Since qualifying as a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1972, John Bennett has been continually involved in architectural practice, firstly in a partnership, then on his own account in north London. He has also taught in London schools of architecture and been a Professor of Architecture in the USA. Originally based in London, the practice has been located in Southwold, Suffolk since 1994.
The core of the workload is residential, both new housing, houses and alterations, although there is always a good element of other building types. There is a belief in traditional design based upon time-honoured techniques, these being much less in evidence today than one would wish. Having spent more than three decades analysing the factors which make buildings pleasurable, it is the fruit of these studies which inform the design work. All new buildings are designed to fit sensitively into their context, each of which is, of course, unique and thus requiring a unique solution. Generally speaking there is more visual pleasure in a complexity of form relationships, a complexity which also pays dividends in successful weathering of external elements. For instance, the decorative curves cut on a bargeboard enable rainwater to drip from it more easily.
When altering or extending existing buildings the design philosophy is to try to adhere to what the original builder/designer might have done, faced with the problem that is currently being addressed, but being able to select from all the technology available up to the present time. This is particularly important when working on historic or listed buildings. A prevailing attitude in the field of conservation requires new work to be visibly modern and not blending with the original fabric. This is often a questionable approach.
Whilst the practice undertakes work at all scales, a particular enthusiasm is the design of small scale buildings, and the creation of useful spaces where none appears to exist. Projects are specified to achieve the maximum value for the available funds and the monitoring of projects involves a well-proven valuation system which is operated fortnightly during the running of a job. Work is undertaken locally, in East Anglia in and around London and anywhere.
Whilst the value of modern IT technology is acknowledged, the practice prefers to produce drawings by hand rather than by Computer Aided Design. Architectural design is best undertaken with the use of a soft pencil whilst the machine-made aesthetic of CAD drawings is not conducive to a sensitive communication of a design. John Bennett is a member of the RIBA Traditional Architecture Group (TAG).