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.  They are bold and uplifting on the outside, spacious and bright on the inside. They stand out but they are considerate to their context.

Our buildings are at the forefront of sustainable design: we expect every project to be a carbon-positive habitable renewable energy power station, with all vehicles as domestic appliances.

We design all sorts of buildings: corporate HQ’s, medical research institutes, science museums, university accommodation, school teaching facilities, 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 a clutch of prestigious RIBA awards, and several national prizes for the best building of their type in the country. Our creativity means we come up with new ideas to resolve problems and unlock the potential in any site and brief. We work well with planning authorities 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. Sustainability guides every design decision we make from the location through the building services to the material choices. But this should be the norm: the thing to remember is that what any building needs to achieve longevity is to be lovable, and this is where our unique design approach kicks in.  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.  Each of our buildings has a clear ordering principle which informs every part of it, so it all feels of a piece and quite natural.
  • 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

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.


Jake Winter BA(hons) DipArch (London Metropolitan University) ARB
Freelance Project Architect

Jake designs and builds. He is both an experienced architect and a skilled carpenter and metalworker. As a nuts-and-bolts man he has great technical knowhow which feeds into his skill as a designer.

Coming out of London, where he worked in some of London’s best practices, Jake has a track record of driving educational and residential projects through planning on tightly constrained urban sites. This experience makes him perfect for AJA.

Jake has made several contributions to academic journals around rapid urban development and was shortlisted in 2018 for the World Architecture Festival Research Award for his work on the architecture of water sanitation in developing cities.


Ruby Wilson BA(Hons) MArch (University of Westminster) ARB
Project Architect

Ruby is an essential cog in the AJA machine. With indefatigable efficiency she is managing several key projects at any time, while making sure each of her clients always gets priority. It’s a testament to her manifold skills across the design and management spectrum that she can meet all the demands of being a project architect without any compromise in service and yet with calm authority and equanimity. No wonder her previous employers want her back: she is ace.

Ruby is unstoppable in and out of the office; she runs or cycles to and from the office every day.


Sarah Shekleton MA Oxon
Practice Manager

Sarah has already had four careers; in FMCG marketing, development, the not-for-profit sector and education.  Managing AJA is her fifth adventure and her portfolio of responsibilities covers a cornucopia of areas.  Ask her anything and she will set off at high speed to find an answer.


James Ellwood Third Year Architecture Student at Brookes University
Archictural Assistant

We are delighted to welcome James to the practice as an (award winning) student of architecture who enjoys using a wide variety of software to create images that go beyond the architectural form to give a sense of place, idea or concept. He also enjoys making physical models which bring our projects to life for clients.

When not in the office James loves sport and spending time with his two miniature dachshunds.


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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