Q&A with Catherine Cook
Architectural Designer at Class Q
How would you describe yourself ?
I work on a variety of development types currently, but my favourite has to be bespoke residential dwellings. I am a certified scuba diver and big animal lover, including my Dobermann Charlie.
A bit more about you…
I was born and grew up in Leicestershire before moving to Leeds for my undergraduate degree. After this, I travelled to Southeast Asia before starting my career. After working for a while back in the UK I then returned to study for my Masters Degree in Architecture at De Montfort University. I then got a job in Stamford at Class Q and have now been living here ever since.
I love to travel, and my favourite part of the world is Asia. I’m going back to Thailand this year and hope to see Japan next year! During my travels, I also found a love for scuba diving and became qualified. I have dived all over Asia and recently in Devon with seals, they act just like dogs and this was an incredible experience.
Who are your greatest influences?
My parents have had a massive influence on my career, in 1998 they bought a 1930’s property with mushrooms growing on every floor, wall and ceiling and complete with an infestation of fleas. They took years but completely transformed the property. A few years later my dad also built his own house from the ground up - taking 9 years as he did most of it himself! That’s where my passion and real understanding of buildings in their raw and deconstructed form came from.
My current architectural influences are from a practice based in Singapore. In 2020 right before the pandemic began, I had the chance to visit Singapore and Malaysia. Whilst in Singapore I saw some of the completed projects by WOHA. They create buildings that centre the interconnection of humans and nature, creating resilient ecosystems within the design.
They also have a book “Garden City Mega City” which is worth a read if you have any interest in planning and design for long term growth and sustainability. I was currently deep within my research for this type of design for my Masters dissertation which concentrated on biophilic and regenerative architecture as a path beyond sustainability, so it tied in nicely.
“I have a keen interest in sustainable design and design for the future rather than right now. I think there is an importance in regenerating unused and dilapidated spaces rather than always looking to build new”
What have been some of your best experiences at work?
I am in a unique position where I have seen Class Q evolve and grow, I was the first employee and now we are a team of 8! This has all been within a year so I can’t wait to see what the practice looks like in another year. It has been fun yet challenging to shape the architecture department, we are now a fantastic team of 4 designers.
When I started our focus was barn conversions but now, we have a vast array of projects under our belt, including masterplans, new build developments and commercial architecture. We do a lot around Stamford and Rutland so it’s interesting to see these projects develop within our vicinity.
Traditional vs contemporary style?
Why not both! A good proportion of my projects at Class Q have been agricultural barn conversions. I love having the chance to modernise and create a habitable space that feels re-imagined and fresh with modern whilst still maintaining lots of character both internal and external. I have a keen interest in sustainable design and design for the future rather than right now. I think there is an importance in regenerating unused and dilapidated spaces rather than always looking to build new. That’s one of the reasons I love working where I do, being able to create something contemporary using what already exists and incorporating part of the history into future uses.
What would you consider your greatest achievement?
Achieving First Class in both of my degrees has most definitely been a highlight and a testament to the hard work I put in, I think having this dedication also recognised by receiving the Foster + Partners Award for Design Excellence during my Masters Degree Show has been a big achievement! I also was asked to work part-time as a guest tutor at my undergraduate university in Leeds, that was a real full-circle moment for me and was great to help current undergraduates.
What would your super-power be?
Breathing underwater, like a fish.