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Monday, June 27, 2022

A builder’s perspective

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Pascal Huser talks to Jade Tilley about his reality check that turned him to design
Once Vice President of Switzerland??s principle stock exchange, Pascal Huser swapped the boardroom for the drawing board, launching Pascal Huser Build & Design in 2000. 
Based in Fulham with a team of over 50 skilled in-house tradesmen, the company specialises in renovating, extending and converting residential properties across Fulham, Chelsea and Kensington to their owners?? high standards. Huser is known for his trademark full refurbishments and basement excavations, offering the additional unique service of in-house architectural design. What is unusual about Huser is that he did not spring straight from art school into a design career and so his experience and discipline in other areas makes Huser and his company somewhat unique.
Here, Pascal takes the time to tell Architects Choice about his move into the architecture industry and his partnership with clients.
What did you originally train as?
I studied Fine Art Painting at Wimbledon School of Art and Canterbury School of Art.  As part of any art degree, appreciation and understanding of other creative disciplines are important.  Canterbury also houses an architectural department, so in some respects I gained my first exposure to ??property?? based design from that period of education.     
What caused you to change your career path so dramatically?
A reality check?  I had sold my soul to work in finance at a time when the ??City?? was regarded in high esteem.  It is so easy to get sucked into a different way of life, and suddenly 14 years had passed and I realised this was never to be my vocation.  I have always had a keen interest in design, be it architecture, product or interior design.  Realistically, was I too old to consider returning to full time education again.  I have owned several properties since 1985 and took a very proactive approach in undertaking works.  I knew I had a strong sense of what I wanted to achieve and how I would go about it and I have always been very practical.  
What formal qualifications did you seek to obtain on making your switch to the architecture and design industry?
One learns from taking in as much information and detail as possible.  If we apply ourselves to creating wonderful things of which we can be proud, there should never be a need to compromise. I am obsessed with detail and finishes and it always amazes me how others who say they are, are at times totally unobservant.  To this end, my education from the point where I made the career change came from my determination and dedication to the craft.
How long have you been designing?
Although we have only recently launched a dedicated design service, I have been working with a small group of architects for the past 12 years where I would initially come up with the concept design.  I would hand over the practicality from a design layout point of view but oversee it from a building and cost aspect.    
Do you consider yourself to be a builder or an architect and how to do you feel that the two relate in terms of property design?
My clients see me as their trusted partner.  They like my sense of design and how I find solutions. Often, my clients and I are of a similar age and I am more attuned to what they want to achieve and how this would be possible.  Certainly, an element of maturity and know-how goes a long way.  I do not call myself an architect as I am not one. I have no problems at all referring to myself as the builder, which is what we do. We build up a close relationship with all of our clients as we are often the main point of contact.  It is about establishing the relationship with the client and working with them in a way that is conducive to a proactive and positive relationship.
Did you have a very specific focus on what you wanted to achieve as a builder/designer/architect?
It has always been to educate my clients so that they know to have the highest expectations. I take pleasure in surprising with details and choices few others would have discussed or offered.  My ethos is very much to do things well or not at all.  
What is your favourite part of the designing and renovating process?
The beginning, middle and the end! It has to be the entire process. I do encourage site meetings with clients on a regular basis as it enables them to see and understand the sequence of works and how things are built.  It??s very exciting for everyone to see the transformation through its various phases.  From a client point of view, I suspect the greatest satisfaction is handover at completion.  
What has been your biggest project to date? 
Each of our clients regard their projects, however small, as being the ??biggest??.  In terms of contract sum, it??s probably about £2m, although the vast majority of the schemes we work on are £500,000 to £1m.
What has been your most challenging project to date?
Not so much a specific project as a hazard of the job but occasionally dealing with neighbours who do not always welcome the disruption that building works create.  
What is your long-term goal for Pascal Huser Design & Build?
To continue to push ideas and the quality of finishes and to include the most innovative choice of materials and lighting within the designs.
Is there anything else that you??d like to achieve in terms of your career and other industries?
I don??t think you ever reach a stage in one??s own personal development where you can say you have peaked.  We are on a constant learning curve and our aim is to continue offering the level of service and attention to detail that sets us apart in the industry.  


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