We’d like to take a moment to congratulate our colleagues, Richard Anderson and Mike Orr, who after many wonderful years both leading the charge, and working side-by-side with our Board of Directors, have reached their retirement.
When Richard and Mike founded ‘The Anderson Orr Partnership’ – what would go on to become ‘Anderson Orr’ as we are today – they set out to create a business that specialised in residential architecture, in Oxfordshire, Berkshire and the surrounding counties, and to build a practice where people were the number one priority. Nurturing talent, and supporting young people through their architectural journey, has always been a guiding principle for the practice.
Founding a company is an extremely personal process that demands huge amounts of passion, commitment, and energy, and is not something that one easily departs. Together so much has been achieved, and they leave the business on a high, with an incredible legacy in their wake. We are all immensely proud to be a part of the Company that they worked so hard to create, nurture and develop - and we look forward to continuing this on, in the years to come.
We share more about Richard and Mike - the journey they’ve been on, and what success has meant for them, below:
In the summer of 1990, the construction industry was going through something of a lean period. On leaving Oxford Polytechnic, and having worked part-time with Michael Vaughton Associates during his post graduate course, Richard Anderson was offered a full-time job at the practice based in Wheatley. He accepted the position and became a qualified Architect in 1991, and a member of the RIBA in 1992.
During the early 90’s Richard delivered some prestigious projects including a major extension to the Oxford Brookes Business School on the Wheatley campus, as well as designing a new racing stud farm for the Abu Dhabi Royal Family at Ascot Place, Windsor. In 1994 Michael Vaughton invited Richard to join him as a Partner.
At the turn of the millennium, Michael chose to semi-retire, and Mike Orr joined to take the practice forward. Mike had graduated from Bath University in 1980, and taken a full-time job in Reading – where he met and worked with Richard, for a couple of years – before taking up a position with a fledgling practice in Oxfordshire, heavily experienced in residential, community and Listed Building projects, where he worked for the following seventeen years. It was Richard and Mike’s mutual love of football that initially brought them together in the early 80’s, during those two years in Reading – a natural connection that neither would have predicted was going to have such an impact on both their working lives, so many years later.
Although quite different in character Richard and Mike knew their personalities would complement each other, and having experienced previous recessionary periods, their ambitions were initially relatively modest - but it wasn’t too long before the doubling of potential connections within the local area brought about a significant workflow of exciting Private Residential commissions, that set them on their way, and gave them the confidence to recruit and fully invest in CAD.
The business flourished and in 2003 they had the opportunity to convert a former stable building to a bespoke office facility along Church Road, Wheatley, and in October that year, they moved into ‘The Studio’ and changed the name of the business to ‘The Anderson Orr Partnership’. Over the following years, the practice evolved and organically grew, delivering Private Residential work as well as diversifying out to Developer Residential and Commercial sectors. The company, now ‘Anderson Orr’, based at ‘The Big Barn’ in North Oxfordshire, has thirty members of staff and is firmly established as one of the leading architectural practices in Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds.
The Company philosophy – which in part evolved from Michael Vaughton’s approach – was always simple: treat everyone fairly and treat everyone as you would like to be treated. Listen, be honest, share the credit, and lead by example.
Richard: “We wanted everyone who came into the office to feel like it was an extension of their home. Many of our colleagues have grown with us, joining at the start of their career, and working their way up – emotionally and physically investing themselves into the practice, contributing exponentially to the success and continuity of service, and generating a fantastic feeling of togetherness and family”.
“People have always been our main priority – our team, who make us what we are, and our clients, without whom there would be no work. Back then, and now, recruitment has been about a candidate’s personality and character, not whether they have a first-class degree or impressive list of qualifications. Nurturing talent and supporting young people has been a guiding principle, since day one. Our business is so much about communication, empathy and humility, and that is much more difficult to teach than the knowledge required to do the job of an Architect”.
Mike: “The success we have enjoyed, has been due as much to the strength and character of the individuals that have joined us along the way, as it has to the facilities and systems that we have adopted. Being part of a business focusing primarily on organic growth and supporting young students and architects through the early years of their professional careers, has for me, been the most rewarding part of my journey”.
When reflecting back over the years of work, there are countless ‘stand-out’ projects for both Richard and Mike. In the early part of Mike’s career, he developed an expertise in new livestock markets and was fortunate to be the Project Architect on a new replacement Market on the outskirts of Salisbury, to make way for a new Waitrose supermarket. Another notable project was a new Land Based Study Centre for the Abingdon and Witney College outside of Witney.
Mike: “The common theme of projects, either within rural settings or within smaller built-up sensitive areas, has remained consistent throughout my career and the reward from designing and delivering one-off houses, tailored to the brief of a client, will always stand out as being a special privilege”.
“I have been fortunate also to have worked with many housing developers on bespoke schemes where successful architecture is achieved with the efficient use of sites and creating positive and stimulating environments for the occupants, together with protection of the characteristics of existing settlements”.
For Richard, a recent completion – Berkshire House – was a particularly poignant scheme.
Richard: “The property is located in the village I was born, and where I grew up. I could never have imagined that I would one day be given the opportunity to lead in the design of a house of such magnitude, somewhere that has always meant so much to me, and for such good friends. There’s a certain symmetry in this project being one of the last to be completed ahead of my retirement”.
“I have been so lucky to do a job that I have loved and have been hugely fortunate to work for such wonderful clients and with such fantastic colleagues, many of whom have become great friends”.
Paul Seamarks, who joined Anderson Orr as a graduate in 2006 and became a Director in 2019, describes Richard as:
“A genuine and caring business owner who has led by example and always put people first. His longstanding role as our Social Secretary epitomises his balanced approach to work and play. Whether on the football field or with drink in hand in the local pub, Richard has played an integral role in forging the culture of togetherness, both in and out of the office, that makes AO such a great place to work”.
Away from the drawing board, Richard is an avid sportsman – both playing and watching football and cricket – and has recently re-joined a local Golf Club, “in the hope of playing a sport I might improve at, rather than continuing with those that I am gradually getting worse at!” It is this, and spending quality time with his wife Helen, their daughters Katie and Belle, and his young grandson George, that Richard most looks forward to.
Mike and his wife Sharon are looking forward to building a new home in South Oxfordshire this year, and to spending more time in Edinburgh – where their daughter Jess lives – and to embracing their keen support of the Scotland Rugby Team.
Laurence Lowe, who joined Anderson Orr as a graduate in 2007 and became a Director in 2019, describes Mike as:
“A dedicated educator, who has seemingly endless time and patience for his colleagues. For me and many others at Anderson Orr, Mike has been a great mentor for which we will be always grateful. Mike typifies the ‘lead by example’ approach, and for this reason, his grounded mindset and tireless dedication to exceptional design will continue at Anderson Orr for many years to come”.
We are all immensely proud to have worked alongside Richard and Mike, and want to thank them for the many memorable and enjoyable years we have spent together as a team. We wish them the best of luck in their future endeavours and look forward to a proper knees-up, celebrating them both, very soon!