Hilary Satchwell

Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design

I had never considered studying architecture until it came up as number one in the results in a careers lesson “test” at school that was about putting in what you liked doing and gave a top ten possible jobs. I didn’t really know much about what architects did at that point but I liked the idea of something that combined my interests in drawing, making, science and maths. I found a school friend’s parent who was an architect and arranged some work experience in her office and they let me spend the week designing a hotel on a site where they were running the “real” project. This was very exciting. ​

It was only really when I went to architecture school that I realised how much I was interested in how buildings and spaces worked together and how people can be encouraged to use them, to feel safe, to interact and to have fun as a result of the choices that designers and others make in the design and in how they are managed. I really enjoyed the real world projects on actual sites and sometimes working with existing communities to make better places.  I loved how we could work together to plan change, to organise groups and to hear such a broad range of people involved in the built environment in one way or another. 

After an interesting year out in a practice in Bristol where I worked on historic buildings I decided that for my part 2 I was interested in pursuing masterplanning and urban design (neither of which were part of my course to any extent) and with a couple of fellow students we went through the relevant books in the university library, examined real places and developed a regeneration masterplan for a part of Plymouth, including a town centre, that had been annexed after the war to form part of the dockyard. The three of us each designed a specific building, mine was a library, and worked collaboratively on a masterplan using the books and our real world investigations to guide us. I am not sure that the university quite knew what to make of it and whilst it might seem very much like something out of my day to day life now it wasn’t what people normally presented for their thesis project on that architecture course then. However, it was well received and we were nominated by the school for the RIBA Silver medal.

With this now developing interest in urban design I wondered if anyone would give me a job doing such things and I managed to get an interview with a practice in London called Tibbalds Monro. I presented the collaborative masterplan pointing out which of the drawings done by the three of us were mine even though it was quite hard to tell them apart and I was offered a job. That was in 1996 and I am now approaching my 24th year at ‘Tibbalds’ and am still as excited and fascinated by how we make places and how what we do benefits people as ever. I love working with communities, designers, planners, specialists, making a difference and shaping the environment for public good. Roll on the next 24 years!


Bourne Estate, Camden. Other project team members: Matthew Lloyd Architects, Campbell Reith, Dally Henderson, TEP for LB Camden

Manydown Garden Town Masterplan, Hampshire. Other project team members: TEP, Systra, Campbell Reith CGMS

Image credit Tibbalds

Leales Yard SPD, Guernsey. Other project team members: Aspinal Verdi, BBUK, Expedition engineering and Momentum for Development and Planning Authority States of Guernsey

Image credit Tibbalds

To find out more about Tibbalds, visit their website HERE