Everyone who has ever worked with us has made a significant contribution to Our Story and Our Progression to date, increasing our Knowledge and Experience of Architecture.

This Evolution continues to grow and develop every day and as ever, our Team Members remain our greatest attribute – Experienced, Personable and Hands On individuals who are all committed to delivering Excellent Architecture with Care and Efficiency.

Established in 2009 by husband-and-wife team Graham and Donna McDarby, GRADONARCHITECTURE is an award-winning practice of architects registered with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in London and accredited to ISO9001 quality and ISO14001 environmental standards.

Our team is made up Architects and Architectural Technologists located in our NE40 Studios in the Northeast of England, as well as in strategic Ateliers throughout the UK and across the world, encouraging and successfully delivering our services through flexible hybrid working, improving our mental health and wellbeing and reducing our carbon footprint in response to the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge.

Collectively, we bring together a strong resource of dedicated and highly experienced professionals, with a wide range of skills and varying sector experience across different cultures, who as well as delivering Architecture for today, mentor and invest their time into our interns and apprentices, shaping and evolving our team for future generations and the Architecture for tomorrow.

Meet Our Directors, Graham and Donna who continue to navigate Our Progression and add to Our Story…

Graham McDarby
Managing Director
Graham McDarbyManaging Director
Working closely with all of the team, Graham McDarby has ultimate responsibility for the design direction and strategic development of Gradon Architecture, which to date has seen the progressive growth of the business since its inception in 2009 to now include a growing multi cultural design team located in studios in England, Northern Ireland and Mongolia collectively working together, sharing knowledge and adopting new smart ways of working together. Being the son of a painter and decorator, Graham’s approach to architecture is pragmatic and born from the experience of working on building sites with his father at an early age where he quickly gained an understanding of the industry while studying architecture, initially in London before graduating from Sheffield University in 1993. Following an architectural tour of Europe in 1993-94 he went on to work for a number of architectural practices within the NE of England including FaulknerBrowns and Ryder Architecture where he became a Director in 2003 before leaving in 2009 to set up Gradon Architecture with his wife Donna, to pursue his own developed thoughts in architecture and offer a more personal, hands on service and approach to his clients. Graham McDarby is passionate about giving something back…to the community, to the youth of the future and to those who are less fortunate than others. This has seen the implementation of the Gradon Architecture Apprenticeship scheme and regular fundraising for charities such as Teenage Cancer Trust, MS Society, The Percy Hedley Foundation, The Calvert Trust, The Wider Mhabara Orphange in Uganda and The Christina Noble Foundation in Mongolia.

Words to live by…

Life is what happens when you are busy making plans along the way! – The Old Hall Blackboard
Donna McDarby
Finance Director
Donna McDarbyFinance Director

Following over twenty five years in high street banking, Donna McDarby co-founded Gradon Architecture in 2009 with husband and co-director Graham. As Finance Director, Donna ensures our finances are in order, pays our bills promptly, and manages payroll and HR matters. She is the pragmatic decision maker in the directorship and in short, keeps our creative people in check. Whilst we love what we do, we are a business and we need to make sensible commercial decisions, from buying the most efficient energy for our studio, sourcing the most cost effective stationery which in turn keep our overheads low and in turn offer our clients value for money whilst keeping the lights on at the same time.

Donna McDarby prides herself in being a busy working mum of three, often working behind the scenes but in a flexible manner which enables a good work-life balance which is integral to our business ethos and approach. Purely from a business standpoint Donna loves to see our team exceeding our company objectives as a result of months of hard graft by the team underpinned by considered financial management and as reward, organising our full team annual study trips to locations such as Venice, Prague, Krakow and Palma, to experience excellent architecture complimented with great food and drink.

On a personal level, having played a key role in its inception, she loves our amazing Ne40 Studios space in which we work in and the dedication, openness and friendliness shown on a daily basis by each and every team member even when under extreme levels of pressure and stress.

Words to live by…

Enjoy yourself it’s later than you think! – The Specials

Competitions and Awards


LABC Building Excellence Awards  Best Large Commercial Project 2018 Gateshead Energy Centre

Derry Chamber North West Business Awards Creative Business of the Year 2018

Constructing Excellence in the North East Winner of The Project of the Year Award 2017 – Durham University Ogden Physics Building

RIBA North East Award 2017 Durham University Ogden Physics Building

Insider Property Awards North East Architectural Practice of the Year 2017

Women in Construction Awards Winner of the Outstanding Woman of the Year, 2017 – Tanja Smith

Women in Construction Awards Winner of the Mentor of the Year Award, 2017 – Katie Shepherd

Northern LABC Building Excellence Winner of the Best Inclusive Building Award, 2016 – Bradbury View

RICS North East Shortlisted for the Community Benefit Award, 2016 – Bradbury View

Constructing Excellence in the North East Winner of the Value Award, 2016 – Bradbury View

Constructing Excellence in the North East Winner of the Client of the Year Award, 2016 – Bradbury View

Northern Ireland Hair and Beauty Awards Winner of the Salon of the Year Award, 2016 – RoCo

RICS North East Highly Commended for the Commercial Award, 2015 – Tracerco

RICS North East Winner of the Design through Innovation Award, 2015 – Tracerco

Constructing Excellence in the North East Winner of the SME of the Year Award, 2014

North East Exporters Runner Up for the New Exporter Award, 2014

Constructing Excellence Awards Winner of the Value Award, 2013 – NEAS