started at Cardiff University. I joined Pollard Thomas Edwards and had a fantastic Part I experience working on a variety of large- and small-scale projects. By chance, John Assael presented one of the Part III lectures that I attended, and mentioned the practice was looking to recruit. I sent over my CV, got the job, and seven years later, here I am!

What are the most satisfying new homes projects you’ve worked on to date and what was it about them that you most enjoyed?

The Stokes Croft scheme in Bristol, an area famous for Banksy and its bohemian character, has been the most exciting project that I worked on. The project initially faced public opposition, however this turned into full support after we engaged with the locals. It was rewarding to see a community take ownership of the scheme, helping to ensure it remains ‘of its place’ rather than becoming a generic piece of urban fabric that you would find anywhere.

Are there specific professional and personal skills that would make someone particularly good in the new homes sector of architecture?

A genuine interest in people is key in residential design. If you consider how people want to live, you can enable their needs and create spaces that work well for the future. An appreciation of how design affects people, such as light and colour, textures and material choices is essential and can take design to the next level.

Have there been challenges that have given you particular satisfaction to overcome?

I used to dread presenting to large groups of people. However, practice makes perfect, and by taking on many public speaking opportunities during my career I have overcome this challenge. Part of planning process for a recent project in Bromley-by-Bow involved presenting to the Olympic Legacy’s Design Review Panel. It was a privilege presenting to some of the most respected members of the architectural community, including Peter St John, and receiving their comments and support for the design.

With the high targets of housebuilding being set, do you think architectural opportunities in this sector will change much?

Our client base has changed dramatically in the last five years from housebuilders to mainly institutional investors and we are seeing more and more Build To Rent projects where clients are investing in buildings that provide long-term returns. With the new London Plan’s loosening of the reins regarding density, added to the ever-increasing pressure to build more homes, this could be the dawn of a new age of housebuilding.

Do you have any advice for anyone considering residential-related architecture as a career path?

Shaping large-scale areas of cities, towns and countryside comes with a responsibility to create the best places we can for people to live.

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