Blog Post – Alex Ely

Founding Director, Mae

I studied architecture first at the University of Nottingham and then the Royal College of Art, since then whilst I am principally an Architect I have expanded my skills through further training, qualifying as a Chartered Town Planner and studying Urban Design. 

Currently, I am the Director of Mæ, which I set up in 2001 following qualification as an architect, but I am also a Diploma tutor at London Metropolitan University School of Architecture and actively involved in civic society through built environment policy work as a Mayor’s Design Advocate but in the past previously at CABE. I am also a housing developer and founder of MyHouse, a custom build developer.

In terms of how I got into the field, I always think back to times as a child when I’d sketch my neighbour’s houses. One neighbour was an artist and bought me a book on perspective and it opened my eyes to the spatial dimension of architecture. I often think back to this as my career has developed, I’ve always drawn parallels between designing a city or an individual room finding common ground in spatial character at all scales.

Whilst studying I became engaged with the social and environmental concerns of architecture and these have been a central priority for Mæ through our work designing public housing and social infrastructure. Cities and neighbourhoods are about bringing people together, and I’m interested in how they can be inclusive, generous, promote equity and sustain life. Buildings can also deliver on these goals.

Architecture is a wonderfully diverse career, every day is different. One day I can be developing ideas about –and discussing– the expression, choice of materials and technical resolution of our buildings; the next the social demands of mixed-use places; the next how to solve the climate crisis or equally I might be thinking about the shape of a good business; approaches to successful collaboration or how to best to engage the communities we design for. I learn from history at the same time as thinking of the future.

Two of the major projects the team and I have worked on in the last few years are Brentford Lock West Phase II and Regent’s Park Housing.

Brentford Lock West is a large regeneration project on a former industrial site. The phase we worked on added 157 homes to the distinctive mixed-use masterplan, setting a new standard for quality housing within Brentford in west London.

Reflecting the site’s industrial past, we used distinctive saw-tooth roofs to mark the corners of the site while bringing light into upper floor homes. A simple, yet robust attitude was given to detailing; alongside an earthy materials palette to complement the historic setting.

​​Regent’s Park Housing was a smaller scheme, providing 21 homes for Camden Council. Here we were able to utilise two small sites within an existing Regent’s Park Estate for the re-housing of residents whose homes were due for demolition in advance of HS2 works.

​In this interview, Alex Ely spoke more about his journey into architecture with Melissa Woolford, Founder and Director of MoA.

To find out more about their projects, visit Mae’s website HERE