Life at Stride Treglown / Divisional Director

Carl Harding

It’s nearly 4 o’clock - time to get a wetsuit on.

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My name’s Carl Harding. I’m a Divisional Director and Architect based in Stride Treglown’s Truro office.

I’ve worked for Stride Treglown for ten years now. I was promoted to Divisional Director just before Christmas last year. I grew up in Cornwall and I’ve worked all over the world.

The best of both worlds

Stride Treglown gave me a really good opportunity to move back home. It really gives me the best of both worlds – I get to work on exciting, largescale projects but also live by the beach. The real driver for me to move back down here was wanting to give my children the experience that I had myself growing up in Perranporth.

It is interesting for a large architecture firm to have an office here. But to service projects in Cornwall, we find it is important to have a presence, a local connection and relationship with our clients down here.

Designing for deaf children

I’ve personally been involved in a number of schools in the area and in Devon. I’ve recently been the project architect for a school for deaf children in Exmouth. It’s been absolutely fascinating exercising and understanding how deaf people need their environment to be in order to move around, communicate and learn effectively. We’re trying to create spaces really tuned into the needs of people who sign.

For example, the corridors have to be much wider so that people can walk along next to each other signing and communicating. Having reflective surfaces on some walls means that you get a visual clue when somebody’s walking up behind you. Some students will be living on site and will need doorbells on their bedroom doors which flicker lights so that they know somebody’s outside. Vibrating pads go under pillows so when there’s a fire alarm it wakes the children up. There are all these things that you wouldn’t necessarily think of until you get involved in that design process. It’s been really, really interesting.

The Dunes

So, I’m just heading to Perranporth where Stride Treglown have recently finished a large residential scheme called The Dunes. The site was a former hotel which had come to the end of its life. It was no longer financially viable and the owner had been trying to sell it for a number of years. The development includes market and affordable housing as well as the Summer House restaurant and Alcatraz Café.

I’m going to head down to the apartments now – it’s also a good opportunity to check out what the surf’s like. We’ve got glorious sunshine just emerging from the hail clouds and there’s a double rainbow over the golf course behind us. This surf shop, established in 1971, is where I spent much of my time haggling over boards and wetsuits.

So we’re just coming up to The Dunes now, perched on top of the cliff looking down over the sea. The Dunes scheme is there with the black and timber cladding of the restaurant intended to reflect maritime themes and boats. The grey white render cladding was making reference to some of the local buildings around and gives a contemporary look.

Alcatraz

Just down the face of the cliff, below the Summer House restaurant, is Alcatraz Café – a two-storey building designed at the same time as the restaurant works. It sits on the point where a World War II gun shelter was positioned. There was a small shop on the site and the name Alcatraz derived from the fact that in order to survive the winter, big metal shutters had to be put down over the windows and doors. The name Alcatraz stuck from there really. The client embraced that and so there’s a big sign with Alcatraz written over the top of the new building where we’re standing now.

Sea defence

When there’s a big high tide here, the sea goes right over the top of it – literally over the top of the whole building. There’ll be ten foot waves crashing over the top of the building. The surf can come probably halfway up these steps. When you are designing a new building now you need to take into account rising sea levels and factor that in. We work a lot with the environment agency and the only design that they would accept structurally was a reinforced concrete frame. So we took the opportunity to just treat the café as if it was a concrete sea defence wall. It’s quite a brutal building but, actually, I’m pleased with it.

The Poldark effect

It’s great to see that there’s a lot of investment coming into Cornwall at the moment in terms of houses and also work that’s going on at the university. Obviously, we had the Poldark effect recently. Living in Holywell Bay where they filmed quite a lot of it, it was quite interesting to see a bus load of American ladies walking down to the beach trying to find Aidan Turner the other day.

Get connected

Obviously, Truro is out on a limb – which has its advantages – but we work very closely with the rest of the business and across sectors. There might be somebody with a level of expertise in one of the other offices and the technology we’ve got means we can share what’s on our screen with someone who might be in Birmingham or Manchester or London. It makes it easy to discuss details and get some advice from somebody at the other end of the country who may have done something similar on another job.

Work-surf-life balance

Things I love about working at Stride Treglown? Flexible working is fantastic. It’s great for my family life. We need to be in the office between 10am-4pm so if I need to pick my kids up from school I can work around that. It’s allowed my wife to go back to work much more easily than if I was rigidly stuck in the office nine-to-five. And for me as a surfer, it’s great because I can look at the surf forecast, duck in the sea in the morning and still be in the office for half nine/10 o’clock. Or alternatively go in early and head home early.

I know a number of my colleagues really feel like that’s a benefit to working for Stride Treglown too. We work very hard and sometimes we put in extremely long hours, but in my experience, if you do some long hours, you can take time off in lieu to compensate for that. The flexibility is just really good for mental health and staff wellbeing.

Time to get a wetsuit on

The north coast of Cornwall is generally fairly exposed so on a day like today, when it’s howling on shore wind, it’s not the greatest of surf here. But there are a number of coves and bays that I know of. They’re top secret though, I’m not allowed to tell anybody where you get a much cleaner surf!

So, it’s nearly 4 o’clock now, time to get a wetsuit on.