Five minutes with... Abe

When did you set up Mohsin Cooper, and why?

Justin and I have known each other since the early 1990s but at the time of the financial crisis we were both working for different firms. It got to the point, some time in 2008, when we both felt constrained by where we were working and were looking for a change.

Looking back, we both came to quite a clear realisation, independently of each other, that we would be better doing things on our own. But the thought of working together, with a friend whose vision and work ethic I aligned with, was too irresistible not to give it a go.

The timing, coming out of the recession, was perfect because we had low overheads and felt that we had nothing to lose.

Mohsin Cooper was born in 2010 and we’ve never looked back (we’ve been too busy to)!

What is your favourite sort of project to get your hands into?

I really love working on challenging infill sites. Those small sites that have loads constraints are so fun to work on because you have a real problem (or multiple problems) to grapple with and you can often come up with interesting design solutions. That’s really satisfying.

Our scheme on Sandycombe Road is a perfect example. It’s only 16m wide at its widest point and backs onto a railway line, but with an appreciation of the constraints we’ve managed to fit nine apartments and three office units onto the site.

What project are you most proud of?

I feel really proud of our work for Boundstone Nursery in Lancing, Worthing. The client was a joy to work with, and we also undertook hands on consultation with staff and parents so that we could understand their views on what was most important to get out of the build.

We also built a physical model to help everyone visualise the proposal and, ultimately, we’re really happy with how the new extension looks.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

It might sound like a cliché, but it’s really true that no day, no week, is ever the same. I love the variety and I love engaging with our clients.

Where was your first architectural job, and what do you remember most about it?

My first ‘proper’ job was at MJP architects and I was lucky enough to work on the extension and refurbishment of BBC Broadcasting House in central London. It was a really fascinating project, not only because of the unusual brief but because of the BBC characters I met along the way.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

When we started the company another local business leader encouraged me to listen first and talk second! I’m convinced that the times I’ve remembered to follow that advice have always led to better outcomes. The art of listening and knowing how to respond effectively is an important tool in everyday life as well as business.

What’s next for Mohsin Cooper?

We want to be known as leaders in thoughtful, quality housing design.

A sector that I’ve long felt needs an injection of quality design is public sector housing. We have a real opportunity, working with housing associations, to deliver high quality social housing that can help address the nation’s housing crisis. It’s something that I’m personally passionate about, so we’ll be driving forward that aspect of the business in 2022 and beyond.