Sam Gross

Architect

So if you could just start with telling us a bit about yourself and your journey into architecture?

My name’s Sam Goss, I’m one of the two directors of Barefoot Architects. We found the practice in 2014 so we’ve been going for six years nearly. I set the practice up off the basis of winning a commission, I got a significant enough project that it was worth handing in my notice at my place of employment and going solo. My route into architecture was from being about 14, I went to a design workshop run by an architect who worked locally at school that was really inspiring, I found it really exciting. I was passionate about the range of different parts of the job, it was exciting to be creative and have to be logical at the same time. So I set about doing GCSE’s and A Levels which would enable me to get the path into university to study architecture in a fairly traditional way. I did a dual degree at Sheffield university which was fantastic in architecture and landscape, I really enjoyed doing a diverse degree. I think any students looking to get into the design world, the broader your education and base set of skills and knowledge is the better. Don’t specialise too soon otherwise you get shoehorned into a box.

What was the first thing you designed that became a real project out of university?

I was lucky enough to design and build a house for my parents, which was a really good unusual opportunity which I grasped with both hands which meant I spent a bit longer out of university but it gave me really good practical experience. Yeah, so I started after doing my degree, a year after graduating and it went through a series of iterations and changes but we built it before I’d finished my masters so before I’d fully qualified.They still live there now! Nearly 10 years, it will be 10 years next year, still standing, they still talk to me, just about! Having done that did enable me to win other work. For any creative person a lot of clients want some sort of proof or track record. It’s this great irony that you can’t get a job until you’ve done one, well how do you get one in the first place? It’s the chicken and the egg? And so it’s not uncommon that people will get a first job through a family or friend connection, but that one for me it’s extraordinary how years later it still lead on to projects that we’re completing now 10 years on. That’s unusual.

And can you talk to us a bit more about the ethos of your company?

As a practice we seek to design homes, housing and community projects in a range of scales from the value of about £100k of construction up to something like £10 million. Our gambit is that we seek to try and challenge the industry, in order that we’re more transparent, we’re fairer, we’re better, we want to have a social and environmental conscious that we try and bring to all our projects as far as is practical and affordable. By that I mean that we want to work not just for people and for clients but with them, and we want them to participate within the design process, and so we try to involve working processes, practices and methodologies that facilitate that deeper engagement. Which for when you’re designing peoples homes its everything. And so there’s been an evolution in how we structure things to do that.

You speak about your environmental consciousness, do you find that restricts your method of design or helps motivate it?

I think that its now completely essential that anybody operating in the design world has an environmental consciousness and I think its our role as designers in any field to take that responsibility seriously and educate our clients. Not all clients come to you saying ‘I want this super eco friendly thing’ but even if they don’t I think the owness is upon us to say these are your options and this is how you could be better. ‘okay so you’re saying you just want this but have you thought about that?’. So we aren’t evangelical about environmentalism because it can put some people off and we’re also commercial, but nonetheless we try and wherever possible make things as good as possible given the constraints of a site, a budget, a client which are usually quite significant.

Can you give any last words of wisdom to young creatives such as ourselves?

Grasp every opportunity that you get, if opportunities don’t arise, make them. if you see things that you think should be done, do them. If you want to do anything, go for it, try it, take risks, take the biggest risks you can while you’re young on design, on life. Go for it. Go everywhere, meet everyone, see everything, do anything, just go for it. It’s definitely the case that the best projects I’ve ever been involved with are those that I’ve taken the biggest risks with. Be and stay naïve, as soon as you know about the pit falls you start backing away from the edge but the edge is where things are a bit more exciting if not fucking terrifying.

Take calculated risks, just do it before anyone can stop you

Interview conducted by Imogen Hunter, Phoebe Jones, Olivia Stadden

Biography

Architect Sam Goss is a founding member of Barefoot Architects, which is based at Paintworks in Bristol. He believes in making architectural services available to everyone, including members of the community who are not always properly represented. A lot of their work at Barefoot focuses on community regeneration and planning development around the communities needs. Sam believes in low impact, low energy and minimal environmental footprint in architecture.

Barefoot Architects http://barefootarchitects.co.uk/