Meet Our Core People

Chris Allan
Architectural Director
Chris AllanArchitectural Director

Graduating from Newcastle University in 2007, Chris has worked with Graham and Tanja for over 15 years and was one of the first team members of Gradon Architecture from our inception and, as part of our management team, he continues to play a significant role in the progression and evolution of the practice.

Inspired by the Modern Movement, Chris’s desire to create rational, pragmatic, yet beautiful architecture sees him play a key role in design reviews throughout the practice.

Chris has a wealth of experience of successfully delivering projects in a range of diverse sectors. His particular sector expertise lies in Residential, Industrial, Specialist Care and Education. Consistent throughout all sector expertise however, is his ability to communicate with our clients and guide them through all design stages.

Chris enjoys the challenge of building and maintaining client relationships and exceeding their expectations.

Outside of architecture, Chris is a keen traveller and also has an active interest in his own development projects, where he likes to get his hands dirty and gain practical experience of delivering architecture. If he’s not building something then you will find him under the bonnet of a classic Porsche 911 or a VW!

Words to live by…

I don’t like Kimchi – Blue Mon Tower UB

Tanja Smith OBE
Technical Director
Tanja Smith OBETechnical Director

With one foot firmly in UK, the other in South Africa and one hand in Mongolia, Tanja seems to be embarking on an international game of twister. Adaptability to change has become integral to her life and what she does.

After graduating in Cape Town during a recession, Tanja’s career started out in an electrical engineers drawing office; from there she worked in an Urban Design team where she was part of many exciting changes to the City of Cape Town. Coming to England allowed her to practice more of what she studied for in the first place – Architecture. It was also here that she decided to do another degree in Architecture and achieved first class honours with two awards from CIAT and CIOB for excellence.

Over the years Tanja has worked in a number of diverse practices and is able to draw from this experience which in turn and being part of our inception, has informed the foundation of Gradon Architecture.

Apart from Architectural Technology, Tanja plays a key role in our bid writing and is the QMS Manager, ensuring that the practice maintains its ISO9001 and ISO 14001 accreditation.

Having established our studio in Ulaanbaatar while living there for two years, Tanja is now based in the UK but continues to coordinate our Mongolia operations on a daily basis. Testament to what she has achieved for us in Mongolia, Tanja currently holds the prestigious honour of being The National Outstanding Women of the Year for Women in Construction. Tanja also sits on the UK national committee of NAWIC representing women in construction both in the UK and in Mongolia.

Outside of work she enjoys life with her adopted Mongolian street dog Haachi – now a UK citizen!

Words to live by…

You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful – Charlie Chaplain

Donna McDarby
Finance Director
Donna McDarbyFinance Director

Following over twenty five years in high street banking, Donna 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 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

Uuganjargal Batsuuri
Assistant Architect & Urban Designer
Uuganjargal BatsuuriAssistant Architect & Urban Designer

Uuganjargal (we call her ‘Uugaa’) is a very creative, responsible and well-organized person, who joined us in 2015 as part of our team in Mongolia. She has a keen eye for the detail of specific tasks in the field of architecture and urban design. During her architectural studies in Belgium, She gained a lot of knowledge about sustainable architecture and universal design that includes how to design functional multi-use buildings with low energy solutions.

After earning herself a Masters in Engineering with RIBA in the field of architectural and urban studies from Kracow University of Technology . She has also studied at Sint-Lucas Hogeschool voor Weterchap en Kurst University of Belgium via an Erasmus exchange program. She was part of the team working on the Samsung railway project in Mongolia 2013 where she gained experience in the field of engineering. During her six years of studies, she has also gained a lot of experience across a wide range of sectors from designing residential buildings to factory units.

Apart from being an architectural assistant, she manages her own blog that educates people on sustainable architecture based on her own research and studies. Uugaa is happiest when spending time with her family and friends, and also enjoys travelling around the world and experiencing different cultures.

Words to live by…

In order to carry a positive action we must develop here a positive vision – Dalai Lama

Robert Davidson
Architect
Robert DavidsonArchitect

Robert began his journey into the architectural world at London South Bank University where he completed both his RIBA part 1 and 2, whilst also undertaking experience of practicing in numerous architectural design studios within central London. Having then returned to his native North East, Rob has brought his sound technical knowledge and experience in Masterplanning and Urban Design to the team.

Whilst working at Gradon Architecture, Rob also enrolled at Newcastle University and has recently successfully completed his RIBA part 3 to become a Chartered Architect, a huge credit to his hard work and the team for passing on their wealth of knowledge and experience! Since joining Gradon Architecture, Rob has worked on numerous projects ranging from Grade II listed Conversions to one off bespoke residential projects of varying scales and types from concept to completion.

Robert endeavours to design resourcefully and efficiently, both in his approach to choice of materials and sustainability, as well as his hunger to develop the use of BIM within our studios. He is also an active member of the RIBA and YAPF, the North East’s Young Architectural Practitioners Forum.

Outside of work, Robert is a keen golfer, regularly plays his classical guitar and enjoys getting his hands dirty, designing and refurbishing his own home.

 

Words to live by…

“Less is More” – Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Graham McDarby
Managing Director
Graham McDarbyManaging Director

Working closely with all of the team Graham 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 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