An Interview with Charles Holland


Charles Holland is an architect, writer and teacher. He is the principal of Charles Holland Architects, a multi-disciplinary practice with offices in London and Deal. His work includes architecture, art, writing and research and ranges in scale from the urban masterplan to the domestic interior.

Working with us on CHALKUP21, Charles is currently designing and developing the markers to highlight each 21st-century building of interest on the trail. We caught up with Charles to ask him about his practice and his interest in the project.

Can you pinpoint the origin of your interest in architecture and design? When did you realise that this is what you wanted to do?

I was slightly floundering around after my A-Levels and picked up a book on architecture in Chelmsford Library. It was quite a theoretical book on Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion and I hadn’t realised that architecture could be talked about as a cultural discipline before. Lots of things clicked when I read it and I decided to study architecture.

What attracted you to the #CHALKUP21 project, and what is your involvement with the project?

I moved to Deal in Kent a year ago, but have known the area and DAD’s work for a while. I am very interested in the relationship of modern architecture to place and how there is almost a hidden history of modernism in East Kent which is not really celebrated enough. I think contemporary architecture outside big metropolitan centres can often be quite poor and it is important to really celebrate the good stuff. So, I am writing about the buildings that are included in the trail and what they might collectively add up to. But the main thing I am doing is design a series of plaques or markers to go on the buildings that tells you something about them and links them all together.

Dover is, more and more, being viewed as a place of regeneration and revival. What do you feel is the role of architecture on a humanitarian level?

It’s not my favourite word, but Dover needs to get the level of aspiration right. I would love to see the harbour developed with some really great new architecture to match buildings like the marine station and the customs house. These are gems lost in a sea of tarmac and lorry turning circles at the moment. There are people around with a lot of love for Dover and it would be great to see them more involved in the town’s regeneration. The docks are a big business and that’s important, but they need to be developed with ambition and sensitivity and in conjunction with a plan for the whole town. For me, a big part of it is recognising the value of what’s there….walk along the high street and look up and there are some really fine buildings.

What is your favourite building on the #CHALKUP21 trail, and what is it that you like about it?

I really admire Deal Pier Cafe by Niall McLaughlin. It’s beautifully made, responds very well to its setting and is a really lovely space in which to sit and have a cup of tea. It’s an example of a local authority *commissioning  a really first-rate, exceptional building which is heartening.

* The Local authority was Dover District Council with DDC architect Richard Pollard managing the commission.