Guy Hollaway – Building Folkestone

Guy Hollaway Architects have won 7 RIBA awards.  That’s no mean feat.  Such awards are regarded internationally as a mark of excellence: to win once is an outstanding achievement, but to do so 7 times is exceptional. We’re lucky that Folkestone is home to a number of Guy’s award-winning buildings. Folkelife took the opportunity to talk to him about his work.

“I grew up in Herne Bay, Kent, and completed my degree in architecture in 1997.  That was at the end of the last-but-one recession.  There wasn’t much work around, and all I was able to get was unpaid work with a family friend called Nigel Thorpe.  He ran an architects practice in Hythe called Cheney and Thorpe.  Nigel wasn’t able to pay me, thanks to the recession, but it was an experience and an opportunity, so I took it. I was working on plans for a snooker room.  It was the most beautifully detailed snooker room you’ve ever seen! 

“To qualify as an architect you need a degree in architecture, a year of practice work, and then a diploma, which takes another 2 years at university.  I went off to complete my diploma, and by the time that ended, Nigel was able to pay me to work for him.”

the first riba award

“Working for Nigel, I got my first commission working on St Augustine’s School in Hythe.  I won my first RIBA award with that commission.  There are a lot of awards out there, but to be recognised by your own peers for your work, is something special.  They are also pretty hard to come by!  I’d been great friends with Josh De Haan when we were growing up.  Maybe the RIBA award gave his dad, Sir Roger De Haan, the idea that there was something else to me other than being a friend of his son. 

“Roger was selling SAGA at the time and needed to move offices.  He has worked with people like Lord Foster, Sir Michael Hopkins and Sir Terry Farrell.  These are great architects, really big names!   Roger asked me to design his offices in Sandgate.  It was a small job, but he was happy with the result.  We’ve been working together for about 15 years.”

Over the years Guy’s list of successes has grown and he was able to buy out the partners of Cheney and Thorpe.  He changed the name of the practice to Guy Hollaway Architects.  On their 10th anniversary in 2020 they launched their first published book From Now On, and the Practice rebranded to Hollaway.

Guy Hollaway Skatepark
Three Hills Roof
Guy Hollaway Rocksalt
Guy Hollaway Rocksalt
Guy Hollaway Fountains

Sir Roger De Haan

Guy Hollaway Architects have been commissioned by Sir Roger to create and design many buildings in Folkestone.  Sir Roger De Haan’s father started the SAGA company in the 1950s, which was taken over by Roger and his brother before selling it in the early 2000s.  Roger has invested in extensive regeneration in Folkestone.

“To have a client like Roger is brilliant.  Roger says that if he hadn’t headed up SAGA, he may have considered training as architect.  As a client, Roger understands the drawings and gets as excited about the projects as I do. He enjoys the process, but he also enjoys making a difference.

“With architecture, you can make changes in people’s lives and many positive changes to a place, which is really rewarding.”

When you look at the list of projects that Guy Hollaway has undertaken in Folkestone, every building is unique and distinctive.  Rocksalt, Fountain Square, Three Hills Sports Park, The Workshop offices in Tontine Street, Folkestone Primary Academy, the Folkestone 51 multi-storey skate park…the lists keeps growing.


One of Guy’s RIBA award-winning buildings, Rocksalt, was commissioned in the face of stiff competition.

“Before being awarded this commission we had been up against some of the best restaurant architects in the world.  They had put forward plans where the restaurant had followed the ‘L’-shaped site, and not facing the sea. We designed a curved-shaped building across the ‘L’-shaped site ensuring every table had a sea view.  Roger always says that Folkestone turned its back on its greatest asset, the sea, so with Rocksalt there was an opportunity to embrace it again. 

“I also wanted a building that would say something about the town.  I’m always looking for clues to the past to inform the future. I love the railway viaduct and arches.  So I took the shape of the arch and used it in the building.  It’s subtle, but it fits here. Also, take a look at the beautiful cobbled streets of the quayside where the fishing boats are moored.  Their buildings are timber so we shot-blasted ours and stained it black to match but in a contemporary way. It’s no coincidence the kitchen is on the street because that’s the industry of the place. 

“When you walk through the door you feel a little bit enclosed, but it’s creating drama.  As you walk into the restaurant you are faced with that view over the Harbour.  You can appreciate this amazing coastal environment.  You could be transformed to just about anywhere!  It has suddenly increased the attraction of Folkestone and the Harbour, and you look through it with different eyes.”

The fountains

“We wanted to create an area outside the restaurant which again connects people with water, a heart to the Harbour, that anyone can use.  The number of people you see playing in the fountains is fantastic.  They are for anyone and everyone!  Rocksalt and The Smokehouse are similar: you can dine in a more formal setting, or get your fish and chips and dine out on the bench seats of Rocksalt overlooking the Harbour.  You don’t necessarily have to spend big for the best seat in the house!

“We completed Rocksalt in the same year as the Turner Contemporary opened in Margate, and we were up against them for the RIBA award.  I think this building and the fountains have had a huge impact on Folkestone, it was a great start…” 

Folkestone 51

Another of Sir Roger De Haan’s projects is a multi-storey indoor urban sports park on Tontine Street.  This is a world-first in terms of architecture and also a Guy Hollaway Architect’s commission.

“Roger wants to make Folkestone a great place to bring up your kids.  If your memory of your home town is a positive one, you’ll want to return and bring your children up here too. If you look at all the places that Roger has commissioned, there’s that common theme.  Love your town.  It’s a practical approach: Three Hills Sports Park provides access to excellent sports facilities; Folkestone Academy offers an outstanding environment for education; Quarterhouse, the Triennial, Folkestone Book Festival enrich the arts and culture scene, and so on.  Having good places to eat is part of the mix and we have seen many other great new restaurants opening up following the success of Rocksalt. 

