Richard Falconer is a third generation architect. His grandfather was Thomas, a noted Arts & Crafts exponent, and his father Peter, an innovator in industrial processing and storage buildings, who also remodelled the main facade of Highgrove. Richard trained at Oxford Polytechnic prior to working with an architect in London for seven years learning tight detailing and planning.
Most of his work is in the classical vein, which is surprising as he started in the late 1970s doing high-tech squash clubs. He also writes and lectures on sports racing car chassis design. He is resigned to the view that one’s career is chosen by one’s clients. Many country house architects base their careers on networking; Richard’s socialising with clients is confined to chocolate biscuits in the kitchen, and his hands-on approach means that he measures and photographs complete houses by himself, usually designs the fitted furniture, and supervises all the work.
His main interest is in converting large country houses to make them manageable for families. Modern insulation methods mean that houses that were considered white elephants 40 years ago can become viable. He tries to rebuild within the existing fabric of a house, endeavouring to find wasted space rather than extending, and to reuse anything and everything. He likes to leave a house not looking as though it has been “got at” by an architect, and in a form which does not preclude future alterations. Generally he dislikes the current fashion for self-conscious modern extensions, and is maddened by faddish technological trends.
Most of his work stems from being introduced to two families in the 1980s, and he has since been passed from one friend to another. He has no interest in confining himself to one locality or style, believing that an architect should go where the work is and that anywhere south of the Humber is just a suburb of London. Past projects have been in London, Hampshire, Berkshire, Somerset, Devon, Cornwall, Cambridgeshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire, with work as diverse as the conversion of a 1950s Chelsea house to match its 1830s neighbours (which won an Environment Award from the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea), two “new” garden follies at Painswick Rococo Gardens, recreated from postage stamp size details on an 18th.c. water colour, and turning a pre-war dance hall into modern offices.
Much of Richard’s work is repeat work for the same clients. He has worked on the same Herefordshire estate since 1991; as well as work to the main house, he has restored 17 cottages and houses, as well as farm buildings and a brand-new sheep research unit. For another client he has rebuilt seven houses including three in Ireland. One-off conversions in London have continued: in Swan Walk, Chelsea he rebuilt two listed houses for different clients; he has undertaken a major basement conversion in Chester Row, the complete remodelling of a 1920s house in Holland Park, and most recently a complete refurbishment in Chelsea Square.
Richard takes the view that architecture can be enjoyable if one avoids developers, and that it can be profitable, provided one works seven days a week. Often, it is about disguising a refusal to compromise with sound arguments and charm.