Architects in Durham

If you’re contemplating a building project in the Durham area, you may need an architect.

If so, we can help you find the best architect to bring your plans to life.

There are many talented County Durham architects’ firms who are experts in master planning architectural design and interior design schemes. We will guide you through the process of identifying the ideal one for your project.

While you obviously need to select a practice with experience of your type of project, it’s also important to consider their reputation locally and read their reviews.

This article highlights some high quality projects created by architects in County Durham to inspire you, but first we take a look at Durham’s architectural history and current development outlook.

Durham’s architecture

Durham stands on a hill in a meander of the River Wear, which encloses the centre on three sides.

The renowned Norman cathedral and Durham Castle were designated a World Heritage Site in 1986. The cathedral was founded in its present form in AD 1093 and is regarded as one of the finest Romanesque cathedrals in Europe, notable for its rib vaulting in the nave. The castle is an example of the early motte and bailey structures built by the Normans.

The castle is now part of Durham University, which has expanded over the years by adding more colleges, along with the university botanic garden. While the cathedral dominates the skyline, the city features many listed buildings, and its centre is a designated conservation area.

Over the centuries, Durham was important defensively against the Scots. Later, it became known for carpet making, weaving and coal extraction; during the Industrial Revolution, coal became the main industry and many nearby villages operated coal mines until the industry’s decline in the 1970s.

Development plan

County Durham is the weakest economy in the northeast: the County Durham Plan, adopted in 2020, aims to build a sustainable future, with good housing and employment in a healthy environment.

Durham benefits from good road links, access to ports on the northeast coast and three airports, which help attract its key employment sectors – financial services, manufacturing, tourism, healthcare, construction, utilities and communications research and development. However, Durham struggles in terms of wages and employment.

While many large towns and villages have an allocation, or existing planning permission for housing, new allocations must increase the range and amount of housing in areas of most demand.

Some of County Durham’s town centres are in decline and need to diversify into alternative uses: the plan includes flexible policies to encourage this. Heritage assets, high-quality countryside assets and varied ecology are protected in in the plan.

Sustainable development

More houses are needed to keep communities viable and should be built on previously developed land where possible, with access to jobs and services by public transport, walking or cycling.

Development should deliver economic growth and new job opportunities. Brownfield land must be allocated first, then greenfield land if it is sustainable and Green Belt land may only be used in exceptional circumstances.  

In rural areas, development that meets economic and housing needs including tourism will be allowed if it is appropriate. Any development should contribute to protecting and enhancing the natural environment and architectural design should be low carbon where possible.

If your scheme may require an ecological survey, find out more by reading our article ecology surveys – what you need to know.

Why hire an architect?

The right architect’s design solutions can be beneficial in many ways and may save you money in the long run. They can carry out a range of design management services from creating drawings to making planning applications, recommending builders and dealing with construction management, or they can be responsible for total project management.

As well as being experts in building construction, their experience in architectural design can add value by making the most of space. They can also provide ideas on interior design, choice of materials, the best way to heat a property and low carbon design solutions.

Another advantage is that they will be used to working with the local planning authority and will know, for example, what environmental measures are likely to win favour. They will be aware of the council’s biodiversity net gain (BNG) requirements and can ensure your scheme is compliant.

All British architects must be registered with the Architects’ Registration Board and many are members of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Durham architecture projects

Here is a sample of some high quality projects carried out by architects in and around Durham. Hopefully, these eye-catching schemes will help you decide on the type of architect you need.

Greatspace Architects

With expertise in bespoke residential design, this Hexham-based practice has a mission to produce responsible and sustainable buildings which reduce carbon use. They get excellent reviews for their work.

The aim with this 19th century stone-built mill is to maximise views across the river and redesign an awkward layout. This stunning scheme aims to retain original features but take out some later additions, replacing them with contemporary interpretations of traditional structures to create large, exposed spaces with cosy living areas.

PWS Architecture + Design

This award-winning team specialises in bespoke residential architectural design at all scales. The practice works across the UK and gets five-star reviews. It offers a high-quality service from initial consultation to project completion.

The brief with this house in County Durham was to create a family home to make the best use of its views with large expanses of glass. This handsome scheme included a ground source heat pump and solar panels.

Hoot Architecture

Passionate about creating exceptional buildings and places whatever the size or budget, Hoot Architecture was awarded Best Residential Architecture Practice – Northeast England, by Build in 2020.

They get five-star reviews, and all their projects are designed using 3D computer modelling to allow thorough testing of concepts and details. They say:

“We take a wide variety of projects from small extensions to large homes and offer project management, building regulations, interior design.”

This light-filled, spacious extension to a 70s house involved demolishing under-used extensions or incorporating them into the new space, which extends across the entire rear of the house. High windows and sliding doors allow the space to flow out onto the patio which is covered by a steel and timber canopy.

Crawford Higgins Associates

This multi-disciplinary practice in Hexham provides a team of architects, chartered building surveyors, structural engineers and chartered building consultants, working with public and private sector clients. They have great reviews and pride themselves on their traditional values, quality and exceptional customer care.

Their work includes extensions, loft conversions, refurbishment schemes and barn conversions.

Here is a great selection of their unique design solutions.

Musson Brown Architects

Bespoke domestic projects are the speciality at Musson Brown Architects, an award-winning small practice in Jesmond, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Their website states:

“Our wealth of experience ensures that clients receive a commercially aware and client-focused service from inception to completion as standard.”

These are some of their beautiful recent commissions.

Next steps

If this has inspired you to hire an architect, reach out to several firms which have experience in your type of projects. Draw up some key questions and put them to each architect so that you can compare their responses and assess whether they have a thorough understanding of your ideas.

For advice on which questions to ask, read our article 10 things to ask your architect. Follow these steps and you are well on the way to finding a trusted partner.

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