Spotlight on the Team – Ina Cicu

Ina Cicu – Design Technologist

Ina joined the Building Tectonics Architectural Practice team almost five years ago as a Design Technologist. Having an Interior Design degree background, she was always fascinated by buildings and architecture. However, it wasn’t until she started to work at Building Tectonics that she discovered the back stage of this wonderful creative process.

Due to her colleagues’ patience and professionalism, she has learned to redesign client’s houses; to undertake the technical part of projects such as Building Regulation drawings and how to deal with the planning applications.  Ina’s favourite part of the job is to design people houses, to create new space and to bring life to them.

Three things that inspire Ina:

Nature – this is the most amazing ‘architect’ as everything is perfect – shapes, colours, sounds, etc.

Travelling – this is one of my passions as travelling from place to place you can discover the different architectural styles influenced by culture, geographical area and time. You also meet new people who share with you their amazing life stories and visions.

Successful and intelligent people – these are the ones who inspire me the most – both in my personal and work life.

What is your favourite example of Architectural Design?
My favourite architect is Antoni Gaudi and his work transcended mainstream Modernisme, culminating in an organic style inspired by natural forms. One of my favourites is his masterpiece Casa Batllo (pictured above) as like everything Gaudí designed, it is only identifiable as Modernisme or Art Nouveau in the broadest sense.

The other example of Architectural design which inspires me is Tianjin Binhai Library, in Tianjin, China. It was designed by a Rotterdam-based architectural firm along with the Tianjin Urban Planning and Design Institute, a group of local architects. Due to its tight construction schedule by the local government, the project went from preliminary drawings to its doors opening within three years in October 2017.

A close up of some green Christmas tree branches with two red baubles hanging off of them, and some star shaped cookies in the background with white icing.

What Christmas Decorating Traditions do you have?

Christmas is fast approaching and the first Sunday of Advent is typically when people put their Christmas decorations up; which this year falls on the first Sunday of December. Advent comes from the Latin word meaning ‘coming’ and while we regard Advent as a joyous season, it is also intended to be a period of preparation, much like Lent.

However, every year it seems to get earlier with some people starting to put their Christmas decorations up from mid-November whereas others may leave it as late as the weekend before Christmas. This is influenced heavily by what’s in the shops as many stores start selling decorations as soon as the kids go back to school in September.

When it comes to painting and decorating the interiors of their homes, each individual has a different idea of colour schemes they prefer and how they like to accessorise their rooms; and it is the same when it comes to decorating their houses at Christmas. One family may have an 8ft Nordmann fir and spruce it up with lavish baubles, toppers and lights, and another may simply decorate a fake tree that cost a tenner.

The traditional Christmas decoration colours used to be red and green with green representing the continuance of life through the winter and the Christian belief in eternal life through Jesus; and red symbolising the blood that Jesus shed at his crucifixion. Whereas, in the past you used to just decorate your lounge and hallway with some tinsel, paper chains, mistletoe and holly with possibly a nativity scene set up, now Christmas decorating is big business and competition is fierce amongst the high street stores and online retailers; with so much variety to choose from and personalised options on wreaths and just about every accessory you can think of.

It’s now socially acceptable to have a different colour scheme in every room of your house and people go to great lengths to co-ordinate their houses, with some even going as far as to hire an interior designer especially for the Christmas season. Basically, when it comes to decorating your home for Christmas, anything goes and there is a theme and colour scheme for everyone.

One family may dig out the same decorations every year whereas others may start with a clean slate and colour scheme each year. If you really want to be on trend for 2018; this year the fashionable colours are varying within the range of purple, blue and grey so if you fancy a change try this out?

For many the central element of the festive decorations is still the tree; and this can now range from having one tree up in your hallway or lounge through to trees in each of the main rooms. Traditionally, people would have chosen a real fir tree but now the options are endless from artificial trees with integrated lights or decorations through to trees with music systems build in and one of the newest trends in the last few years – upside down trees to allow room for more presents to be stored underneath. More people are starting to think about their choice of tree and realising that an artificial tree they bring out each year is so much better for the environment; and with the improvement in their build quality, it is now sometimes difficult to tell the difference between real and artificial trees.

Tinsel used to take over houses for decades with every colour you can think of and then took a downturn with some feeling it looked cheap and nasty, but is now having a revival; however, it’s best not to overuse it but just choose carefully where you feature it in your overall decorating scheme.

Decorating the exterior of your house used to only be for the rich; but is now becoming increasingly popular with decorations ranging from garish inflatable snowmen right up to lights that change colour across the house in time to music; and front gardens filled with reindeer and sleights.

