rayholearchitects is a UK based, International, Award winning RIBA Chartered architectural practice founded on Ray Hole’s experience gained from over 40 years in highly creative, multi-disciplinary design environments as; Strategist, Masterplanner, Architect, Structural Engineer and Designer.

This understanding and unique attitude to sustainable development (environmental and economic) of the built environment, landscape and infrastructure enables an influential role to be played in the reimagining, redefining and realising; Cultural, Museums and Heritage, Science, Sport, Children and Education, Zoos and Wildlife, Brandlands, Accommodation and Hotels plus Themed Visitor Attractions - in addition to assisting the wider mainstream property sector to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

Creating added value for; Clients, Stakeholders, End-users, Society in general and the Environment is a fundamental guiding principle based on Experience Economy philosophy.

A portfolio of completed projects demonstrates an enviable range and quality of delivered solutions with a number recognised with prestigious Awards from RIBA and the Institute of Structural Engineers, Gold Medal for Architecture (Eisteddfod), Jersey Award for Sustainability and BIAZA Gold Award.


Born on March 14th 1961 at the start of the decade which would see the UK transition from a post-WW2 world towards the 21st Century and embark upon a period of ambitious human endeavour, civil rights activism and unleash a culturally liberated society. Gagarin heralded human space travel a month later (April 1961) and Kennedy triggered the race to the Moon (September 1962) - to a cultural backdrop provided by the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Mary Quant, Twiggy, Vidal Sassoon, Bobby Moore, James Bond and Andy Warhol.

Early life was safe and stable set within an eclectic South London community and unconditionally supported by a home crafting mother and hard-working father. Both experienced evacuation during wartime and therefore committed to transforming Britain from a damaged “warfare state” to a caring “welfare state”.


Family and street community in 1960’s and 70’s London provided a behaviour nurturing environment - reinforced by a local network of Sunday School, Cubs, Scouts and Boys Brigade - influences that would instil life-long attitudes and values.

School extended an ingrained sense of curiosity, opening minds through; “decoding and encoding” the written word (reading and writing), understanding the natural world (maths, physics, chemistry, biology and geography), developing the confidence necessary for independent tenacity and tolerance through team collaboration (sport), expressing thoughts and ideas through all the senses (art and performance) plus honing the skills for debate to encourage and defend free speech whilst channelling passionate beliefs. These were the underpinning foundations to providing the opportunity to access and expand knowledge and personal development. Education comprised Primary, Junior and Secondary Schools (6th Form would be missed and University would come later). Education became the “magic carpet” for Social Mobility - whilst being the unwitting subject of the experiment - accumulating an armoury of tools; enquiry, rigour, perseverance, work ethos, meritocracy, loyalty, trust, integrity…. all of which would prepare me for the challenges of residual and embedded prejudice awaiting.


Wilson’s Grammar School (initially based in Camberwell, South London - but relocated to a brand new campus constructed on the famous Croydon airfield) introduced an undeniable sense of self belief, destiny and expectation - following in the footsteps of such alumni luminaries as; Michael Caine, Capt. Harold Auten, VC, Sir James Jeans, OM, FRS, Sir Norman Robert Reid, Ernest Partridge, Dr W. R. Matthews, former Dean of St Paul's Cathedral.

Identifying one’s own individual talent was subtly navigated by promoting a richness of possibilities - evidenced by the future success of class colleagues such as; John Galliano CBE (fashion designer).


2 years of full-time work-based education and night-school led to a posting within the MOD team. The array of projects upon which to apply the knowledge gained at the DOTC whilst guided by brilliant mentors was extraordinary. Refurbishing the Testing Laboratory Water Tanks used by my childhood hero Barnes Wallace for the legendary bouncing bombs and analysing the famous Cardington Airship Hangars that housed the R101 was particularly inspiring. The MOD provided an almost endless range of Army, Navy and Airforce projects; from logistics and maintenance workshops to home-based/overseas accommodation; from Cold War front line facilities to sophisticated de-gaussing docks and airfield runways.

But within a year our team (under the leadership of Maurice Chammings) was summoned and tasked with assisting in the recapture of the Falkland Islands (invaded by Argentina) and once secured - commence the rebuilding of the Islands defences known as Fortress Falklands. Obviously, a thrilling professional experience but made more personal knowing that family members were engaged in the military conflict.

With mission accomplished overseas - UK needs were prioritised for other Govt. Ministry’s (Home Office, MAFF, Justice Dept. and the Crown Estate). Projects included; HSE Laboratory, Kew Gardens, Royal Palaces/Tower of London, Broadmoor Hospital….


The gained specialist knowledge would also be deployed to other foreign Governments such as; Singapore’s Post Office (my drawings being selected to hang in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition), Botanic Research Establishments and collaborations with our NATO allies.

But an ambition to continue a broader professional development led to a request to switch from the Civil/Structural Engineering team to the Architectural team - only made possible by the scale of the 9000+ professional mixed resource - eclipsing the often-stated capacity and ability of private sector, multi-disciplinary practices. This desire required a return to full-time education (7 years at University) with the promise of summer break and year-out work placement leading to post-graduate employment.

Eventually, gaining a double First Class (Hons) Degree and Diploma and a return to the PSA, which had now converted to a private company after being acquired by Tarmac, provided a new range of opportunities, including a special invitation to compete for the Hannover Rainforest House at the famous Herrenhauser Garten. But the primary vision for the commercial acquisition and re-brand did not inspire me.


