Meet the Makers – Rob Delius

Rob Delius is an architect and Head of Sustainability at Stride Treglown. The idea for Sinking House started with him.

Let’s start at the beginning, where did the idea for Sinking House come from?

The idea actually came out of Stride Treglown’s Climate Action Relay which was a programme of events, counting down to COP26, focused on the climate emergency. Over eight weeks, we wanted to host discussion events but we also wanted to have ‘doing’ events. So I was thinking about what we could do in Bath which would have real impact.

I did some sketches of an installation and I contacted Format. They’ve done amazing work and incredible art installations all around the world and they’re based in Bath, so I thought it would be fantastic to work with them on this project. And to my absolute joy they said ‘Yes, count us in’.

So we had a few initial conversations about what we could do. We were first looking to do something in the park but then a colleague in our Bristol office suggested that we do something on the water. I thought actually that’s a good idea – pretty ambitious – but it would have huge impact. And that’s what we wanted for this project: for as many people to see it, to talk about it, and to share it. It’s all about spreading a message about the climate emergency and spreading the message about COP26 being a make or break moment.

And turning the idea into a reality – how was that process?

It’s been pretty up and down. I won’t lie about it. We’ve had quite a few challenges but we’ve got an amazing team working on it who’ve got a real can do attitude – so we’ve managed to find a solution to everything that’s been thrown at us. And we’ve had amazing support from so many local people and organisations in Bath – it’s been a real community effort.

Why do you think this installation, and its message, is so important?

I think climate change, net zero and sustainability – these topics are all so big in the construction industry now. I think everyone’s so much more clued up than they were a few years ago. But I think there’s still a lot more awareness that we can share generally. Some of the details about what’s happening to our planet are really quite frightening. We are at a tipping point now. This is an emergency. I feel our mission with this project is to get that message across to people.

How do you think people in Bath are going to respond to the installation?

Everyone that we’ve spoken to so far – from local organisations to people in cafes – thinks it’s fantastic idea. So I’m really hoping that the public will be excited by it too. I hope they’ll get the message and get behind our call for climate action.

Have you done anything like this before?

I’ve been involved with quite a few initiatives at Stride Treglown, mostly all aimed at the construction industry. This time, it’s really exciting to be doing something which is connecting to people who aren’t just within our industry – it’s much bigger than that. Everyone is going to see this and so it feels like we can make a difference and have an real impact on people.

It’s great that Stride Treglown supports people to do projects like this which are outside of the norm or not part of the usual day job. They recognise the influence that something like his can have and they can see how this can be a really beneficial project for the local community and beyond.

Do you have any personal takeaways from this project?

For me, this installation is more art than architecture. I think there are really interesting connections between the two and we [architects] should be exploring how our work could embrace art more as a means of communication. I believe we should be pushing boundaries, in terms of creating things which are beautiful or have a powerful message, to connect to people in a different way than say a building does.

Finally, how will you know if Sinking House has been a success?

For me, I think it’ll be successful if I can sense that a lot of people are seeing it, they’re interacting with it, they’re getting the message and they’re sharing it. I’d love to see that ripple effect of people saying ‘Go and see this thing in Bath’.