There’s a huge choice of architects in Exeter, covering schemes from simple loft conversions to major house renovations and new builds.
If you need an architect in Exeter, we’re here to help you narrow down the options and find the perfect one who can bring creative solutions to your project.
It’s important to identify an architectural practice with experience working on similar schemes to yours and inspect their work in person if possible. It’s also useful if you can speak to their clients to see how happy they were with the relationship and the finished product.
Checking a firm’s reviews and its reputation locally will also help you get a good idea of the type of practice it is.
In this article, we look at Exeter’s history and architecture before examining the city’s development plans. Then, to provide inspiration for your scheme, we highlight the work of five outstanding architects in Exeter.
History and architecture
There are signs of Celtic foundations, but in 50AD the Roman army established a stronghold in Exeter and later built walls around the city, sections of which can be seen today. Exeter was a valuable site for the Romans, being the lowest point where the River Exe could be crossed, allowing them access to south west England.
After the Battle of Hastings in 1066, the Norman King William controlled the city and the Normans went on to build Rougemont Castle and the Cathedral of St Peter.
Exeter grew during the Industrial Revolution due to being surrounded by plentiful agricultural produce and its position on a fast-flowing river, providing water power. However, when steam power took over in the 19th century, Exeter was too far from sources of coal or iron to expand further, and it began to decline in importance. Later, canal development and the railways enabled more growth.
The city centre was rebuilt after German bombing in World War II destroyed many historical sites. Modern architecture replaced the losses and industrial estates began to develop. Following serious flooding incidents, flood defences were built in the 1960s and have been improved over the years.
The capital city of Devon, today, Exeter is a cultural centre, attracting visitors to its Roman ruins, historical Guildhall with medieval foundations, its beautiful cathedral, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Parliament Street in the centre, one of the narrowest streets in the world.
Many buildings are built from local dark red sandstone and red brick late Victorian and Edwardian terraces can be found in residential areas. The largest concentration of listed buildings is in the city – especially the late 17th century Dutch houses on the Strand – alongside a variety of architectural styles.
There are also many listed buildings in the narrow streets of the historic port of Topsham. The city has 20 conservation areas, approximately 1813 listed buildings and 19 scheduled ancient monuments.
Exeter is located centrally in the south west, with excellent road, rail and air links. Business and financial services are the major local sectors and Exeter University is ranked in the UK’s top 20 universities.
Development in Exeter
Exeter City Council wants to deliver new housing development and has identified strategic areas of land for this in the Core Strategy, which sets out development policies up to 2026. At least 12,000 houses are needed, and proposals for major housing development will be fast-tracked.
While the priority is to maximise previously developed land for house building, greenfield development has been necessary and due to limited opportunities in the urban area, pressure on Exeter’s fringes will continue. There is also a lack of affordable housing and more land is needed for employment.
The Core Strategy also aims to protect the high-quality environment of the city, reduce carbon dioxide emissions and transition to a low carbon economy.
The Exeter area is a designated Growth Point; the Growth Point Board comprises several local councils and key partners who are working to help deliver growth in the region. The goal is to maintain its unique heritage and quality of life, while addressing climate change challenges, the need for more housing and jobs alongside a low carbon future.
Why hire an architect?
While not every scheme needs an architect, there are many reasons why hiring an architect can pay dividends.
These include the fact that architects trained in construction and design will bring professional expertise to your scheme. This may well create savings on your overall budget as their trained eye will be able to assess the most efficient use of space in a design.
They can bring creative flair to a project and will be able to advise on your choice of building materials and sources, as well as energy efficient ways of heating the building.
Hiring an architect doesn’t mean that they must be involved for all stages of a project. Often, they simply create concept drawings, detailed plans for obtaining planning permission or construction drawings. In other cases, they are engaged to appoint contractors and builders and manage the building work.
They can also take on total project management duties, dealing with all problems arising along the way and monitoring costs.
It is important to identify an architect with experience of schemes like yours so that they will confidently guide you on which planning approvals are needed and suitable builders to hire.
Another advantage of using an architectural practice is that they will have experience working with the relevant planning authority and will know its views on issues such as the reuse of old buildings and ecological concerns.
They will be able to ensure your scheme involves the right level of biodiversity net gain (BNG) if required by the authority. If your scheme needs an ecology survey, our article ecology surveys – what you need to know explains the process. Some planning applications for conversions or other building work require a bat survey.
Architects are required to register with the Architects’ Registration Board and are usually members of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).
Exeter architecture projects
To demonstrate just what the right architect can achieve, here are some polished projects completed by five talented architectural practices in and around Exeter.
Woodford Architecture + Interiors
This experienced team of architects, architectural technologists and interior designers is known for its quality of service. They deal with listed buildings, planning advice and property searching, garden and landscape design and have excellent testimonials. They are a RIBA chartered practice and member of the British Institute of Interior Design.
This beautiful home on the Cornish coast won the regional award in the International Property Awards this year and was announced as the best residential property in the UK, 2020-2021. The building replaces a former farmhouse with a sustainable new home in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The build used natural materials including local slate and the scheme features flexible interior space, huge windows and sliding doors connecting seamlessly to the outside world.
Maria Escribano Architects Ltd
Maria Escribano Architects offer a full architectural and design service, taking projects from inception to completion. They get great reviews and deal with alterations to listed buildings, house extensions, internal refurbishments, new build residential projects, loft conversions, barn conversions, feasibility studies, planning applications, building regulations applications and project management.
This environmentally friendly project involved a new ground floor layout, including a contemporary rear extension, to provide a new kitchen area, maximising views to an estuary in Devon. The scheme involved a new terrace and patio area, a green roof, underfloor heating and a wood burner with a thermal store.
Barc Architects is an experienced practice working with residential and commercial buildings and they have clients in Devon and beyond. Their services include preparation and consultation, design and budgeting, planning approvals and building regulations, construction, handover and inspection. They have excellent endorsements and have a strong sustainability ethos.
The brief with this new-build, modern family villa was to design a unique contemporary home that resembled a coastal villa and had a positive architectural impact on the surrounding area.
The resulting light-filled house was awarded a Local Authority Building Control building excellence award for Best New Building in Plymouth in 2016.
In Ex Design
In Ex Design adopts an integrated design approach, starting with the inside and considering a site as a whole to ensure the final design works in terms of architecture, interior and outdoor space. They offer architectural services along with landscape and interior design.
This award-winning scheme involved a modern two storey extension and total refurbishment of a former Victorian bed and breakfast in a coastal village, including landscaping. The resulting design retained period styling while adding modern interior details.
Living Space Architects
This award-winning practice based in Exeter, specialises in contemporary projects that are environmentally sustainable. Their work includes adaptations of historic buildings, using local materials, along with new homes, house extensions and refurbishments, conservation and heritage projects.
The brief here was to bring a contemporary approach and modern style to this barn. The conversion involves a suspended walkway connecting the four bedrooms, leading to the staircase. Contemporary finishes are used alongside wood and stone throughout and historic trusses were retained in the scheme.
If we have convinced you about the advantages of using an architectural service, contact two or three architects in Exeter. Compose questions to ask each one and compare their responses. Our article 10 things to ask your architect may be helpful. Then, meet with the architects and fully explain your scheme to assess their responses. After that, you’ll be able to decide which is the best fit for you.