Student Architects explore Bobby & Co’s Renovation; A hands-on learning experience

Feb 15, 2024

Student Architects explore Bobby & Co’s Renovation; A hands-on learning experience

Nearly 60 lucky AUB 3rd year Architectural students visited Bobby & Co, the former department store in the heart of Bournemouth.  The building is currently undergoing a significant renovation to the top floor and façade as the iconic landmark is transformed and restored to its former glory, in a flurry of ongoing activity.

Four sessions took place with the engaged students who enjoyed 30 minutes of presentations by the project’s construction and consultant team, followed by Q & A’s and a behind the scenes tour on site to see the action, progress and innovation being made in this impressive building project.

Presenting were Ashley Harris, Spetisbury Construction, Matt Allibone, Whitefox – Chartered Surveyors, and Mike Ford, Footprint Architects, all of whom are heavily engaged in the project working for their client, Verve Properties.

On opening the sessions, Spetisbury Contract Manager Ashley Harris read out the mission statement from Verve Properties which said, ‘Bobby’s seeks to curate and assemble a diverse collection of products, activities and experiences which cannot be obtained on the internet.  In so doing it focuses on what is local, what is sustainable and puts the community at the heart of it.’

Ashley commented, “We believe Verve deserves praise as they’re investing in the existing building, putting something back into the community, reusing something that is already here. If they hadn’t acquired the building, there wouldn’t be many other people who would take on such a project in need of so much work.  It would always be simpler and easier for a developer to take out-of-town premises where there’s a greenfield site and the construction costs are much easier to control. With an existing building there are always lots of unknowns and many difficulties. However, Verve is determined to give something to the community and to reinvigorate the town centre, it’s very commendable.”

Introducing Spetisbury Construction as the Principal Contractor, Ashley discussed the scope of works being undertaken; demolition and re-roofing works, installation of new steel fire escape staircases, refurbishment of the rear 4th floor to form new offices, installation of a new Air Handling System for the entire building, installation of new mechanical, electrical, fire, access, security systems, installation of new doors & windows and refurbishments and various structural works. He went on to detail Spetisbury’s role in the project.

Next to the floor was Matt Allibone, Director at Whitefox – Chartered Surveyors, who introduced the firm as Project Management and Cost Consultants and what this entailed.  Matt talked about the challenges of working on a large construction project, within an operational building and advised, “One of the key things to achieving and delivering a successful project is excellent communications and continuous and regular interactions with the different and diverse mix of stakeholders involved. These include; the design team, construction team, Local Authority & Building Control, tenants, neighbours and members of the public, to name a few.”

Matt stressed the need to, “Listen, engage and be proactive in terms of thinking ahead as to what the risks and challenges could be in a project.”

Finally, Mike Ford, Associate Architect and Passivhaus Designer at Footprint Architects shared with the students how the project embodies the essence of what communities seek from their high streets today: inspiring interiors, points of interest, social spaces and interactions in beautiful architecturally designed spaces. He outlined the four key concepts at the core of reviving high streets for the Footprint Architects team; meeting community needs, engaging the public, sustainable transformation, and honouring heritage.

“From an early stage in the project we’ve worked across all parts of the development; Concept designs, planning applications, building control, construction drawings and site assistance. It’s been a very complicated management process throughout the building as we’re working across various phasing projects at different work stages. It’s been complex and has involved a lot of back and forth with the client, tenants and the design and construction team.

“One key complexity is the historic nature of the building – with a ‘locally listed’ façade which brings a raft of additional planning requirements. It’s also built over 4 different periods in the last 100 years, with various buildings, extensions, and renovations.  All the buildings are therefore different construction types, with different requirements, and performances.  It’s been a huge challenge to marry these all up.

“We’ve probably had around 7 planning applications to date.”

Students began their back scenes tour by donning their hard hats and high-viz bibs to comply with the site’s strict health & safety requirements.

Student Wilf Reynolds commented, “I’m not new to building sites as I work on them when I’m not at university.  However, seeing a building site of this scale is quite a surprise but builds excitement for bigger jobs and projects for myself in the future!”

Anton Parsons, “We have an educational project this term where we must design a new frame structure. So, to see the new frame structures installed on the Bobby’s site is really helpful to see how it all aligns with the steel and the timber and how it all works together. It’s been a great visit!”

Hannah May, “It was interesting to see what goes into the renovations of a department store and everything that they must do, health and safety wise. The project seems quite difficult, especially as it’s a pre-existing building.  It’s helped me realise all the health and safety things that I need to include in my course work design project and exactly how much research you must do with everything, it’s been an incredibly useful trip.”

Melanie Kaviani, Senior Lecturer, PSA Architecture at AUB concluded, “It’s been brilliant to be here with our students – listening to and seeing the consultants working together and their collaborative approach is insightful for the students. It gives them a snapshot of all that we are teaching them, from inception to completion of a project – this is not usually seen, so a great exercise for them.”