Design Talk: Timothy Burgess, Cove Burgess Architects

According to the American multi-billionaire Warren Buffet, price is what you pay but value is what you get. He should know considering the rather eye-popping fortune he has amassed in the last 86 years.

Another person who knows a thing or two about value, both innate and otherwise, is Timothy Burgess. Partner at the four year old practice, CoveBurgess, their approach is deceptively simple. Consider what happens when you cut back on unnecessary complications, and identify opportunities to improve the function and form, and therefore also performance of buildings. Design lies at the heart of the firm’s work, as aesthetics form a significant part of user experience, whether you’re talking about a business structure or video game. Keen to learn a little more about how all this is done, we gave the man in question a call.

Timothy Burgess - Cove Burgess Architects

Timothy Burgess – Cove Burgess Architects

Hi Timothy, hope you’re well today. So, in a nutshell, what does CoveBurgess do?

“We primarily work for property people, and the whole ethos of our practice is to create value out of a building through design work. Typically our clients see buildings as assets, in other words they already own something they want to improve or are looking to buy something and want to increase its value. Or sometimes they are the long term custodians of a building, such as one gentleman’s club in London that has been there for 150 years, but nonetheless wants to create more value.”

So you are involved in restoration work?

“At least two thirds of our work is on existing buildings being refurbished. Sometimes light touches- or specifically focussing on public areas like receptions- or, in the case of some recent projects, taking a building right down to its core before piecing it back together. And then the gentleman’s club is a great example of working on a Grade I listed building, understanding its history, how it got to what it looks like today over the past 300 years, and the heritage and townscape issues that come with that.”

Explain what you consider opportunities for value?

“The key things in adding value are maximising utility- which is often area or efficiency- and to remove the superfluous and anything that is bogging things down. The outcome is that the architecture, or the solutions, are simple, strong, beautiful pieces of work. And that’s where I think there’s a synergy with suppliers like Deltalight.

Valiant House, Cove Burgess Architects

“A really good example is Valiant House, which was a 1980s building that had been slightly forgotten and had a very challenging entrance experience, you sort of went in sideways and then it was very convoluted. The primary objective was a brand new entrance, opening up the space and removing the clutter and the crap, just having a really bold and clear experience where, any visitor coming in, seeing a big staircase, immediate path to the lifts and reception, would understand the building straight away.

Valiant House, Cove Burgess Architects

Valiant House, Cove Burgess Architects

Valiant House, Cove Burgess Architects

Valiant House, Cove Burgess Architects

“In order to do that we used Deltalight products in the reception space, these simple, clean, boxy lights worked very well with that aesthetic-they could uplight, downlight. It was all about bold and clean. In the atrium we used square hung lights- straight off the shelf, affordable fittings, but nothing about them that doesn’t need to be there. That’s what works when we choose these products, value for money and bang for buck for the client. These are commercial spaces, so it has to work financially, but then it’s also about finding the places where you put the energy in to create the occupier or tenant experience, so it just looks clean, bright and well thought through.”

Valiant House, Cove Burgess Architects

Valiant House, Cove Burgess Architects

Creatives and clients can be a turbulent relationship- do you every make recommendations that others dispute?

“I think we pride ourselves on understanding the bigger picture- in other words what is the client looking to do with any given scheme. Essentially, the key things we do to create value are unlocking the value that’s there in the first place through area or efficiency to attract occupiers by making really a beautiful space; and also mitigating the risk- delivering speed, affordability, and making sure you have a really well-managed project where the client is aware every step of the way.

“So just by keeping close to the client and letting them know what stage things are at all the time we don’t have that many arguments at all. There have been some instances where people have maybe not wanted to go with a particular product due to cost, although with Deltalight we have contacted them directly and they have been able to recommend a more affordable solution.”

Valiant House, Cove Burgess Architects

Valiant House, Cove Burgess Architects

Valiant House, Cove Burgess Architects

Finally, how busy is 2017 looking?

“The two things we’re looking forward to most are, say, the Valiant House I mentioned, we’re about to go on to Valiant’s big brother, which means the scale is going up for us which is great. And then the other ongoing thing is the gentlemen’s club, which we’re in the process of negotiating with Westminster and The Crown for planning permission. So I’m due to look at the kitchens of The Ritz in the next couple of weeks because we’re set to put a new kitchen in for this listed building. I’m really looking forward to that because it should be such a unique experience for me.”


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