Ask managing director Simon Reid what he’s designing right now and he’ll tell you it’s not just a multi-million pound residential development or a huge new SEN school, it’s the kind of team that’s going to help him chart a course for Mars…
Lungfish is turning three this year. How’s the business evolving?
The name Lungfish was always about setting out a big, bold idea of where we wanted to be and we’ve grown into that really well. We put ourselves under pressure to walk the talk and we had a tremendous first year, so going into year two felt like a band putting out that tricky second album. It took a lot of mettle, but we made it a smash hit! Now we’ve got to keep doing what we do and being ambitious for more.
“I love it – it’s not like a job, it’s like a way of life.”
What does the Lungfish team look like now?
I’m using the same logic we use to design a building to design a team. They’re a great bunch of creative people and their bond is super strong. Even the people who’ve only been here a few months are already so dedicated – you can’t ask for more.
You’ve always been education specialists. Are you reaching into other sectors too?
Definitely. We’ve recruited people purposefully with other sector backgrounds, so we’ve got experts in civic, commercial or residential buildings bringing something really fresh to education. The idea’s always been to unleash them on other sectors and we’re starting to open those doors now. We’re asked more and more whether we can do projects beyond education and the answer is yes we absolutely can.
That includes a big residential project doesn’t it?
It does. We’re working on a housing project which really sprung from our experience in offsite school builds. We’ve become a vanguard for the offsite approach and other sectors are asking how we can make it work for them. It’s a multi-million pound city centre project following the government’s thinking on getting buildings built better and quicker.
And your clients – describe their Lungfish journey…
“One of our principles is that what we touch, we build. We don’t just draw pretty pictures, we stay with projects – dedicating the same people to the job until it’s done.”
It’s the way I’ve approached my own self-build and it only seems right we do the same for our clients. It’s also about giving the client ownership of the project, so when they’re home cooking tea for their kids they can say, guess what I did today? I designed our new building! If we’ve achieved that, I’m happy.
What do you love about what you do?
I love the adventure we’re on together. It’s like we’re astronauts mapping a course to Mars. We’re aiming really high and building the strength to get there. Project wise, I find the engagement process so powerful. You rock up with a blank piece of paper and a pen and there’s nowhere to hide, you’ve got to think with that pen and listen and create. It’s terrifying but I love it. But the greatest buzz is handover day. When you see a four-year-old bowl into a school, hang his coat on his peg and take ownership of the place, that’s amazing.
What have been your biggest achievements so far?
I worked on a lot of projects before Lungfish, but one of my favourites was a library in quite a deprived area. It was next door to a health centre which had been covered in roller shutters and spiked fences. The idea was to protect it, but it antagonised the kids and they hammered it. We did something different. We created this bright white building with big windows but we engaged with the community – and guess what, 10 years down the line it’s as good as the day it was built.
What are you working on right now?
I’m really excited about Cotton End forest school. It’s a thoroughbred example of working with a client extremely closely to realise their dream of a school that doesn’t look and feel like an ordinary school.