Words – Will Foster and Rakes Progress Magazine

Photos – Michael Franke

Originally published in Rakes Progress


William Foster is one half of Foster Lomas -the award-winning architecture and design studio. William Foster and Greg Lomas have a holistic and sustainable approach to architecture that ensures that nature and ecology, site, materials and build are all equally respected.

Originally from a craft background, Will worked for renowned blacksmith James Horrobin before completing his Architectural degree and training.

What can you see out of your window?

The reality is that I live in a dense neighbourhood of South East London. When converting my own loft, I made sure my view framed the nature and everything else hidden.

Lying in my bed, I can see beautiful fir trees swaying in the wind as if they were part of an alpine forest. I imagine that I am looking out from a retreat in one of the great American National parks. The closer you look, the more you see birds resting on its outstretched arms. It’s calming to see them gently swaying in sync with the tree, nestled deep within the branches.

Framing views of nature has been a recurring theme of my architectural practice Foster Lomas. Our project on the Isle of Man essentially is one great framed view which is perfect for surveying the wildlife reserve which lies beyond. ( See Image of Sartfell Retreat)

What’s in your garden – describe your outside space?

Our garden is small and we try make most of it. We have a picket fence on each side, which allows us to speak to our neighbours, bringing a shared sense of space. Through this fence we share wildlife, plants and even fruit from the each other’s gardens.

This communal aspect of our garden makes it feel expansive. Adults may have a good natter over a cup of tea while our children may have water fights over these fences.

Our garden is also busy with small animals – squirrels and cats come through our garden constantly. We also have a frog we call ‘Lenny’ who hangs out in our sunken tub pond placed in the shaded area of our garden protected by ferns.

Has lockdown changed the way you see it?

Lockdown has reinforced the importance of outdoor space and the fact our gardens are full of life if we pay more attention to them. You can also hear neighbours engaged in DIY, children playing, cats meowing. It’s a good reminder that we have a close-knit community in our part of the city – that we care for each other and need each other. If our home offers privacy and security, our garden opens out to be part of many little gardens that make up our community. Our garden it’s just a fragment of many little gardens which is my community my home by security

When did you realise you were you first interested in gardens?

My interest really lies with landscape and growing up in rural exmoor where I was allowed to roam free, playing in the woods, rivers and fields etc. I loved to make things from what I found scattered around, dens, dams and even grass sculptures. I pretty much employ this same philosophy to building architecture now, it is great to find out what each location has to offer. We start with the sense of place its history, materiality, the ecology and the elements. Combine them you have a start of a brief to design something inherently imbedded in its location.

Describe beauty in one sentence ?

That magic moment when architecture, nature and the elements are all in sync together. I recently experienced a rainstorm while walking in the wilds of West Penwith among the megalithic stone structures -it was very moving.

What’s your favourite plant or flower?

Being an architect, I love ferns – I like seeing their beautiful spiral-patterns leaves interact with light, creating beautiful shadows and inspiring strong forms.

Who or what inspires you?

I love to experience landscape in relationship to the natural elements and people. Every place I visit has a story, a narrative of how it has come about.

I enjoy learning the history of a place or a village or a building, how they came to be, how they were formed, as well as studying the landscape and weather patterns.

What book are you reading ?

I am reading “Scotland from Pre-history to the Present” by Fiona Watson I’m interested how the Scottish landscape was formed.

Favourite scent?

From the garden it’s when I clip my tomato leaves, the smell reminds me how good they are going to taste!

What positive change will you take away from lockdown?

I am more than ever before determined to design buildings that work with nature rather than against it.