Most new architects spend 10 years in apprenticeship before launching a consultancy of their own. Not Christopher Bagot. He and two fellow architecture students were shortlisted for their design for the new Cardiff Opera House before they had even left college. They didn't win, but they went on to form Softroom in 1995, when Bagot was just 26.
Softroom busied itself with low-profile commissions before it was approached by Wallpaper+ magazine to design a living environment. Bagot and his colleagues responded with the 'Maison Canif', foldaway accommodation in the form of a Swiss army knife. The idea drew widespread media attention, and Softroom became the place to go for cutting-edge design. Recent projects Bagot has worked on include London's Noho restaurant, a virtual set for the BBC's Grandstand, and the Kielder Belvedere in north-east England, which won the RIBA Best Small Building award in 2000.
The publicity and awards his projects receive make a big difference. 'So much of being a success as an architect is being able to convince others of your ideas,' says Bagot, who aims to do lots more projects.
The practice is small, with six full-time staff and an annual turnover of pounds 450,000, but he is comfortable with that. 'We like the idea of staying small, but we'd like the freedom to express our own creativity and our own ideas.' A blueprint for success.