London House

The Knowledge

In conversation with Groves Natcheva Architects

June 11th 2024

This month we sit down with Adriana Natcheva and Murray Groves, co-founders of Groves Natcheva Architects, discussing their history in the industry, favourite projects, including a 17000sqft woodland plot in the heart of St Georges Hill, Surrey, and much more.

Let’s start from the very beginning; how did the collaboration between both of you come about?

We were drawn together by our shared understanding of architecture as a way of playing with the universe to create spaces where life can unfold. We found that the process is richer when shared.

How did you both get in to architecture?

I made my first architectural sketch when I was 2 years old. It was of two houses - one for me and one for my baby brother. There was a princess in the background, but the focus was firmly on the detail on the windows and the chimney piping smoke.
Murray’s route to architecture was through structural engineering.

Tell us a bit about your approach to architecture and how it sets you a part?

For us architecture is as rich as life itself. Like life, architecture is not reducible to one style or one abstraction. Done well, it is never ideological. It answers to only one principle: that good architecture enlivens, and comes alive by, the people living with it. Good architecture is at once local, tailored to the specifics of an extensive ‘here and now’, and always in enriching dialogue with a wider ‘then and there’. And, crucially, good architecture belongs to someone other than its author, for it is part of the people who live with it. It is not a stage that makes clients’ lives into a reality show without an audience.

What advice would you give a client when they begin their designing journey?

Walk side by side with your architect in the landscape of their imagination, so that together you can create the reality of your dreams.

Was there a project in your career that particularly challenged you as architects?

Yes, it is a Japanese inspired house in Surrey we are currently working on. Our client is a patron of the arts, who understands the creative process and the back-and-forth between design and realisation, between craftsman and architect, necessary for a coherent piece of work to come into existence. It is a project we are delivering through our own design and build company – a route we have wanted to explore for some time. We started work on site this month and expect an exciting and challenging year ahead. In future, we will offer this extended service to select clients whose projects would benefit from this architect-led approach.

What’s been your favourite project you’ve worked on together?

It not easy to choose, we have been working together for 24 years and have completed over 100 projects in the UK. However, one project we are working on currently stands out. It is an elegant contemporary house of 17,000sq ft in the largest woodland plot at the heart of St Georges Hill in Surrey. The house is inspired by the stunning dense forest on the site. The structure is of dark-green coloured concrete rising tall from the ground tree, forming a double height volume. A lightweight timber structure intertwines from above to create a swimming pool amongst the treetops and a terrace with long views of London beyond. A long tree lined driveway leads to the house, which sits within a circular clearing. The rest of the forest is left almost untouched.

Lastly, anything exciting in the pipeline for 2024 you can tell our readers about?

We are working on a new game-changing digital tool that brings the lived experience of architecture closer to our clients. We call it 3V, which stands for verified virtual views. We take construction-ready architectural designs and create inhabitable digital twins in the world’s best games engine. Avatar clients and avatar architect explore, live, feel and interact with our 3V creations. A client can walk side by side with us and explore the territory : the imagined building can have life performed within, the client and the architect can walk as avatars through the house, open doors, hear footsteps, navigate distances, see light levels and views – all this to feel the space, to understand the architectural proposition before it has been built and express opinions there and then.

Clients can live in the space before building it. They also have the 3V to share the emotion of the space with their friends, family or the general public, long after the building is complete. We have three live projects currently using 3V during the design process of private clients and one using 3V for off-plan sale of a high-end residential development. The results are astonishing.

Take a look at one 3V prototype here. Verivirtual is a company we founded last year to make 3V available to the wider community of architects, contractors, real estate agents and anyone excited about architecture and gaming. We believe 3V will create better architecture in the real world more cost effectively with fewer client or contractor misunderstandings of the design and more developer options to clients without excessive costs. We believe 3V will also enable collaboration with real estate agencies for a more immersive experience when selling off-plan. 3V sets a new standard for interactive architecture. That is exciting.