An approach by Sports Architects KSS provided a useful steppingstone into a more creative (commercial) environment. Stadiums were fast becoming a new breed of entertainment and leisure venue - prompted by the emerging business models, but importantly as a reaction to the Hillsborough and Bradford Stadiums tragedies. Involvement in Chelsea, Man City and Brighton and Hove Albion FC redevelopments followed.

During this transitional period the primary funder for the Hannover Rainforest House made a direct approach which ultimately led to me joining the Volkswagen AG team to not only deliver this flagship environmental project in time for the 2000 Hannover Expo (Man, Nature, Technology) but also an introduction onto their revolutionary Autostadt Brandland Masterplan at Wolfsburg. Although specifically tasked with designing the Bentley Pavilion (after VW acquired the famous marque) I was trusted with realising the “home” VW Pavilion as well.


This trust extended to being asked to assemble the full creative team for both pavilions - which forged a unique collaboration with mixed-medium design agency Furneaux Stewart. Therefore, at Autostadt’s opening in 2000 a simple conversation unexpectedly materialised into a new creative design practice loosely modelled on the Bauhaus/Royal College of Art where total creativity could be deployed onto any scenario - including architecture under my directorship. This is where the Camelot philosophy of project development and management fermented and where all influences (including Clients) were respected as equals.

This new type of design agency immediately attracted the attention of Snowdonia National Park who were struggling with progressing the future of their summit building which had received significant negative press.

Despite being possibly my career’s most challenging brief - not least because of the extreme climatic conditions and logistics - eventually Hafod Eryri opened in 2010 attracting increased numbers of visitors and proudly receiving a 2011 RIBA Award and Gold Medal for Architecture at the prestigious National Eisteddfod.


Although initially attractive to Clients across a diverse multi-sector base - the dominant discipline within the group became architecture - for no simpler reason than a majority of a project’s CapEx is primarily targeted on built environment, landscape and infrastructure - but also rarely do Clients place all creative responsibility into a single agency.

Ultimately, this transitioned Furneaux Stewart into ray hole architects and as often happens - as one door closes more open. This shift coincided with a global expansion and redefinition of projects that could be encompassed within the Experience Economy (something that Joe Pine had foreseen in the seminal triptych of books; Experience Economy, Authenticity, Infinite Possibilities). Such increased awareness and relevance of capabilities as a leading visitor attraction strategist, masterplanner and architect, led to numerous requests by other design agencies to collaborate.


With such a spectrum of opportunities - a growing credibility within the primary Client and Trade associations developed (IAAPA, BALPPA, BIAZA, TEA, EAZA, WAZA, NFAN, etc.) expanding my portfolio of completed/operating leisure projects including; Kidzania, London Zoo, KidsPlay Nursery, Dreamland Margate, Ripleys, Seaton Tramway, Port Lympne, Marwell Zoo, Cotswold Wildlife Park, Jersey Zoo, Bournemouth Pier, Cardiff Castle - in addition to commercial projects for the Kuwait Oil Company (Collaboration Centre) and high value residential for private Clients…


Strategic masterplans for many more Clients followed; London Paramount Resort, Willows Adventure Farm, Brighton Mass Transport System, Brooklands Museum, Dubai’s Fashion Hotel (with the V+A) and Restless Planet (with the Natural History Museum), Godstone Farm, Petronas HQ (Indonesia), Laumes International Resort (Cambodia), Chris Eubank Boxing Academy, Port Elizabeth City Centre (South Africa), Cardiff Bay International Sports Village, Hull City Centre and Shrewsbury/Darwin Destination Plan, Bournemouth Pier and Brighton West Pier…


Such experience and influence within the attraction industry led to being more active within the Trade Associations and representing the UK (DIT) Creative Industries overseas. This included numerous International Trade Missions and Chairing the 2012 London Business Olympics (Visitor Attractions sector) that ran in parallel to the sporting program. Becoming President of the Themed Entertainment Association (Europe, Middle East and Asia) and a founding member of ExperienceUK and Advisory Board provided an even greater platform with keynote talks around the world.

Being so active in the Masterplanning and Architectural fields meant that environmental issues were always a primary concern (something which has grown in importance). In addition to incorporating best-practice within my projects - home-grown initiatives such as; FootPrints - promoting behaviour nurturing within our 21,000+ Primary Schools, and Plastic exChange:Transforming Waste into Valuable Assets - linking Universities and Global Companies to Government Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. This led to the founding of CAMPRADO (Constructional and Manufactured Plastic Research and Development Organisation).

Another tool in the armoury are Business Development Recovery Workshops – which are proving to be a unique method to generate international business opportunities for UK creative company’s whilst developing strong relationships and building capacity in both mature and emerging international economies.


So what’s next? I am often asked what does the future look like and what Experience Economy Strategies should be adopted in a Changing and Volatile World?

Architecture is a great force for good as long as it delivers a balanced Quadruple Bottom Line;
• Construction can satisfy several Social Justice issues (UN Human Right for safe housing), inspire change and nurture behaviour
• Construction is the world’s largest Industry (generating direct and indirect Economic impact)
• Construction must be at the service of humanity BUT if in so doing human habitat and behaviour creates stress on the Environment, our crusade for human progress must not deplete the very environment and biodiversity that humanity relies upon.
• Construction can be a powerful Political instrument but regulated to ensure safety and security.

The future role and purpose for Human Habitat Strategists, Masterplanners, Architects and Designers like myself – must be to proactively act as positive Agents of Change on behalf of Society and the Environment individually and collectively. The near future will present unique challenges that will require strategic built environment, landscape and infrastructure solutions that are fundamentally Reimagined, Redefined but critically Realised.

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