Derry architects have designs on shaping city’s future look

Liam Nelis, Sean Furey and Graham McDarby, of Gradon Architecture at'the opening of RoCo salon in Derry.
Liam Nelis, Sean Furey and Graham McDarby, of Gradon Architecture at'the opening of RoCo salon in Derry.

Two former colleagues with designs on shaping Derry’s future have set up a new architect practice in the city.

Architect Sean Furey, 47, and architectural technician Liam Nelis, 35, have teamed up with long-time friend and experienced architect Graham McDarby to launch Gradon Architecture in Northern Ireland.

Graham and his wife Donna founded Gradon Architecture in Gateshead, in the North East of England, in the depths of the recession in 2009. Based on the core values of delivering architecture with care and efficiency, the business has since gone from strength to strength, expanding into Mongolia and winning multiple industry awards.

Liam and Sean, who have a total of 35 years’ experience in the trade between them, will be heading up Gradon Architecture’s expansion into Northern Ireland, backed by the wider team in Britain and Mongolia.

Having the support of the team in Britain and Mongolia means that Liam and Sean can call on a wealth of extra resources and specialist architectural expertise, including Building Information Modelling (BIM), should a project require it.

BIM enhances the ways in which the construction industry can collaborate, keeping costs down and making it easier for multiple partners to share information on any one project. This ensures accuracy and consistency is maintained throughout the project and helps to improve standards of quality for clients and the end user.

The pair’s new venture is already off to a flying start, with Gradon Architecture designing the RoCo hair and beauty salon on the prominent Derry waterfront after fire destroyed the salon’s original premises and the business was forced to relocate. With the salon owners passionate about upcycling, Liam and Sean worked to create a unique, eye-catching environment using predominantly recycled and sustainable materials.

Liam said: “Sean and I have long dreamed of opening a practice in Derry. It’s a city on the up and we’re really excited to have the opportunity to work with Graham to launch Gradon Architecture in Northern Ireland. What’s even better is that we have been able to hit the ground running.

“We are committed to developing sustainable architecture, so the RoCo salon was a fantastic project to start off with. We have created a unique environment using upcycled and sustainable materials that is not only great to look at but also tailored to the needs of the business, its staff and customers.

“Looking ahead, we’ll be working with private and public sector clients on a range of industrial and commercial projects as well as social housing. We also take on and enjoy bespoke private residential projects. Our aim is to deliver excellent architecture both in Derry and across Ireland.”

Graham McDarby, Design Director, Gradon Architecture, said: “It is fantastic to be able to work with Liam and Sean to launch Gradon Architecture in Northern Ireland. I’ve been a regular visitor to Derry since studying with Sean at university; it is a wonderful city, with many similarities to the North East of England. With Liam and Sean at the helm, I’m confident our new venture will be a huge success.

“While Liam and Sean gain the specialist expertise from the wider Gradon team when it’s needed, the UK and Mongolian teams also stands to benefit from the talent and wealth of experience that they bring to us. It’s a win-win situation and I’m delighted to be a part of their vision for the future of architecture in Derry.”

Projects already secured for Gradon Architecture include a number of bespoke private residential projects and a large-scale retail complex.

To find out more about the services that Gradon Architecture provides, visit