“I like being surrounded by people who can’t answer the question of where they are from in a single word.”
THC: What inspires you and why?
NR: I get very inspired by collaboration and love setting up new partnerships with interesting people and organisations with complementary skills and expertise. Collaboration can open up new ways of seeing, new products to consider, new materials to work with. I enjoy the dialogue and working together towards a common outcome.
THC: How did you get into your business?
NR: At the last minute I decided to study architecture. I had an inner feeling to pursue something that combined discipline and creativity; that was rigorous and had a process but which was also about inspiration. From there I aspired to study at the best possible place, so I applied to the Architectural Association in London. They had an approach which I liked which was about exploring and questioning rather than just being focussed on solutions and definite answers. After a few years of work, I knew that I would work better if it was my own business rather than working for somebody else so set up my practice relatively quickly. The Town Hall Hotel, a listed retrofit with 98 rooms, was my first project and I still compliment myself on how I took it on with no fear at all.
THC: What are you working on right now?
NR: As always, I’m working on a variety of projects and scales, on products, buildings and masterplans. We work internationally across the cultural, residential, retail and hospitality sectors I enjoy working on various things simultaneously, some more conceptual, and others more grounded in reality. As an architect your present is always a future projection, as whatever you are working on will take a few years to be realised. In the current circumstances we are all very much looking to the future, and what the market for architecture will look like as demands and trends change, some in response to Covid. We are currently developing a highly sustainable concept for elderly living which retrofits existing commercial building stock to create vibrant residential hub. We are also working on some commercial buildings, finishing a loft in Paris and we have recently designed a destination resort in a stunning desert location.
THC: How do you see the role of place evolving?
NR: It’s interesting to note how much we have progressed the idea of virtual environments over the last year, with so many different experiences being delivered via our screens. But it’s also shown us that people need real life experiences and contact with other people to thrive, so I think we will be looking at place with new and hungry eyes, wanting them to deliver what cannot be replicated elsewhere. I am still very reassured that being immersed in a well-designed place cannot be compared to its virtual counterpart but believe we will increasingly have to think about the two in parallel.
THC: Would you happen to have a hero or icon?
NR: In general, women that ‘made it’ in the past, when conditions were much less favourable.
THC: Anywhere on the planet, what’s your favourite place?
NR: Under an umbrella, on a chaise-longue on a sunny beach or by the pool! It doesn’t matter where, although I do love the Luberon region in the South of France, for the beauty of its curated landscapes, it has amazing villages and scorching summer sun.
THC: Does culture play a role in your practise?
NR: Very much so! First of all we are a multicultural practice, starting with my diverse background and that of the people I work with. I like being surrounded by people who can’t answer the question of where they are from in a single word. Culture at the level of cultural influences and exchange plays a very important role in our work. Our projects are set in a wide variety of international settings and we ensure that we adapt our designs to address that – whether that is the degree of transparency of an enclosing wall in a hot country or the people used in a render to illustrate a project in Saudi Arabia, or the symbolism of the references we use in project presentations for South-east Asia, but also our understanding of materials and construction techniques in different parts of the world. NAME is based in London and Paris and even given how close our countries are, there are still significant disparities between us –something we will be even keener to address after Brexit to ensure our ongoing creative collaboration.