Dewhurst Macfarlane & Partners

For as long as Tim Macfarlane, founding and design partner of Dewhurst Macfarlane & Partners, can remember, he always thought of things in first principles. It is still that logic that drives him today and Dewhurst Macfarlane & Partners to use what they already know and apply it in new directions. Dewhurst Macfarlane & Partners is an international firm of consulting engineers who provide design services in structural engineering for buildings, façade engineering consultancy and specialist glass engineering.

“About 95 percent of construction is straight-forward building,” Macfarlane says. “We’re a group of people thinking about what’s next. It’s a pleasure to work with high-end architects because they share our philosophy.”

Kicking Glass

Dewhurst Macfarlane & Partners began its operations in 1985 taking on small projects in London. “Our focus was to work with architects who were ambitious,” Macfarlane says. “We wanted to be challenged.” In 1986, the company found a few of those ambitious architects who were interested in building structures using glass in new innovative ways.

“This was a challenge because no one had really used glass to build structures before,” he says. “There were no experienced engineers to help and there was basically no training provided [for working with glass].

“We were leading the way in glass engineering,” Macfarlane adds. “There was nothing written down we could go on. It was exciting to try to find solutions for using glass as a structural component. Life is more interesting when you discover things for yourself.”

Since then, Dewhurst Macfarlane & Partners has designed glass structures for flagship Apple stores; retail stores for Prada, Burberry and Chanel; art museums all over the world; residential and sports/leisure buildings all over the United Kingdom; and even sustainable buildings.

The company also has used glass to make buildings more energy efficient by using vacuum-sealed glass panels as walls that serve the same purpose as an insulated wall, Macfarlane says. The firm uses switchable glass that automatically shades when the sun beats down on it which, helps reduce air conditioning costs, Macfarlane adds.

The firm has been recognized all over the world for its innovative designs. Just last year Dewhurst Macfarlane & Partners won various awards for the following projects:

  • Runnymede Civic Offices in Addlestone, Surrey, U.K.
  • Jerwood Space on Union Street in London
  • The Hothouse in London
  • Café Pavilion in St. Andrew Square Garden in Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Watford Woodside Leisure Centre in Watford, U.K.
  • Brooklyn Children’s Museum in New York City
  • TKTS in Times Square in New York City

As much as the staff at Dewhurst Macfarlane & Partners enjoys the challenges of designing glass structures, the contractors sometimes find it difficult to work with. “A lot of times [the general and subcontractors] just don’t get it,” Macfarlane says. “They’re used to working with concrete or steel.

“They like to know what they’re dealing with before they start. Once they understand what we’re trying to do and we take design responsibility, they can do their jobs.”

While the company is now highly experienced in using glass for structures and other projects, that’s not Dewhurst Macfarlane & Partners’ only forte.

“Only about 30 percent or less, of our designs actually incorporate glass structures,” Macfarlane explains of the company’s diversity. “The majority of our work is in concrete and steel, but by designing the glass projects, [Dewhurst Macfarlane & Partners] has become more brave in the ways we use concrete and steel [in our projects].”

Company Breakdown

Dewhurst Macfarlane & Partners’ main office is in London, but with satellite offices in New York City, Trinidad and Tobago and recently in Los Angeles and Hong Kong, the firm is positioned to design projects in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Canada, United States, the Caribbean and Mexico. The New York office was able to chip in when tragedy struck on Sept. 11, 2001. Macfarlane says the office’s engineers were on hand to offer structural advice.

“We had to help, how could you not,” he adds. “We were there [during the rescue operation] to structurally assess all efforts. We wanted to make sure that all of the rescue efforts were safe for the workers.”

Included in the company’s 40 are employees are the following key partners:

  • Laurence Dewhurst, managing partner, responsible for the growth and development of the business internationally.
  • Raymond Hoyte, partner, leads a team in London that focuses on education and housing developments in both the public and private sectors. Hoyte also is responsible for design/build constructors and work with social housing.
  • Scott Nelson, partner, manages public buildings, work to historic buildings and heritage schemes, structural glass and facade engineering in London.

When it comes to expansion, Macfarlane likes where Dewhurst Macfarlane & Partners is now. “We’re happy with the size of our offices,” he says. “Who we are is why we’re the size we are. We [all] think differently.

“We’re going to hang in there and carry on like we have for the past 25 years,” Macfarlane says. “We plan to keep working on good, interesting projects.”

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