Designer in Profile: Toby Mark Wincer, Founding Director, OWAL Architects

Name:  Toby Mark WincerOWAL Architects
Company:  OWAL Architects
Position within company: Founding Director


Tell us a little about your background in design (education, experience, etc)
Brought up on a building site, I was climbing ladders before I could walk. My father is a retired architect and my parents converted a Suffolk Barn as our family home in my infant years. I accompanied my father on many Saturday morning site visits and folded endless drawings after school; perhaps this was the beginning of it all. Undoubtedly this shaped my interests throughout my education and I was already tackling building design as part of my later design projects at school.

My architectural education beyond my upbringing started at the University of Sheffield School of Architecture which we are still closely affiliated with as a practice. There, the tutors instilled in us the importance of social context in architecture but also how the course would change the way we would perceive and appreciate the built world, which it has and I am most grateful for.  As with all walks of life, education is consolidated through experience and I have been fortunate to work in a variety of practices, small and large, working on exquisite domestic projects through to vast master plans of resorts and estates and so much more between and it is this exposure that has enabled me to appreciate the breadth of design influence and freedom an architect can enjoy!


How would you describe your personal design style?
Travel has always been key to opening my eyes to the diversity of design through necessity, be it due to climate, availability of materials or even space to build. This has shaped my belief that design should always remain fluid, collaborative and celebratory of its environment and occupants resulting in each project being truly unique and inspiring. This is an approach that has been adopted companywide resulting in a diverse portfolio of truly unique and inspiring projects. However, if pushed, my personal preference would always be to create forms of elegance and simplicity through careful consideration of structure, composition and use of materials.


Where does your design inspiration come from?
Initially from listening carefully to the client then embellishing their ideas with our experience
Context is key across all scales to help inform the architecture both at a macro and micro scale.
Creating something of elegance is of utmost importance and this can be achieved through fitting the design with its context, creating the right structure and using the best materials


In what direction do you feel that design is moving towards in a general sense?
Creative utilisation of Modern Methods of Construction as the construction industry begins to catch up with the advancement of other industries


Name five key themes to consider when approaching design in 2019 and beyond.

  • Foremost consider your client’s objectives and how they can be best designed and delivered
  • Collaboration, surrounding your self with the best multidisciplinary project teams to create well considered, coordinated and functional architecture. This will only heighten the overall design process and outcome.
  • Material selection to suit the context and create the desired environment.
  • A sense of internal height and elegance to create light infused open architecture, which utilises and showcases modern materials and their qualities alongside more traditional materials and their place in design and construction.
  • Creating and connecting spaces outside as well as inside to open up the physical boundaries of the architecture and create a perception of fluid space and flexibility of its uses between inside and out.


If you could offer one piece of advice when it comes to design schemes, what would it be?
Listen to your client carefully and help them to realise their visions in whatever medium you can to help them best understand their own ideas but don’t be afraid to question and interrogate their thoughts as this will enrich their design process and the outcome.


How important are The International Design & Architecture Awards?
I’ve followed the International Design Awards for a number of years but never once thought we would be shortlisted or even get the opportunity to enter. For me the International Design Awards are a great global platform for design enthusiasts to appreciate considered design from such a diverse sphere of designers across so many different applications, but most importantly, the plethora of ideas and inspiration on display is of such high calibre there really couldn’t be a better showcase and recognition of good design for all to admire.


What projects are you currently working on?
Several modular schemes, which are so different to traditional projects. They are dictated by the stringent form, order, rules and rigor of coordinated architecture, engineering and detail embodied by the type of structure and it construction, yet they still need to offer the same luxurious feel and sense of space that one might expect from a traditionally built hotel or residence.


What are your aims and goals for the next twelve months?
Further development and pioneering of advanced modern methods of construction in the delivery of current schemes.
Further collaboration with leading designers and industry experts to enrich the process and product we aim to deliver.
Further establish and disseminate the practices brand identity and ethos within the industry

Final thoughts; tell us a little more about yourself and your daily inspirations:

Your most treasured possession?
My children – Mollie and Hedley

 Your favourite holiday destination?
Bare-boat sailing in the British Virgin Islands

 Your favourite hotel, restaurant & bar?
The Hut, Colwell Bay, Isle of Wight – For its simplicity, its British feel with a Caribbean air to it, and a sense of exclusivity when arriving by boat.

 Your favourite book, film & song?
I’m an audial person, so its music for me, any thing acoustic, so perhaps something by Ben Howard.

Your favourite food and drink?
Anything from the BBQ, and the right Ice cold drink to accompany this.

Your favourite way to spend an afternoon?
On the water

If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?
Osteopath or physiotherapist – I’ve always been so intrigued by the manipulation of the human body, structure and posture for the benefit of wellbeing

 Anything else interesting?
I am a keen sailor and believe that my passion and ability for sailing has many crossovers with architecture given the diverse mental capacity and perception required for both activities.

OWAL Architects