If building is all about doing things brick-by-brick then Matt Kirk’s career has followed the right kind of path.
A job running architect at Franklin Ellis, Matt took the lead on the latest in a series of major educational projects delivered by the business, the development of a junior school at Ratcliffe College in Leicestershire.
It’s a project which is of particular significance to the business on several levels. The original college was the work of Augustus Pugin, the world-famous 19th century Gothic revivalist architect who is also one of the forefathers of Franklin Ellis partner, David Franklin. And educational projects have become a particular feature of the business, which has established a track record for delivering striking yet pragmatic designs for schools and colleges across the country.
It was while he was still at school, that it became apparent Matt might have a career in and around construction. “It all started off with a recommendation from my father, really,” says Matt. “He’d realised that I liked building things and he could see where it might be heading.”
After a degree in architecture at Sheffield University and professional qualifications, Matt found himself working for an architect in Derbyshire which had a strong relationship with the local education authority. “They wanted to build their reputation in the educational field and I found myself working on a stream of school extensions,” said Matt. “The projects were fairly small scale, but it was a great way to understand how the process worked because I was seeing things at different stages. School extensions really were the perfect leaning opportunity for me!”
But they also whetted Matt’s appetite for more substantial projects: “I was also looking to get involved in bigger projects and that really pointed towards a bigger business in a city. I got in front of Franklin Ellis and Andrew Ellis welcomed me into the business.”
Matt has been a key part of the Franklin Ellis team for more than a decade now, contributing to a series of major projects. They include the Nottingham Academy, where Matt worked on a feasibility study which helped secure £60 million in funding; the £24 million new build Jesse Boot school; and, of course, the Ratcliffe College project.
Matt explained: “Pugin is an architectural legend and to work in a firm whose partners include one of his descendants is great. To actually contribute to a project which seeks to build on and adjacent to Pugin’s work is something else!
“It gave us the opportunity to put a modern slant on something in the traditional Gothic style, so it was an incredibly creative project. But it was one where I was also able to bring all my experience of educational projects to bear.
“It has been a really absorbing process, working with our design directors, David Franklin and Joe Taylor. Our ethos is to try to produce uncomplicated designs without compromising the visual aesthetic because that can make them easier to deliver.
“There are no shortcuts in good design – you have to spend time on them. But genuinely elegant design can also make is easier to deliver an effective building.”
Matt adds: “Elegant design is also about giving the contractor clear instructions to work from so that they know exactly what is needed to avoid compromise. On the Ratcliffe College project we partnered with Pure Construction and they were brilliant to work with.”
It’s a long time since Matt Kirk first laid the building blocks of a career in the construction industry. Even though he’s moved from classroom extensions to major redevelopments, he would be the first to admit that he has never stopped learning.
“Working on Ratcliffe College has been a special experience for me and for Franklin Ellis,” he said. “Every job is a learning experience and it has been fantastic to engage with such a good client, contractor and design team.”