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To the letter

Words by Dan Warden

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

These famous words from author William Morris have perhaps never been more relevant. Especially with months of lockdown still raw in our minds, more and more of us are choosing to de-clutter our homes and therefore our lives, ensuring that the place in which we hang our hat offers the optimum blend of beauty and functionality. But what if you could take it one step further? What if you could build the very bones of your property to live up to Morris’ idyll?

Featherbeds | Chris Hewitt Photography

When we last spoke to Co-Founder and Director of Arco2, Nathan Davis, he introduced us to the specialist practice he leads along with Co-Director, Ian Armstrong. We learned that ‘Earth led design’ – that is, an approach that focuses on sustainability – is what drives the company forward. Through a sustainable lens, it is Nathan, Ian and the team’s belief that you can discover innovative, modern architecture; buildings that are designed with your health, comfort and wellbeing at their core. This time, I’m interested to pick Ian’s brains around how the company manages to stay ahead of the curve. Specifically, which technologies he, Nathan and co are adopting to enhance and fine-tune both the design process, and the client experience. What I learn is that, for Arco2, technology is a tool, not just a gimmick. It’s there to help clients get the most out of their investment; to help ensure they feel fully involved and, crucially, fully informed, at every stage of their project.

Waterhouse, a fine example of Arco2’s approach to modern architecture | Chris Hewitt Photography

One such example is 3D printing, which Arco2 use to help clients better visualise their project designs. “The main reason for investing in this technology was to aid the consultation process and make it more efficient,” says Ian, “but also, everyone likes to hold a model – they can better understand the scheme this way, and actually visualise their designs in 3D.” And in case you were wondering, no – they do not use plastics to create these models! “We were initially concerned about using plastics,” Ian admits, “but we were able to research and find a sustainable way of producing them. Our 3D printer actually prints using corn, meaning the end models are bio-degradable. It also has integral HEPA filters to ensure that the air quality within our office remains in top condition for our talented team to continue to create.”

Another key piece of technology that’s become an invaluable part of Arco2’s armoury is Virtual Reality (VR). From 1968 when the first head-mounted display was invented by computer scientist, Ivan Sutherland and his student Bob Sproull, to today’s world of virtual, incredibly realistic video games, VR technology has come an incredibly long way, so much so that its applications have long since spilled outside the limits of mere entertainment.

“Virtual Reality enables us to portray a very lifelike experience of our proposals including realistic furnishings, sunlight, landscape and lighting,” says Ian. Allowing clients to ‘explore’ their newly designed home, and giving Arco2 the capability to fully test, realise and improve their clients’ visions with real-time adjustments, it’s really the perfect way for the team to ‘show their workings’. “In almost every presentation so far,” Ian reveals, “clients have been amazed, incredibly impressed and excited. So much so that some buy the same VR kit so they can view it at home!”

You may be wondering just how accurate these virtual portrayals of a home are compared to the real-world result, and whether or not the technology actually helps to improve the outcome. In explanation, Ian reveals that the point of the technology is two-fold; not only can it be used to accurately consider factors such as the sun’s path and its effect on a home (which helps to determine sun shading over windows and even ensure that winter sun penetrates into the building), it also enriches the client’s involvement and understanding of the design process, pre-build, and actually allows them to gain a feel for the space before work begins, thus minimising costly, time-intensive changes after the project has started on site.

The Arco2 team

“We are also able to offer a VR interior design service,” Ian elaborates, “which allows clients to visualise everything, including switches, sockets, shelves, furniture, leaving very little to the imagination.” This ties in with Arco2’s belief that the best approach to architecture is a holistic one; that a house can only become a home via a considered combination of parts – from the materials used to build the ‘bones’, to the final decorative touches, and everything in between.

As an example of all of this, Ian explains how VR was used to great effect for a recent project in St Minver. Overlooking the Camel Estuary, the aptly named Waterhouse was designed primarily to better connect with its wonderful location. “Here,” explains Ian, “we used VR to ensure that summer shading over the large, south-facing windows prevented the sun from entering the building in the summer, whilst letting it flood in during the winter.” The result? Well, as Sally Jones – owner of this stunning new home – explains: “The whole project has been a complete success. At all times, through both design and build, the team has been a pleasure to work with and we now have an amazing, future proof house.”

Tresidder – another client’s vision brought to life | Chris Hewitt Photography

This, is precisely what Ian and Nathan set out to achieve when they launched Arco2. To provide clients a solution that brings a vision to life in the here and now, but that also promises to stand the test of time as the world looks to build a more sustainable future – this is the ultimate goal for this innovative firm. And by staying up to date with the latest technologies and using them as a tool to make the client experience as efficient and enjoyable as possible, the team are demonstrating their commitment to a better kind of architecture – to delivering on each and every client brief, to the letter.


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