An Interview with Jessica Hillam
June 16, 2020・ Interview

An Interview with Jessica Hillam

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It’s great to be catching up with you Jessica. As an architect at Buckley Gray Yeoman, what were the key elements of your role in the Elsley House project?

I took the project lead through the design and construction phases for the fit out project, to be able to work with a client right through the entire project was a joy! This client wished to stay very involved with the process, therefore my role involved preparing design ideas for presentations, around the table layout discussions, furniture showroom visits and sample boarding. I also worked with the contractor onsite to realise the scheme and finetune details which we believe greatly contributed to the project’s success.

The supplier to architect relationship is an important aspect of the design process, how was working with Dodds & Shute?

It is very important yes! Fundamentally I need to know that I can trust my chosen supplier to deliver and resolve any problems on a project. It’s also paramount that a supplier can understand the demands of a particular brief and shift their practices accordingly where required, sometimes things don’t always go as planned for factors beyond our control! It speaks volumes when problems can be handled professionally, swiftly and with minimal impact on both the designer and end client. The ability to interpret the concept and budget to offer feasible solutions is also key, especially on tight deadlines! – this was all definitely the case with Dodds & Shute!

During a project, how do you find the creative harmony between established methods and pursuing a new and innovative approach?

With most things I pursue, and in the words of Nike, ‘just do it!’ - Nothing ever changed without someone thinking perhaps there is a better way! I think most of the time when trying something new, just imagining yourself in the other person’s shoes, explaining the process goals and thinking as a team can be the solution to unlocking this. If everyone gives a little it can lead to amazing things, not to say there won’t be problems along the way – but being a glass half full person helps!

The Elsley House brief was to create an antithesis to the typical corporate workplace. Which components of the space were essential to get right in order to bring this concept into fruition?

Initially it was important to understand how the client’s team preferred to work in order to inform the spaces, after this it was a process of developing a series of design possibilities in and around that to get the maximum out of the space, whilst allowing future flexibility within a changing office landscape. Offering employees a choice of workspace adopting some more ‘modern’ concepts such as sit-stand desking, agile working spaces and breakout areas. Tuning this with the requirements of private confidential business was the goal.

The material palette and loose furniture pieces also played an important role to convey this message, a fine balance of sophistication and ‘cool’ was the brief. We chose furniture pieces that were smart, some classic but added playful fabrics and colours to blend.

How important do you think sustainability is for the design industry to address?

Paramount. Up until recently sustainable design was more often than not seen as a tick box exercise, a token gesture and designs as a bit ‘kooky’ for some. It was something that ‘others’ were interested in. I think even since the Elsley House project began the industry has seen a positive change in thinking on this, more and more products are available and companies are investing into initiatives. Everyone has a role to play in making the industry more sustainable, but I do think it boils down to the designers to make this choice, vote with your feet!

I think the Elsley House project has begun to work into the idea that sustainable design doesn’t have to have a pre-determined aesthetic, there’s a way to go yet in terms of sustainable design – but it’s a positive step in the right direction. For me producing a design that has a substantial consideration for sustainability is plain and simple - more fulfilling.

Where do you find to be a great source of creative inspiration?

A great variety of places! Sometimes just walking down the street thinking about a small comment someone said at a meeting, precedent projects online (sometimes not of the same sector), furniture showrooms or lifestyle images on Pinterest are always a favourite! Mainly though making time to just think about the brief often drives the best ideas. Working intently and developing a brief with the client; understanding what it is physically that they need, alongside history and values of the client’s company but also understanding what it is they are trying to achieve other than the physical space. I find working through these elements unlocks originality the most.

Lastly, tell us a little more about what’s in store for BGY.

It’s an exciting time for BGY! Over the past year or so the company has had three major business development’s; first becoming an Employee Owned Trust in 2019, secondly welcoming a new Interiors MD and team of interior designers to form ‘BGY Interiors’ and thirdly a complete re-branding of the business!

