Logic Architecture managing director Mark Barlow tells Mark Lane how his Middlesbrough-based practice is using a pragmatic business strategy to attract clients and is building its reputation both inside and outside the region

When I ask Mark Barlow, co-founder and managing director Middlesbrough-based architects practice Logic Architecture, whether siting his business in the Tees Valley has any disadvantages for a company of this nature, his answer gave me a warm glow.

Mark, who originally hails from Essex, says: “Having consciously decided 20 years ago to stay in the North East after studying at Newcastle University I now consider myself an adopted Teessider and believe it is an advantage to base our HQ in this region where we thrive on being surrounded by honest, hard-working yet modest people and businesses.”

Logic Architecture provides a wide range of construction- related design and management services, and is distinctive in a number of ways, not least of which is its acute commercial focus. But its humble beginnings are worth recounting.

Mark, who is also a qualified architect and director of Logic, moved from the South East to this region in 1992 to study naval architecture and marine engineering at Newcastle University. He recalls: “It was at a time when the Tyne shipyards were closing which made me nervous about my future employment prospects combined with a realisation that the course wasn’t creative enough for me so I changed to the seven-year architecture degree.”

Graduating in 1999, he opted not to join the exodus of architectural graduates down to London from the region and decided instead to locate in the Tees Valley where he worked at various local practices, working his way up the career ladder while becoming the youngest ever chairman of the Teesside branch of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

In that time, he began to see opportunities to develop a practice and had very clear ideas about how he wanted to go about it. He explains: “Post-2008 recession it was apparent particularly in the North East that commercial viability remained the biggest hurdle for both the private and public sector.

We could see an opportunity existed to create a new type of architects practice that would focus on creating design solutions that would unashamedly follow a logical process to design from the ‘inside out.’ This would ensure a building was fit for purpose and make sure each proposal was commercially viable and would achieve a quantifiable ROI.

“Having delivered numerous projects in the North East, typically to a strict budget, I was confident that my pragmatic design skills combined with my vast network would be a great basis from which to build a new practice that would set out to do things differently.”

Currently Mark’s Middlesbrough office employs seven people but this has just been boosted by the employment of an Interior Design graduate from Teesside University and the strategic recruitment of an accredited senior conservation architect.

Continues Mark: “Currently 70 per cent of our work is in the North East with further expanding national commitments including a recently completed project for Queen Mary University London, a revamp of the contact centre for Sheffield Council, various commercial projects in Leeds and even a restaurant for a celebrity chef in Devon.”

Other projects the practice has worked on include the £22m Tees Advanced Manufacturing Park which is currently on site and due to complete by mid-2020. In addition, the company recently won a tender to prepare a masterplan for a 60,000 sqft expansion of the Boho Zone in Middlesbrough, where Logic itself is located, in addition to various large-scale residential regeneration projects for a variety of North East housing associations including Thirteen & Beyond Housing.

In the education sector Logic is currently assisting Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council with the reconfiguration and expansion of a primary school and is also designing a new sustainable Special Educational Needs-focused outdoor education facility.

In all cases, there are recurring themes of maximising return on investment and extracting value. Mark says: “We are confident our unique ‘Logical’ design rationale can be applied to any building type or development opportunity to extract optimum value and ROI.

“In fact, we estimate we could probably help add value to 50 per cent of UK businesses or homeowners by helping them achieve better efficiency in the use of their property and assets which in turn can help them make money and save money.”