14 February 2022 by Simon Drayson

Darren Simon Architects v4

We’re partners in life as well as in work, and to us that makes perfect sense. Architecture is not something that can be left on the drawing board. We’re no longer working from the kitchen table, but it’s still about the everyday, about the things that matter, and about the bigger picture.

We met whilst studying at Portsmouth way back in 2008, before then moving to London together for work in 2011. We started talking about George and James Architects shortly afterwards, working on projects in the evenings and on the weekends.

In 2017, we got married at the top of Portsmouth’s Spinnaker Tower, which was the main catalyst for taking our business full-time; first Simon, working from the spare bedroom of our flat in South London’s Rotherhithe, then Darren, when we moved to our studio a stone’s throw away in Bermondsey.

Friends and family are often amazed at how we can live and work together, and whilst this can and does indeed have its challenges from time to time (more on this later!), we are unanimous that the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages, especially when it comes to our clients and their projects.

First and foremost it almost goes without saying that the need for financial stability drives a vested interest in the success of our business. Beyond the balance sheet, we have a shared mission to design buildings to be proud of – places that are happy and healthy and kind to people and planet. We support each other in the day-to-day running of the practice and its projects, on both a technical and an emotional level as only very close colleagues can. In return this can bring a different dimension to our home life, often resorting to dealing with our personal differences in a professional manner! This was particularly useful in our decision to up sticks last year, simultaneously relocating our lives and business to the South Downs National Park.

As a small family business albeit currently a single generation, we bring a reliable work ethic to everything we do; we aim to lead by example, encourage our team to adopt a shared sense of responsibility, taking pride in all our work. As such there is a strong focus on relationships at George and James Architects, both with each other in the studio and with clients and collaborators further afield. As our relationship is already solidified at home, this cohesion and camaraderie rubs off at work. By accepting each other’s personality quirks, workplace conflicts and obstacles are more easily overcome, nurtured by a workplace culture of open and honest communication.

Last but by no means least we believe, we are confident that our complimenting personalities and skills present our clients with the full package, with our process specifically tailored to their projects. Simon directs the sales and marketing side of the business, whilst Darren is responsible for operations and oversees our team. We both perform the role of a CEO, having a common strategic oversight for the business, sharing our vision and goals with the team. You are probably not surprised to hear we divide household chores in a similar fashion! This means that we can focus on what we’re good at and what we enjoy, which is somewhat of a no-brainer.

It is often said that partners know each other better than they know themselves, so we tasked each other with illustrating the other person’s strengths in the business. Here’s what we said:

simon colour web

Darren said Simon’s biggest strength is his good communication skills: “He is very personable and outgoing with people - he finds it easy to establish good relationships with clients and collaborators relatively quickly - whereas I can be a bit more reserved.” When it comes to our projects, “Simon bounces off people, having done so particularly well with Jane at Palatine Avenue, and also Jacinta and Stephen at Thirsk Road, where he got to know them very quickly, and they became comfortable with him in return. He is also a great multi-tasker!”

darren colour web

Simon describes Darren as being a reflective individual: “He takes his time to think over all possible outcomes to arrive at the best possible solution for our clients.” With our ongoing Kidbrooke Grove project, “when we took this over from another architect when the project started on site, it very soon became apparent that they had left a lot of stones unturned. Darren somehow managed to unravel this, discussing every single decision with Nan and Stuart, resulting in a very successful outcome, primarily down to his attention to detail and thorough questioning.”

You can read more about us – and the rest of our team – here on our website’s Studio page, where you can also read more about our mission and the process we go through to achieve this.

Simon and Darren smiling

As with any relationship, whether you work together or not, we have our challenges. We constantly strive for a healthy work-life balance, rarely taking work issues home and vice versa, and encourage our team to do the same. That said it is inevitable that architecture comes up ‘out of hours’, despite our best efforts given our shared passion for what we do.

We try to have some time apart from each other (as apparently absence makes the heart grow fonder!) with each of us taking a day out to teach. Simon likes to let off steam at the weekends white water kayaking, when Darren can usually be found on the carpet playing with Lego!

Whilst coincidental that Valentine’s Day falls within the annual LGBT+ History Month, as a same-sex couple enjoying the equality that our forebears fought for, the link between the two is as strong as ever considering the shocking rise in anti-LGBTQ hate crime.

Love is love people.

Take the first small step.

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