An Interview with Jessica Hillam

It’s great to be catching up with you Jessica. As an architect at Buckley Gray Yeoman, what were the key elements of your role in the Elsley House project?

I took the project lead through the design and construction phases for the fit out project, to be able to work with a client right through the entire project was a joy! This client wished to stay very involved with the process, therefore my role involved preparing design ideas for presentations, around the table layout discussions, furniture showroom visits and sample boarding. I also worked with the contractor onsite to realise the scheme and finetune details which we believe greatly contributed to the project’s success.

The supplier to architect relationship is an important aspect of the design process, how was working with Dodds & Shute?

It is very important yes! Fundamentally I need to know that I can trust my chosen supplier to deliver and resolve any problems on a project. It’s also paramount that a supplier can understand the demands of a particular brief and shift their practices accordingly where required, sometimes things don’t always go as planned for factors beyond our control! It speaks volumes when problems can be handled professionally, swiftly and with minimal impact on both the designer and end client. The ability to interpret the concept and budget to offer feasible solutions is also key, especially on tight deadlines! – this was all definitely the case with Dodds & Shute!

During a project, how do you find the creative harmony between established methods and pursuing a new and innovative approach?

With most things I pursue, and in the words of Nike, ‘just do it!’ - Nothing ever changed without someone thinking perhaps there is a better way! I think most of the time when trying something new, just imagining yourself in the other person’s shoes, explaining the process goals and thinking as a team can be the solution to unlocking this. If everyone gives a little it can lead to amazing things, not to say there won’t be problems along the way – but being a glass half full person helps!

The Elsley House brief was to create an antithesis to the typical corporate workplace. Which components of the space were essential to get right in order to bring this concept into fruition?

Initially it was important to understand how the client’s team preferred to work in order to inform the spaces, after this it was a process of developing a series of design possibilities in and around that to get the maximum out of the space, whilst allowing future flexibility within a changing office landscape. Offering employees a choice of workspace adopting some more ‘modern’ concepts such as sit-stand desking, agile working spaces and breakout areas. Tuning this with the requirements of private confidential business was the goal.

The material palette and loose furniture pieces also played an important role to convey this message, a fine balance of sophistication and ‘cool’ was the brief. We chose furniture pieces that were smart, some classic but added playful fabrics and colours to blend.

How important do you think sustainability is for the design industry to address?

Paramount. Up until recently sustainable design was more often than not seen as a tick box exercise, a token gesture and designs as a bit ‘kooky’ for some. It was something that ‘others’ were interested in. I think even since the Elsley House project began the industry has seen a positive change in thinking on this, more and more products are available and companies are investing into initiatives. Everyone has a role to play in making the industry more sustainable, but I do think it boils down to the designers to make this choice, vote with your feet!

I think the Elsley House project has begun to work into the idea that sustainable design doesn’t have to have a pre-determined aesthetic, there’s a way to go yet in terms of sustainable design – but it’s a positive step in the right direction. For me producing a design that has a substantial consideration for sustainability is plain and simple - more fulfilling.

Where do you find to be a great source of creative inspiration?

A great variety of places! Sometimes just walking down the street thinking about a small comment someone said at a meeting, precedent projects online (sometimes not of the same sector), furniture showrooms or lifestyle images on Pinterest are always a favourite! Mainly though making time to just think about the brief often drives the best ideas. Working intently and developing a brief with the client; understanding what it is physically that they need, alongside history and values of the client’s company but also understanding what it is they are trying to achieve other than the physical space. I find working through these elements unlocks originality the most.

Lastly, tell us a little more about what’s in store for BGY.

It’s an exciting time for BGY! Over the past year or so the company has had three major business development’s; first becoming an Employee Owned Trust in 2019, secondly welcoming a new Interiors MD and team of interior designers to form ‘BGY Interiors’ and thirdly a complete re-branding of the business!

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