The history of Haxted is my history. Whilst the business was founded in 2008, its origins start back in 1987 when I spent a gap year working as a builder’s labourer prior to studying as an undergraduate surveyor. Debt was avoided courtesy of a bartered sponsorship deal agreed with my building company boss in exchange for 20 weeks a year of my best physical labour.
During the following three years, academic study was combined with learning trade skills, experience which to this day informs my perspective. In reality I also learned a powerful early lesson that has subsequently become a core personal belief – that every member of a team has an intrinsic value and importance no matter whether they be the tradesman’s labourer, the tradesman himself, the building company boss, the project manager, the client, whoever. Good leadership is the ability to get everyone involved headed in the same direction, clear as to what the goal is.
In 1991 the chill winds of recession were blowing cold and hard through the UK property market, but off the back of a willingness to turn out at short notice for the company rugby team, I managed to secure a training contract at King and Co. I’m told that my unexpected dissertation project on the design, construction and economics of new UK golf course development was a factor. It was here, mentored by some of the very best teachers in the industry, many friends to this day, that I qualified as a chartered surveyor.
Seven very fulfilling years later I was fortunate enough to be asked to join Kingspark, one of the UK’s most ambitious and exciting young development companies. Project managing the design and delivery of manufacturing, distribution and office spaces was new, challenging and rewarding. Within 6 months Kingspark’s founder John Cutts had offered me the opportunity to head back to London to co-found Parkridge – a start up retail and leisure development company, and we went on to build, amongst other things, the mixed-use waterfront buildings at Brighton marina, the award winning millennium cinema complex in Greenwich, and the exemplar eco store for B+Q in Sutton-in Ashfield.
By late 2007, having spent the interim years building out an extensive mixed-use and residential portfolio, and obtaining complex planning consents for high-density urban residential schemes in Wallington and Epsom Station in Surrey, the big dog of all real estate recessions arrived. When the US itself entered into a steep decline in early 2008, and holding company funding for new schemes was withdrawn, the opportunity to take the final entrepreneurial jump arrived. Haxted was formed and immediately agreed a mandate with the shareholders to complete the asset management and sale of a number of existing Parkridge assets on a profit share agreement, two of which were purchased into Haxted.
2010 saw the purchase of the prime waterfront development site on Poole harbour that was to become 328, the goal being to deliver the best apartment scheme the south coast had, until that point, seen (www.three-two-eight.com) The commencement of this luxury scheme of five apartments in May 2011, marked the maturing of the business as a developer of premium residences. Completion in December 2012 was marked by the sale of the penthouse unit at a record price for the Sandbanks area.
Just as the history behind the company is my history, so Haxted’s philosophy is essentially autobiographical.
Growing up in the 1970’s was all about adventure, building and making stuff, and spending as much time as possible outdoors. Money was hard earned. Waste was frowned upon and inventiveness was to the fore. Later, the adventures moved into the mountains, and onto the rivers and the sea. Time was spent learning craft skills and the incalculable lessons of nature’s wild places. We learned to “leave no trace” and to use materials sparingly.
When Haxted came into being in 2008 the goal was to form a company that would develop buildings whilst respecting, as far as possible, the environments into which we would intervene. We would set out to be a responsible company that would be as productive as possible with resources, and waste little. Born out of a deepening recession it would be spare and lean.
So we set out to design and make interesting, considered buildings. Haxted would focus on craftsmanship and utility, learning from slowly revealed wisdom accumulated over many years. Philosophically our company would be less corporate, would maintain a youthful mentality, and be more of an evolving network of human, social, natural and financial capital. It would look to profit by creating deep value – rewarded for making others tangibly and durably better off in ways that matter most to them. At Haxted our philosophy is that profit is a consequence of having a good business, not a first principle. Our challenge is to ensure that we grow, profitably, but that we do so whilst doing the right things.
At the beginning there was no grand vision, just a visceral belief in great architecture, and the ability of well-designed and crafted buildings and spaces to improve the quality of peoples lives.
Commissioning the best architecture, working the most challenging design brief, striving for elegant simplicity in an ever more complex world – these were the things that inspired us to start Haxted. They continue to be the things we aspire to do every day, and our challenge is to try and inspire others with the work we deliver.
All around us we find sources of inspiration that inform our thinking – in the wild and beautiful natural world; in the excitement and energy of great cities and urban environments; from the tales of mavericks building great companies, and from the stories of the free thinkers; from great art, music, writing and from our play. In the words of Sir Paul Smith “If you can’t find inspiration everywhere, then you’re not looking hard enough.”
So we exist as a company to inspire and be inspired. We want to do meaningful work, to design and make authentic spaces for people to live, work and relax in. And we believe in being curious, and in the inspiration of ideas, because without curiosity we become stale. Einstein advised that “the important thing is not to stop questioning” and that seems a pretty good fundamental belief to us. Well executed ideas change things, and our belief in this led Haxted to become the first founding partner of the Do Lectures in 2009. And so now, once a year, we gather together in a kata in a field in west Wales, with a group of other inquisitive people from around the world, to look for inspiration and to share our stories. www.dolectures.com