“The biggest experiment of all is F51, the indoor urban sports park at the top of Tontine Street. Although it will offer something for all ages, F51 is also about providing new and exciting things for young people to do.”

The history of skateboarding

“So many skate parks have historically been built on the outskirts of towns, either on waste ground or in industrial estates, often in disused or repurposed warehouses.  Here, it’s in the heart of the community again, in a fantastic building.  The idea is that membership for young people will start with a nominal sum a month so it’s accessible to everyone.  It will be an active centre, with the Boxing Club moving in, a climbing wall, a bouldering room and a cafe on the ground floor.  

“To design the right sort of building, I looked back into the history of how skateboarding started.  In the early 1970s, in California, there was a serious drought and all the swimming pools had been drained.  People used these pools – or bowls – to skate in.  I’ve incorporated the type of tiles you see in swimming pools around the tops of the skate bowls, as a reference to this link to its history.

“This is a place for extreme sport that’s accessible to everyone.  Skateboarding has become an Olympic sport, and with its world-class bowls, the dream is Folkestone may one day have its own Olympic champion!”

F51 Guy Hollaway
F51 Skate Park Maverick Tiles
Three Hills Sports Park

Three hills sports park

The regeneration programme in Folkestone has focused on building community hubs across the town.  Sport is an obvious and key area to build community groups.  Sir Roger De Haan’s vision within his regeneration has been to provide world-class facilities where clubs can thrive.

“When we first came to plan Three Hills, Folkestone Optimist Hockey Club and the Folkestone Cricket Club were in dire need of new premises, their pitches and pavilion being beyond reasonable repair. The idea was to bring these sports together, adding netball and other sports, so they could all work out of the same building.  We put the changing rooms on the ground floor and a bar upstairs in the middle of the building, so that you can watch different sports from the same place – hockey on one side, cricket on the other.  It’s created a centre of excellence for these sports, especially when you look at how far the clubs, players and teams have developed.  

“The genius of it was Roger’s team then approached local schools with an invitation to use these new facilities.  They even offered to provide transport and coaching facilities so that schools could send their students.  So the children get to play hockey, football, cricket and more and then go home and tell their parents – hey, there’s this great place, please can I join the team?  Their parents come along and remember playing in their youth and get involved too.  You only have to look at the membership numbers of the clubs to see this in action.”

Folkestone Athletics Track Plan - CRSGT

Athletics Track

“Another thing that will be in place by 2021 is the new athletics centre in Folkestone.  There isn’t anywhere in Folkestone that provides this sort of facility, the nearest place is Ashford or Canterbury.  To build an athletics track at the Three Hills site completes it.  It’s so complimentary in what it’s going to achieve.  All of the sports that work out of the Three Hills can use the track for training, although its main purpose is to provide a centre for excellence for athletics.

“We have world-class athletes in this area, just look at Jack Green, our Olympian, Worlds and Commonwealth champion in the hurdles. If we can nurture the next generation here, with our own facilities, this home-grown talent will be encouraged and developed here too!”  

Folkestone Academy

Sir Roger De Haan was a sponsor of the Folkestone Academy for 15 years.  The school that the Folkestone Academy replaced had been close to the bottom of national academic performance tables.  It was generally acknowledged that large numbers of young people in the area were not well-enough prepared to enter the workplace.  The Folkestone Academy was set up to redress the balance by investing in improved opportunities for all.

“It’s one thing to build a school.  It’s altogether a different thing to build a visionary place that will inspire young people to be better and want to achieve more. That’s what we wanted to do.  If you look at the senior Academy, designed by Lord Foster, it’s an amazing building.  The internal shapes were inspired by the Kings School in Canterbury, replicating the house system of pastoral care.  With the Primary Academy, we adapted the concept so that the drums related to the different Key Stages in primary education. 

“We created self-learning stations throughout the building, environments where the children encouraged to learn for themselves. This builds on the idea of creating positive memories of growing up.  If we have positive memories of school then we are more likely to want to continue learning. Self-learning is a positive memory, you’re taking control of your education.  Our children are becoming independent thinkers, and as a result, are more successful.”

Guy Hollaway Folkestone Academy
The Workshop

the Workshop

Owned by Josh De Haan, The Workshop is a series of work-spaces for self-employed people and small businesses.  It’s a creative digital hub that supports the development of this industry in Folkestone.

“We’re setting out to provide the building blocks for people to have a better life here in Folkestone.  Once children have taken the opportunities in education and sport here, they can move on to working here too.  The Workshop is a building on Tontine Street that caters for self-employed people who need a desk, through to small businesses, many working in creative digital industries.  

“The Workshop was really challenging: we preserved the façade so that it’s actually suspended, just hanging at the front of the building.  Behind it is a glass front, and the whole interior, including the famous slide and the roof terrace, gives it a real Google-headquarters feel to it.  The suspended front means that the old and the new can work together.”

the INGENUITY of folkestone

“Folkestone is a wonderful place to work, and Roger has done a great deal to encourage that.  Perhaps the cleverest thing is the Triennial: making the town an open air, walking tour art gallery was inspired.  Somehow, it unifies the town.  I think that’s an extraordinary story and one that hopefully will grow even more with time.”

Photo Credits: Guy Hollaway Architects

Discover more about folkestone below

Rebuilding and Renovation – ACME
The Workshop – Inspiring The Business Community
Chalets On The Beach – Folkestone Beach Huts
Award-winning Landscape Architecture – Harbour Viaduct and Station in Folkestone

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