It’s all about personal choice but there is no need to spend a fortune if you can’t afford to (or simply don’t wish to) as you can just take your inspiration from nature and get the kids involved. Take a walk in the local country park or forest and collect greenery, fir cones, berries etc and make your own wreaths, candle displays etc and have fun making craft creations as a family.

Do you prefer a modern clean and contemporary look to your Christmas decorating or do you prefer a traditional red and green colour scheme and hang family baubles on your tree and add to it year on year? We would love for you to share your photos with us of how you decorate your house at Christmas.

Considering the future…

Here in the UK it’s been snowing this week, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to let up anytime soon! It’s worth noting that generally, houses here don’t really give you much space for the hanging of coats and placing of snow-covered boots anywhere that’s out of the way and won’t cause a nuisance. It’s a given that in a few days this will probably all be over, spring will truly arrive and these winter-themed pieces of apparel will return to the darkest depths of the wardrobe. That being said, entrance halls can be nice to have, if space will allow they can function as more than just a vestibule for storage and keeping the cold draughts out.

When you invite friends into your home it’s more practical to have a designated space for hanging and storing outerwear. This often takes up a significant amount of storage space; but most UK homes lack this and so when visitors come we end up stepping back into the main house to allow space for people to walk in. As the host you often find yourself taking the guests outerwear and placing it over the bannister or onto a chair, of course, of all the things that we have to consider and the spatial challenges we face due to our undersized houses the entrance hall is quite low down on the list of priorities for most. However, even where the opportunity is available it’s often not considered.

It’s good to always consider the future, potential buyers who come to view your house will judge based on their first impressions.

Ideas generation – we don’t give up.

I went to see a new client near Bedford recently who enquired about our services earlier in the year, but apparently engaged the competition. However the scheme she settled on has now revealed itself to be too expensive. Okay, that can sometimes happen to our projects too, but in this case this ladies architect has become unresponsive and does not seem happy to help any further. So she has got back in touch with us. Obviously I don’t know all of the circumstances yet, and it may be that her expectations are too high. Managing clients expectations is something I have had to learn and it’s not always easy to tell a client that they can’t have what they have set their heart on. To try to stop this happening to our projects, we agree a scheme with a client and we will keep generating schemes until we find one that achieves what the client wants (or very occasionally the client accepts that what they want is impossible – often because it is unacceptable to the Planning Department – usually these clients re-engage us with a new building). We will usually try to get an approximate build figure from a builder at this point to avoid the pitfall this lady finds herself in. If this figure is too high, as long as we are still within our Feasibility Scheme stage, we will go back to the “drawing board” so to speak.

Why am I telling you this? There are clients out there who will not commence a project until they can see how to do it, and I am sure that in some cases such projects never get off the ground. Idea generation is, I reckon, our number one strength. If you cannot see how to achieve what you want from your building, give us a try. Contact us and let us see if we can help.

Tony Keller
Building Tectonics Ltd.

Have faith!

We have recently had two new enquiries from potential clients for very similar projects. The houses are quite similar, even the requirements of the clients are fairly similar as well. One of these two enquirers has taken the plunge and commissioned us, and the other is hesitant because he is not sure that the house will ever meet his needs. This is very frustrating for us because we can almost always arrive at a solution to the problem and produce a scheme which achieves all of the main requirements. Sometimes we do not always achieve all of the less important items, but in many cases, we do that as well. We ensure that our fees are not an obstacle by keeping them as low as we can, but it seems that any cost is too much for some. I can understand this in some ways, but given that in most cases clients end up spending thousands of pounds on the building work our fees to do a thorough investigation are small.

The client who has commissioned us has left our office today with some preliminary schemes (four which we produced for this particular project), and he was blown away by what we have given him. We have now asked him to come back to us with some comments, and armed with those I believe that we can improve on what we have already done. He even mentioned a certain style for the house to be designed as on the exterior; he wanted a modern architectural style, as many do. Sadly, the other potential client may not be brave enough to ever commission us, and I really can see it from their point of view, it is an act of faith to commission us or any other architectural firm, this is true.

All that I can say to the hesitant is that most of our commissions end up with some work being carried out to the house, and I have never been told by a client that they wish they had not bothered. Very  occasionally, projects stall because the house just cannot be turned into what the clients want, but this happens so seldom, and even when it does, the clients can leave that house knowing just that.

As one client said to me in respect of such a stalled project, now having brought a new house

Well, we know that moving was the right thing to do, we have no doubt about that. Can you come and look at our new house as we are sure that you can improve it for us.”

For those out there sitting on the fence, please have faith, it really is such a good investment!

Written by Tony Keller – Building Tectonics Ltd.