Intuitive And Expressive Architecture
Helen Sanderson finds out more about the beautiful properties across the north west referred to as ‘Firth projects’
Firth Associates is an architecture and interior design practice, that was established in 2003 in Lytham St Anne’s. They are best known for one-off houses across the north west which are fondly known as ‘Firth projects’. Joel Firth leads the teams on design and they have a number of production teams that help with larger projects. Joel explained: “Collaborative working methods work well for us and we aim to bring the best team together to suit each project. We have always prided ourselves in coming up with unique solutions always looking to improve the accessibility and environmental performance of the projects we work on many of which have been historic or listed buildings.”
One of Firths best known projects is Otter Bank on the shores of Lake Windermere. Joel said: “We are very proud of Otter Bank which recently won best residential new build at the Northern Design Awards. We are working on five other large projects in the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales including a number of off-grid structures for DEFRA. These are net zero carbon structures that will be constructed to the BREEAM excellent standard.”
Joel Firth explained: “Working towards a low carbon future is an essential part of our day to day design work, as many of our projects include the use of existing buildings we use the definition of net zero carbon from an operational point of view as ‘when the amount of carbon emissions associated with the building’s operational energy on an annual basis is zero or negative. A net zero carbon building is highly energy efficient and powered from on-site and/or off-site renewable energy sources, with any remaining carbon balance offset’.”
Joel explained: “We are also using new commercial construction techniques which then feeds into our residential work keeping the designs current with advanced thermal insulation and heating systems. This becomes particularly interesting on rural historic properties where we often are trying to replace the use of oil with new systems such as air source heat pumps and mechanical ventilation and heat recovery systems whilst preserving the properties themselves.”
Firths have worked on a number of historic properties over the years including a variety of projects from Grade I and Grade II listed buildings. In these situations, they collaborate with conservation specialists. For Firths it’s about putting the right team together to meet the challenge of each and every project.
Firth’s studios are based in Lytham St Anne’s in a beautiful sandstone building perched on the top of Woodlands Road Bridge with views of the Ribble estuary and the coastline surrounding the Fylde.
On entering the studio there’s a beautiful mosaic floor with grey, terracotta and ochre tiles which leads on to an oak parquet floor. They use this area as a meeting space, a place to bring clients to look through the designs. Past work is showcased on the walls but the main feature is the meeting table and large screen which are used to show clients the designs and ideas.
Joel said: “We have recently started to sell lights on our interiors website some of which can be seen in the studio as we find it’s useful to show clients the products we are actually talking about.
“Our supply chain for products and services is predominantly across Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cumbria and we try to source all of our products from these areas.”
Having lived and worked in Lytham for nearly twenty years Joel has worked with most of the local businesses and enjoys helping many of the local societies and clubs. He has given talks to the local civic society and assisted with design work to renovate the rugby club. Joel added: “I really enjoy being the community architects and hope to continue to provide a great service to those local to the practice.
“Over the years our workload has been really varied, from designing one-off houses to apartment buildings, football stadiums and churches. We are currently working on residential and commercial projects and to assist with the many residential enquiries we receive, we are developing an online interior design and home staging service called ‘transformyourhome.com’. We hope to have this launched in the next few months providing a more accessible service to those looking to renovate and alter their homes.”
Old Bank Studio, 43 Woodlands Road
Ansdell, Lytham St Annes FY8 1DA