Jonathan Healiss

Regional Director

Jon is a regional director for our Manchester office. He mostly does front end design, particularly on large, complex projects and has led a number of highly acclaimed academic buildings, including New Adelphi at University of Salford.

Despite his technical background, Jon spends much of his time drawing by hand with a fat pen, rather than tapping into a machine. You will usually find him sat in the far corner of the office, or exhibiting his dry Scouse wit on Twitter.

Jon, what is the current big trend in your region?

Currently, we are designing a lot of student accommodation and we have noticed the trend in finding a more homely and affordable model. More communal and often catered mid-20th century ‘halls of residence’ have been replaced with self-catered, ensuite accommodation, with rental levels way beyond the pocket of those intending to live in them.

Affordability is an issue across the broader residential sector too, but there is a specific challenge for providers of purpose-built student accommodation to find ways to increase accessibility.

What is your favourite project you’ve worked on to date?

The best project I have worked on is the New Adelphi Building for the University of Salford. It’s not often you get to design something as big and culturally interesting as that.

The building houses an entire faculty of creatives including; artists, graphic and fashion designers, photographers, architects, interior designers, actors and musicians. It was a challenge and a pleasure to bring these disciplines together under one roof. Now my nephew – a budding actor – is studying there and he loves it.

Best building in your city?

My favourite bit of Manchester isn’t a building but the space between two great buildings – Central Library and the Town Hall extension. The distance between these two hulking, tall, curved stone facades gradually tightens then open out as you move through it. It’s one of the few places I know that has such a dynamic effect on you physically. I love it.

Why did you choose a career in architecture?

When I was six or seven my brother’s friend went off to study architecture and he came back at Christmas with a big portfolio case full of huge drawings – I just really wanted that.

A couple of years later, I saw an old documentary detailing the construction of a council tower block from the late 50’s which firmed it up in my head. Funnily enough, it turns out the fella with a big cigar and a Jag must have been the developer, so if I’m honest, I didn’t get exactly what I aspired to.

Luckily for me though, it’s turned out to be something that I’m very suited to and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

What advice would you give your 20 year old self?

Get your head down and work hard. It’s worth it. 

Industry Bodies:
  • RIBA