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RIBA East practice of the month: TMV Architects

Every month, RIBA East highlights a deserving practice based in the East of England. TMV Architects is our Practice of the Month for October 2021. Over the coming weeks we will showcase three of their outstanding projects.

22 September 2021

TMV, founded by their directors Thomas Mann and Marcus Vanner in 2010, is based at Norman Cross in Cambridgeshire. The team now has 7 members - Thomas Mann - Director; Marcus Vanner – Director; Nezamadin Azizi – Architectural Assistant; Eleanor Stamp – Architectural Assistant; Stephen McDougall – Architectural Assistant; Heleina Kanabar – Architectural Assistant; Daniel Wolstencroft – Junior Technician.

TMV pride themselves on their ability to deliver projects which are to brief and on time, underpinned by precision and rigorous processes that drive the success of their projects. Although they have a close-knit team, their efficient working processes allow them to adapt to projects of all shapes and sizes, from residential to education and healthcare.

They don’t limit their designs to a single style, which brings a level of design sophistication to all of their work that is sensitive to the space and surroundings. Their successes are made possible by a talented team and their ability to work and collaborate with each other and their clients. They are an inviting and open practice who love working together.

We asked the TMV about their practice, their journey, their successes and plans for the future.

The TMV Architects team at work

How do you support the learning journeys of your colleagues?

Both Marcus and I have completed our Part II, part-time, which gave us a unique insight into this academic route. We are therefore great advocates for gaining professional experience alongside academic experience. When we were employing new members of the team, the ideal outcome was to keep them long term and we felt that the part-time route could be mutually beneficial. However, it was never expected that our employees select this route, instead we were honest about our academic journey to allow them to explore the various options.

To further support our team, we endeavoured to create as comfortable a working environment as possible. Our studio is designed to be a social space, complete with breakfast bar-come games area, to allow employees to relax and switch off. We are flexible with our working hours to help maintain an equilibrium of work/life balance. Finally, despite the widely publicised ‘toxic work culture’ which can be synonymous with the industry, TMV do not advocate unpaid overtime and will never enforce additional hours.

We believe that this is the primary reason as to why all our employees (thus far) have opted to stay working within the practice and felt comfortable selecting a part-time route. We are so pleased that four members of our team are now studying an apprenticeship. This also gives them the unique opportunity to collaborate with each other, as they progress through their academic qualifications, and we are honoured to be able to support them on their journeys.

The Repeater Station - Detail. Image © Tom Calton / Blackpoint Media

What is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome during your career?

Marcus and I completed our qualifications during the recession. This was an incredibly turbulent time, that neither of us were prepared for. We were both working at larger multi-disciplinary practices but were aware of the potential redundancies facing us, which prompted us to create TMV. This was daunting as neither of us had worked for ourselves before.

Initially TMV was primarily Marcus working independently, with my availability after work and at weekends, as I had retained my job for the time being. However, as our workload increased it became evident that Marcus would need my support full-time. I therefore, decided to leave my job and refocus my energy into TMV. However, this was perfectly timed as I had also become a dad, so the daily commute to London had been impeding on this.

After 7 successful years we decided that it was time to take another big leap and expand the team. To facilitate this, we needed to design and build our own studio, as the two of us had been working in a small space above my garage. This was the first time that we would be employing staff and really investing in TMV; one of my greatest fears was that we would not have the work to sustain this. However, over 3-years later we are the busiest we have ever been.

We are now so grateful that every challenge we have overcome has been of benefit and we look forward to another 10 years of TMV.

Priestgate. Image © Tom Calton / Blackpoint Media

What’s the most exciting project you’ve got coming up or in the recent past, and why?

We are currently designing a new warehouse and office-space for Riverford Organic Farms in Peterborough Cambridgeshire. Following a significant year of growth, Riverford Organic Farms require a new office space and warehouse. The footprint of this being approximately 12,000sqm, making this one of our largest projects to date.

Riverford Organic Farms are a highly ethical and environmentally focused company, and it is crucial that this is transferred into the scheme. They are also keen for biophilic and sustainable design principles to be included. This is something which we are particularly excited about, as we enjoy creating socially and contextually sensitive design. However, despite warehouse buildings not naturally conforming to this the client is keen that those working in the main warehouse experience the same types of spaces as those in the office. This has provided its own unique set of challenges, but we look forward to resolving these as the design progresses.

The project is currently in for pre-application advice, with the full planning application being submitted this month. Following successful approval, we will be involved on-site, and we look forward to documenting the entire process on our various social media pages.

Bedford Girls’ School – Classroom. Image © Tom Calton / Blackpoint Media

Where do you see the industry, and your practice in 10 years’ time?

From a practice point of view, we always intended to keep the team close-knit and with our office at full capacity we feel we have reached the optimal size. As our apprentices complete their qualifications, we look forward to them progressing within the practice and to begin working independently.

We also intend to continue streamlining our projects towards a more commercial client-base, whilst retaining a selection of residential work. TMV are therefore, focusing on the wider trends within the industry which support this. Most particularly the migration towards BIM (Building Information Modelling), which we expect to become mandatory for large-scale projects in the future. All members of staff are now proficient in Revit, the industry’s leading BIM software, which means we are well prepared.

Additionally, following our involvement with Riverford Organic Farm, we are particularly aware of the wider movement towards a more sustainable mindset. Our hope is that this continues within the industry. However, we currently find that whilst our clients may have an appreciation of the importance of climate conscious design, often the inflated upfront costs hinder this. We hope that as sustainable technologies develop, they will become more cost effective and therefore, more readily available to the mainstream market. This will allow us to introduce them into more of our projects and work towards a more sustainable future.

Overall, TMV look forward to continuing our collaborative design approach in future projects, with our ultimate priority being to maintain a happy and healthy working environment for our team.

To find out more about TMV Architects visit their website or follow them on Instagram, Pinterest or LinkedIn.

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