THEY'VE been shortlisted for Young Architect of the Year in 2013, named RIBA East Emerging Architect of the Year in 2014, and are currently working on a project for the Science Museum in London.

But when it comes to where their architectural hearts lie - it's most definitely in the communities they now call home.

HAT Projects was founded in 2007 by Tom Grieve and Hana Loftus, who met while working for a London-based architectural practice.

Originally from Shropshire and Suffolk respectively, the pair and their children now live in Fordham.

"We wanted a change from London," Hana tells me, "and we just discovered this ramshackled house that was a complete doer-upper and thought 'why not'.“

"We decided to base our practice here as we felt there was a great opportunity to make a positive contribution to an town which has wonderful historic roots but has not always been blessed with the best new buildings.

"Our office has been in Colchester for five years, and in our present location in Sir Isaac's Walk for the last two, and as well as employing local graduates, we try to be as active as we can in our community."

That has included the building of an outside classroom for their children's village school to helping Roman River Music with the temporary restoration of St George's Hall at the back of the town's High Street for a series of concerts last year. The team have also supported community land trust Hythe Forward in developing their strategy.

But it's further afield the company are really making a name for themselves with high profile buildings such as the award-winning Jerwood Gallery in Hastings, the Gasworks in London, and most recently beating stiff competition to be awarded the redesign of the Groups and Patrons areas at the Science Museum. The team also work on masterplanning, and their village housing project, Hopton Yard in Suffolk, is completing shortly - showing that new houses can be sensitive to local character but still spacious enough for modern needs.

“Having already done work on the Victoria & Albert Museum, we’re very excited to be working on the Science Museum too,” Hana adds. “But we want to keep winning local projects, because we’re here for the long term and think Colchester needs great design too!"

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