Words by Rosie Cattrell
Marrying landscapes with culture and innovation to take your story beyond its walls.
It’s easy enough to imagine what our dream home might look like. While some think of a lush, open garden bordered with flowers and a glinting greenhouse, and windows stretching from floor to ceiling to let the outside in, others will dream of secret libraries with dark wooden beams, stained glass windows and a grand staircase at the centre of it all. That’s the easy part. But what if you could walk through the front door of your dream house to explore the layout and get a feel for the space you’d imagined before it’s even been built? That’s where Marraum comes in.
Headed up by husband and wife team, Adam Laskey and Daisy Sawle, Marraum is an architectural practice at the very forefront of a ground-breaking technology that is setting a new standard for the way we bring our dream homes into being. Through virtual-reality, Marraum’s clients are finding themselves stepping into their new home before it’s even passed the design phase. In conversation with Adam and Daisy, I wonder what prompted such an innovative step for the team.
Images courtesy of Pip Hayler “One of the jobs I was running at the time didn’t quite go as smoothly as I’d like on site,” Adam explains. “At that point all of our drawings were modelled in 3D so we explored options to provide even more clarity of the design to our clients. I started talking to a good friend of ours who was a software developer and virtual reality (VR) gamer. I worked with him to try and get the 3D model into a format to put into VR goggles. That was the first time that we realised it could happen, that this could work. From then on, every project that we’ve had has been put into virtual reality for our clients, as standard, before going into planning to ensure that they fully understand our design and their investment moving forward.”
Having both grown up in Cornwall, Adam and Daisy have a real connection to it, and seem to understand all that this wonderful area has to offer, on which Daisy kindly elaborates: “The culture is unique, Cornwall is unlike anywhere else. It’s a beautiful, wild place. We have a fantastic team, who are all connected by our appreciation for the environment around Cornwall, and making the most of that. Our projects stretch all over the county, from north to south and east to west, so we have to really look at what Cornwall has to offer and bring that sort of connection into the projects.”
“When I was growing up, I found that school could be a challenge at times,” Adam reflects, “but in college I started finding my way, and part of that was getting tested for dyslexia. When I did the test, it showed a very high problem solving ability, which gave me the confidence to concentrate my energy on the things I am good at. So, I started learning softwares, particularly architectural drawing softwares, which was my path into the industry. I love puzzles, and this industry is just one big puzzle, working with the constraints that you have within the building and site. As I’ve learned how a construction goes together, I know how it can be taken apart, reconfigured, and put back together. Each room is a jigsaw piece, and once you start developing a brief with your client, those pieces change and you can move them around and put them back together in different configurations. That plays to my strengths. So very quickly, I can rip everything apart and come up with a bit of an idea. Within the team here at Marraum, we’re able to say ‘let’s think outside the box’. Just because they’ve asked for something to be here, does it have to be? Can we approach this from another angle to make the most of this space?”
Left/middle images courtesy of Pip Hayler | Right image courtesy of Hugh Hastings For one client in particular, a carefully designed home was paramount, and the Marraum team were only too happy to help after seeing the plans for a family friend’s timber frame-kit home. “Our friend Sarah is in a lie down wheelchair most of the time,” explains Adam, “and after looking at these designs we quickly realised that this had not been considered. Consideration had been made for a wheelchair user, but not for a lie down wheelchair, and there were areas of the home that she wouldn’t have had access to. We also didn’t feel the orientation made the most of the setting. In the original scheme, the living room was right up against the boundary next to the neighbouring property. Whereas on the other side of the plot, we had great views and natural light.
We invited Sarah to view the scheme in virtual reality. With the controllers at the end of her wheelchair we moved around the house, and she realised how narrow the corridors were and how tight the corners were, she couldn’t really move around the property.” Thanks to their employment of virtual reality, Marraum were able to anticipate this client’s very particular needs in order to help create her perfect home before construction went ahead.
Left image courtesy of Hugh Hastings | Right image courtesy of Pip Hayler “Some of the most rewarding jobs have been for people who value the knowledge and skills that you can bring in reconfiguring these spaces,” Adam continues. “A lot of new enquiries start off with people looking for more space, they want an extension, which can incur a huge amount of cost and disruption. However, by going through our process and looking at other areas in the home that might not be working as well as they could, we often discover a perfect opportunity to reconfigure these underused spaces. That then unlocks the whole puzzle. It’s a lot easier for us to spend the time to understand our clients, helping them make informed decisions, than it is to just draw what they want. It’s all in the journey, constantly analysing what works, what doesn’t work, working through every option for the client.”
As a leading practice for their use of virtual reality technology, Marraum is opening eyes in the world of architecture to the possibility of standing in a new kitchen, extension or entire home before it’s been made reality, with the option to change that reality before it comes to fruition. With a mind to solve the puzzle of the perfect home, no stone is left unturned as the Marraum team take you on the ultimate journey to your own, unique vision.