It’s about Quality not Quantity

Eloise Veale, interior designer of Veale Associates, took time out of her busy schedule to speak to Audiofile about her work. Her projects include The University of Winchester, Dean Street Recording Studios, Rock Radio, Smooth Radio, The University of West London, Classic FM, Lincs FM and Lansdown Studios.

You are a Director of studio design company Veale Associates. What is your role in the business?

I look after the design side of VA, directing how spaces look, finishes, furniture, materials and wall graphics…what you see. My role is very much ideas, understanding and listening, testing spaces, recording how users operate and move through their environments, and proving the project vision to generate concepts, ergonomics and an aesthetic that work.

How did you get into the audio industry?

I’ve always loved design, fashion, art, anything made by hand with love and attention, and materials, textures, anything tactile. Whilst growing up I loved the sciences, building things, understanding how things work, and people, how they work. In ‘98 I did a fine art degree and from there I started working as an artist’s assistant for one of my Fathers clients, Patrick Mimran. VA designed a home recording studio for him at his Geneva residence. Patrick later engaged VA to help him deliver his technical multi media art installations in Paris and New York. So this is when I started working alongside VA and my Father Eddie Veale.

One day, I was sat with my Dad waiting for a flight from Aberdeen having visited the model makers creating this massive 3m fibreglass tower of Babel shell for one of Patrick’s pieces, when my Father looked at me and said he had been thinking. In the past I had created a few sketches for him to show clients how their facilities were going to look like. One of them was for Emap’s Key 103 radio studios and offices, and another was Lincs FM’s. VA was working for GMG Radio at the time and they needed to re-brand their studios and meeting rooms so new finishes needed to be selected and graphics needed to be made. VA were also about to start working on a relocation project with Classic FM which involved branding and an element of interior design, so my Father asked me if I wanted to get involved and I said yes.

My first project in the business was the lovely Landsdowne Studios. VA had designed the studio back in the 70’s and it hadn’t been touched since. So we gave it a facelift. I produced some sketches and picked the new wall panel fabrics, and that was my 1st official mark on a historic London studio and one of the first designed for film scores.

What project has been your biggest challenge?

I think the University of West London studio project. The University needed new recording studios to replace existing ones that were about to be taken out of operation due to a site expansion. The facilities were critical to them being able to deliver courses and student exam work so they had to be finished in time for their return after the summer break. They chose a space in their basement that was being used as an engineer’s workshop and decided to put a live room, control room, drum booth and post production studio down there. Most projects of this kind have a minimum lead time of 4 months for design and install but they needed studios incredibly fast due to the main contractor’s construction programme, so we only had 6 weeks to design and build new flagship facilities. The project included a lengthy process of excavating the floor to create enough head height and be able to float the studios!

All acoustic projects are different and this one was so fast moving we had to absorb the unknown literally as things presented themselves. But the project was a great success, it was handed over on time and snag free – something the main contractor hadn’t experienced before, and now they have some great facilities for their students, equipped with real world industry kit.

A lot of hard work went into that project and a lot of long hours, but it was amazing to watch this complicated space transform into a collection of comprehensive, well finished, spacious studios.

What have you learnt over the years?

I’ve learnt about design, brand, colours, lighting, and acoustics; how people use and move through spaces, and the effects of each of these. I’ve also learnt in order to get the best from your clients; you have to take them on a journey with you. You have to translate their vision so they have to interact with the design phase. You have to work with them to identify their needs current and future, ask them challenging questions and test their ideas so you really can provide them with the best facility for the job.

How has technology advances influenced design?

It makes more things possible in both design and manufacturing, more and more products and materials are being created that push what’s been before, offering more and more creative opportunity. It also changes and influences how people use their environments, how equipment is used and how it is interfaced with, so the spaces and furniture have to change to accommodate these new processes and workflows.

Things also get smaller, less and less space is required to do the same things as equipment becomes more and more comprehensive and accessible. Space and real estate is always a premium and anything not needed is consolidated. So everything shrinks, and with that comes more and more compact environments with higher demands and new challenges.

What have been your favourite projects and why?

Probably the University of Winchester music studios because they gave us the opportunity to work with some really exciting materials and create some really nice features. They wanted to do something interesting with the entrance and office area on the approach to the studios, so we proposed running a huge soundwave carved from Maple timber down the 9m leading wall. The shape of the soundwave would be generated from someone speaking the letters “U”, “O”, “W” for the University of Winchester, and having produced a recording and a few 3D models, the University said yes. The finished article is beautifully made, the Maple wood is so characterful with its intricate knots and lines, and you can’t help but run your hands over it as you pass by.

The studios were really fun spaces to design too. The University was in the process of launching a new brand identity and wanted to introduce it through the new recording facility. This gave us the opportunity to integrate the brand into the very fabric of the studios, and utilise the brand colours throughout textiles, paint finishes and signage. Their brand used a hatched graphic detail that we took and integrated into the design of the acoustic diffusers in the studios, as well as the glass, wall and way finding graphics.

The building was very angular so we wanted to bring this into the design too. A diffuser was required in Studio 1’s Live Room to create the right acoustic signature, this was the priority and it had to perform well. But it also presented the opportunity for us to create something with a strong visual impact, something that could give the studio an identity and something angular to compliment the campus buildings. We worked with the Italian company Wood-skin to create a huge angular timber diffuser, and this was an interesting exercise both visually and acoustically. In addition, we designed the diffuser to be a light source as the room suffered from no natural daylight. We fitted sun tubes into sections of the diffuser to bring the natural light in and controllable RBG LEDs were integrated to create effect and mood lighting, as well as constant illumination.

I also really enjoyed working with Classic FM as I learnt a lot on this project. They were relocating to GCap’s (now Global’s) iconic head quarters in Leicester Square. Work had to be carried out whilst the station remained on air, along with all the other stations housed within the building, so it was essential that construction noise was kept to a minimum and structured around operations, and programme deadlines met. This was my first serious introduction to the world of radio. In addition to refurbishing and rebranding the new studios, they wanted a new waiting and meeting area to receive guests, a space with a coffee machine and a piano. They often provided studio tours to the public and clients, so wanted to create an impressive journey leading up to their studios. This would be the first place guests were introduced to the brand and its offerings so we wanted to make more of a feature of the main stairwell leading up to their floor and facilities. The stairwell was originally enclosed so we opened it up with new glazing and balustrades. On the walls at the top of the stairs we created a number Classic FM signs each depicting one of their services. Each sign was spaced off the wall and back illuminated with red halo LEDs. Feature spotlights were used to illuminate the surfaces of the signs and this created quite a striking entrance to their facilities.

Dean St. Studios was another one, again something I was involved with early on but the studios already had this amazing heritage created by Tony Visconti and artists such as David Bowie and T-Rex, and it had these residual historic elements throughout the space that just set this super cool vibe. They wanted a professional and relaxed studio with a star cloth ceiling and it worked a treat, every now and then you would capture a glimpse of a star dappled reflection in the top of the polished grand piano and its quite special. It’s a place that has real atmosphere and filled with hard working passionate people having a really good time doing what they love. It’s a great place to be.