What We Do

We deliver beautiful buildings which clients love.

Our buildings work well, they make the best possible use of the site and the budget, they please the users and they please the public.  Our buildings are at the forefront of sustainable design. They are bold and uplifting on the outside, spacious and bright on the inside. They stand out but they are considerate to their context.

We design all sorts of buildings: corporate HQ’s, medical research institutes, science museums, community centres, student residences, luxury apartments and many one-off houses. We are one of the very few practices to have satisfied the planning policy permitting only ‘truly exceptional’ country houses.

Our buildings have won many awards, including the Daily Telegraph Best Townhouse Award twice and the Best Brick House Award twice. Our design ability wins respect and our creativity means we come up with new ideas to resolve problems and unlock potential. We work well with planners and we win the best possible planning consents.

It is inevitable that our studio has certain design predilections: it’s fair to say we have a design philosophy, and this can be detected in the range of projects on display on this website. There are four obvious common strands that link our buildings:

  • First, our love of form-making. All our buildings are strong shapes containing great spaces to stir the soul.
  • Second, a strong sense of order.  We don’t do collage or random: each of our buildings has a clear ordering principle which informs every part of it.
  • Third, we love light!  Natural light flooding interior spaces is so good for the spirits but also so good for the architecture: we use it to articulate shape, space and surface.
  • Fourth, a desire to design buildings which stand the test of time. The right moment to judge a building is fifty years hence. We avoid trendy notions and gizmos; we use ideas and materials which are robust and which will age with grace.

But it should also be clear from the variety of architectural solutions adopted that our creative juices are not contained by any dogma: we tackle all sorts of building types and sizes and we let the client, the brief and the site guide us to very different answers. We do not churn out standard stuff, we do not fall back on clichés, we are very creative, we use the right side of our brains, and we really think.

Who We Are

Adrian James Architects is an RIBA Chartered Practice. This gives our clients the assurance that:

  • All our architectural work is done under the supervision of an RIBA architect.
  • All our architects are kept on their professional mettle with an obligatory CPD programme.
  • We have an appropriate level of Professional Indemnity Insurance.
  • We operate a sensible project-based quality management system.
  • We protect the well-being of our staff, our clients and those whom our work affects with Health & Safety and Employment policies.

And importantly, we have a strong Environmental Policy guiding our every action.
Clients can rest assured that their project is in good hands in terms of both design and management. We are a relatively young team who are passionate about our craft, but we also have all the experience necessary to manage the planning process and the procurement process, and to run contracts on site being demanding but fair.

The key players:


Adrian James MA Dip Arch (Cantab) ARB RIBA
Managing Director

Trained at Cambridge University, Adrian worked on the design and procurement of exceptional buildings in the UK, the USA and Europe before settling in Oxford and starting his own studio.  As well as managing the practice and ensuring its commitment to quality in all its architectural services, Adrian leads or guides the design development of all commissions.  Adrian combines a passion for architecture with real expertise in steering projects through the planning process including, if necessary, planning appeals and public enquiries.

When he isn’t sketching he is climbing to the top of mountains the world over – and singing in the Oxford Gospel Choir.


Darren Riddle BA (Hons) Dip Arch (Kingston) ARB RIBA
Senior Architect

Darren has come back into the AJA fold after a few years gaining valuable contractual and commercial experience elsewhere. He returns with bandwidth across many sectors and an assured mindset to help catalyse the practice’s growth.

Darren is absolutely in tune with the practice’s devotion to dynamic shape-making. He was born to the craft of architectural modelling and loves to design striking contemporary buildings which combine dramatic forms with the principles of sustainable architecture. His previous work on Oaklands and Incurvo embodies this holistic philosophy.

When Darren has any spare time from being the proud parent of two youngsters he gets physical in the gym or on the road.


Steve Baines BA (Hons) MArch (Bath) ARB
Senior Architect

Steve is the office guru on the nuts and bolts of building design. He has lots of experience and an excellent knowledge of diverse products, methods and details and is well-versed in addressing all the statutory requirements of Building Control and the complexities of modern service requirements, which now form such a large part of the fabric of a building. As project architect he has administered traditional, D&B and open-book management contracts for a whole range of building types. Steve runs the healthcare projects in the office, which are the most technically demanding in their need for complex spatial adjacencies and heavy servicing. For anything technical, Steve is The Man.


Vikki Shuker BA (Hons)
Practice Manager

Vikki runs the place. With a background in production at ITV, and then as housing manager for Oxford University, she knows how to make things happen and keep everything running smoothly. Vikki is in charge of the office CPD, H&S, HR, PR and all other acronyms. She is the go-to guy at AJA.


Ryan Taylor BArch (Hons) Dip Arch (Mackintosh School of Architecture) ARB
Project Architect

Ryan relocated from Glasgow to join the AJA team. He graduated from the MSA in 2009 and has since worked on high-profile education, leisure and cultural projects. His portfolio also includes community healthcare work along with affordable and private housing, urban masterplans, mixed-use developments, historic and listed buildings refurbishments and research projects. He is an avid designer and draughtsman, with an eye for detail and a passion for creating digital and physical models to rigorously test ideas.

Ryan uses his down-time for photography, cycling and searching for new and interesting music.


Pip Burns BA (Hons) MArchD (Oxford Brookes) ARB

Pip is our newest recruit: following training on the Tyne, she specialised in Sustainable Performance Building Design (SPBD) at Oxford Brookes University and has qualified as an architect since joining AJA.

Pip is really strong on software; she is very capable on 3D platforms as well as the normal office systems and is driving the office quality management programme forward at the same time as assisting with the design and administration roles for several AJA projects.

How We Work

  • We start with no preconceptions.
  • We ask lots of questions; we challenge all parts of the brief and the perceived parameters.
  • Then we sketch and sketch and sketch.
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