Despite working across Europe, Neat Architects founder Gordon Abbott feels rooted in Folkestone, a town that has taught him about the wider definition of sustainability.

Tim took this photo in Folkestone in Kent, on the long flight of steps that links the historic part of town, the Bayle, which dates from 850 CE, to the Old High Street and eventually leads to the harbour, the sea and beyond.

I feel very attached to Folkestone. My first visit here was over 25 years ago, and although I’ve worked on projects across the UK and Europe, my professional journey feels rooted in this town. Our projects here span two decades and reflect a journey of re-assessment, re-use and renewal that I believe is central to the practice of making good places and buildings. It’s also a place that has taught me a great deal about the wider definition of sustainability.

In my view, ‘sustainability’ is too often corralled into a conversation exclusively about climate change, and the critical and much overdue pursuit of net zero carbon.  But sustainability is more complex and diverse a subject than this and one I believe offers greater potential for better place-making.

Embracing sustainability as the broad subject it truly is allows us to draw on a range of disciplines and considerations: economic pragmatism; loose fit design that supports long-term flexibility; retention and retro-fitting; innovation in the use of materials and resources. All these require creativity and problem-solving, coupled with perseverance, sometimes patience too, but in turn allow responses to adapt to incremental progress; this is the bit of the job that continues to intrigue and energise.

I also believe that this perspective allows for a much deeper understanding of how attuned communities and clients are to how thoughtful and considerate design can positively impact on day-to-day lives; as well as harnessing longer-term objectives, desires and needs.

There is still a long way to go to achieve true sustainability, but we have started the journey and we have the creative skills to hand.

Gordon Abbott
Folkestone, Kent