Civic Trust Awards 2020 – Assessment

Our RIBA East multi award-winning pre-school building has been selected for assessment by the Civic Trust Awards 2020 – exciting times! We were recently informed the assessors would be visiting the pre-school to review the use and setting of the building in its community context. We were not allowed to be present as they wanted an impartial view from the client, the users and the community to see how this unique building has been received.

We are now awaiting any further news on this awards process but being even selected for assessment has been fantastic news for us and all involved in the project.

In addition, we have been speaking with the client about how the building has been performing and we are pleased to hear it is performing really well and has been widely praised by staff, children and parents a like.

You can see some of the photos of the scheme below in the gallery.

RIBA East Awards


We attended the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) East Architecture Awards in May 2019 as our Eaton Socon Preschool Building was shortlisted for an award. The RIBA awards celebrate the best of British architecture and we attended knowing that the shortlist contained a great deal of wonderful projects from well established and respected architecture practices. We were therefore absolutely ecstatic to walk away with not one – but two – awards!

Our first was a RIBA East Regional award where we received some fantastic feedback from the judges. As you can see from this link, the standard of competition was exceptionally high. Our second award was for RIBA East Project Architect of the Year 2019 for our Director – Simon Devlin – who received amazing remarks for his commitment and effort relating to the project.

We were shocked and overjoyed with the awards and grateful for the recognition. We want to thank all of the design team, the client team and the contractor for their hard work and commitment to the project in making this scheme possible. Onwards and upwards!

The full comments from the judges are as follows:

In architectural terms, this was very much a one person show and demonstrated the demands placed on a sole trader at the start of their career in architectural practice. The concept designer, technical architect, project manager, planning advisor and telephone receptionist were all the same person.

A community pre-school project, surviving their inadequate and decrepit mobile classrooms, the architect was initially drawn in when his child was enrolled. Initial help developed and grew, throughout an epic journey that saw funding come and go, planning get mired and the chilling discovery on site of a redundant MoD refuelling pipe, to pick out just a few highlights from the project narrative.

Entrance is via a frontal courtyard, perfect for parents bringing their children for drop-off. Receiving staff can be easily seen and the children immediately engage with the large open play space filled with their friends. Entrance to the building for visitors is by the office on the end of one of the arms of a ‘U’ shaped plan. This is perfect planning, as the visitor is immediately welcomed by the school secretary in a strategic location that has two horizontal panoramic windows. The visitor can be tracked up to the entrance, and all the activities in the play courtyard remain under gentle, but constant surveillance.

A ‘U’ shaped plan works very nicely, with each arm of the ‘U’ forming a large classroom, all three of which can be opened into one flowing space. Stores, toilets and wet areas are tucked discreetly into the corners, allowing the three teaching spaces to dominate. A row of central glulam columns aligned with the ridge of the pitched roof, rather than interfering with the large open classrooms provide a nice architectural division, so more intimate reading, doing-and-playing sub-spaces can be created with furniture and cushions. Although lofty, the classrooms have achieved a child’s scale.

From the outside the building disguises the range of very cost effective materials that had to be used in a dark-grey-to-black unifying cloak. Routed slots have been cut in the darkened timber cladding, avoiding the clutter of screwed-on metal plates and other fittings. Despite the budget palette of materials, the result is a unified look and feel, which is brought to life with sparing use of bright colours in the window reveals. At a distance these bright colours look like a powder coated metal, they are so striking in the dark visual field; but in fact the effect has been achieved with a translucent stain. Again, the architect has managed to get maximum effect from very ordinary materials.

So often architects put their heart and soul into a project and get little thanks for it. Here the client is delighted with all they have gained from the brilliant management of a very low budget. Recognition is due for the dedicated and sophisticated design thinking that has made so much from so little.

RIBA East – Shortlist 2019

We are pleased to announce that we have been shortlisted for the RIBA East Architecture Awards 2019 for our Eaton Socon Preschool project in Eaton Socon, St Neots. This project was a real labour of love for us as the Architect, lead designer, and contract administrator. However, we would not have been able to complete this project without the assistance and dedication of all the parties involved:

Eaton Socon Preschool CIO – [Client] – Caroline Allanson, Nick Walker, Jaqueline Hacking and all the staff (past and present). All worked tirelessly throughout the process from initial small conversations of extending to the final big push to complete. This project would not have happened without their commitment and belief in us to get them the building they wanted.

Gill Associates Ltd – [Quantity Surveyors] – Matt Woollard, Oliver Adams and Julian Harvey – all helped throughout the process to track the costings, monitor the budget and assist in the cost analysis of the build.

Constant Structural Design Ltd – [Structural Engineers] – Brian Constant and Tom Ashton. We developed the cost effective and aesthetically pleasing timber structure of the building.

Robert Barker Design – [Landscape Designer] – Robert Barker. Although the overall plan of the landscape has not been fully utilised due to funding restrictions, the help assistance Robert gave during the process was very much appreciated.

Mixbrow Construction Ltd – [Main Contractor] – Nick Page, Daniel Howell and Patrick Stephens. The builders worked with us throughout the process to get the build started, and then during the course of the build helped overcome some hurdles to get to the finished product.

We are now awaiting our jury visit from the RIBA East jury in April 2019 and then await to hear whether we have been successful on 9th May 2019. The shortlist is a really strong and competitive list that shows the breadth of talent and impressive selection of architecture being created in the East of England.

We have our fingers crossed! Let’s see what happens!

Photo shoot – New pre-school building

We have been working with Maciek Platek ( to generate interior and exterior photographs of our newly completed pre-school building. The finished building has been five years of hard work, ups and downs and a great deal of time and effort from all involved.

The building is a bespoke timber framed construction of a single storey pitched roof arrangement that has been designed to work around serious site, financial and planning constraints. The design was developed to ensure the children were a key focus for window placement, the selection of internal finishes and the colour coordination around the building. We are really pleased with the outcome and have updated the web page to suit. You can view them here.

Here are a few other images.

New preschool building breaking ground

We held a ground breaking ceremony in St Neots, Cambridgeshire for our new purpose built pre-school building for a local charitable organisation. Eaton Socon Pre-school CIO currently reside in two porta-cabins and have been desperate for new premises for over 20 years. Finally, we are on our way to building them a high quality bespoke building that will secure their future, give them a new home and enable them to grow as a charity. This will benefit the local community as a whole and the children that attend this Ofsted ‘outstanding’ setting.

We welcomed several local dignitaries and local councillors to the ceremony, and they were accompanied by some of the children who currently attend the pre-school. This included my youngest daughter Orla-Blake Devlin in her safety gear!

The attending dignitaries were: Richard Pemberton – High Sheriff of Cambridgeshire and his wife, Derek Giles – Mayor of St Neots and District Councillor, Simone Taylor – Local and County Councillor for Eynesbury and St Neots. Members of the committee, construction team and the design team, including myself; were also present.

Works to the building are progressing with the suspended concrete block and beam ground floor slab being finished. The perimeter scaffolding and structural timber frame will soon be commencing so we will start to see the form and scale of the building taking shape. We will keep you informed of the progress.

New preschool building, Eaton Socon – Starts on site

We are delighted to say that construction work has begun on site for the new preschool building we have designed and detailed for Eaton Socon Preschool CIO. The new preschool building will offer the staff and children a chance to enjoy a purpose built facility and landscape.

You can keep up with progress on site from our news section where we will post images and developments. Any further information about the project can be seen here.