independent

Saturday 20 September 2014

TV opening minds about innovative architecture

David Tucker

Published 20/08/2013 | 05:42

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AT a time when many businesses are licking their wounds, Wexford architect Fergus Flanagan is expanding his, his innovative and bold approach winning him clients both at home and abroad.

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'We have seen a massive change since January, it's almost as if a tap has been turned on,' said Fergus.

'Not everything is about money, it's more about the ideas and creativity you get when you use a qualified architect. People want more now,' he said, adding that the impact of TV design programmes has been huge in opening people's minds to new horizons in architecture, whether new builds or the re-design of older homes.

'From the TV programmes people can see they don't have to live in dormer bungalows and want and expect more,' said Fergus, who is based in inviting premises at the corner of Crescent Quay and Paul Quay, in Wexford town.

Part of his business ethos is to bring back the excellence in design and service he feels was lacking during the Celtic Tiger years.

If you want to upgrade your existing home and add that element of a grand design, for only €300 you can have a design session in your own home with Fergus or a member of his team.

This from a company that is currently working on several domestic projects in Dublin that are each worth more than a million euro and one for a €500,000 extension.

'No job is too big or too small,' says Fergus, who says most of his work currently comes from Dublin, where he opened an office in 2009, a year after he opened his business in Wexford, almost on the day the recession began.

'I decided it would be a good idea to have two boats fishing in a smaller sea,' he said.

He started his business with one client, now his client list is growing all the time, with business literally booming since the start of the year.

'The recession was unforgiving and led to many sleepless nights, but we have a young family and I had to learn fast or go under and there was no Plan B.

When he started his business, Fergus began what he literally bills a crusade to take the fear out of architecture.

This involved going to people's houses to talk, do design sessions in their houses, demonstrate in 3D modelling, open on Saturdays, and help people feel at their ease and not to be intimidated and not to be afraid asking what they considered to be 'stupid questions'.

'I do see ourselves as a totally innovative and different kind of business. I found that people feared architects and often employed draughtsmen,' he said, adding that the protection of the title of 'architect' had made a huge difference because people who weren't architects could no longer claim they were.

Fergus says that while Wexford is recovering from the recession, it will be at least a year behind Dublin where the people driving the economy are mainly young professionals, particularly in the IT sector, who have no legacy of debt.

A member of Wexford Rotary, Fergus is a firm believer in community involvement.

Soon after starting up, he took himself to agricultural shows where he literally stood on an orange box to talk about his business and what it could provide.

And while this back to basics approach created new business for the new business, it was new technology and the Internet that has been its saving grace, attracting clients from far and wide, with one from Hong Kong currently looking to build a new house in Wexford.

Among Fergus' local projects is the KMH Hall in Kilmuckridge, which he designed, master-planning the Bunclody VEC, and the redesign of the Bayview Hotel in Courtown.

Fergus trained as an architect in Portsmouth and when the Berlin Wall came down moved to Germany where he practiced with a top German firm with clients worldwide.

Then it was back to the UK working with award-winning company before moving to Dublin. He was head-hunted by a firm of architects in Dublin, but in April 2008, with the recession nipping at his heels, decided to set out by himself.

It was a bold move, but a successful one. Fergus says 70 per cent of his clients are repeat clients.

Another feather in his cap is the company's role as the main speaker on architectural design at the Ideal Homes Show, in Dublin.

Fergus Flanagan Architects can be reached on 053 9185147 and is on the web at fergusflanaganarchitects.com

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