Blog 05.04.19

Interview with Richard Angel, Founder of Angel O’Donnell, about designing building security

This month we caught up with Richard Angel, founder of design house Angel O’Donnell, to discuss the space where good design and quality security meets. 


Angel O’Donnell and your role at the company?  

Angel O’Donnell (AOD) is a new interior design house founded by Ed O’Donnell and me. Ed is our creative lead and I manage the business and our clients. 

AOD is a new interiors agency, are you new hands to the industry?

Whilst AOD is a design house, we’ve been in the industry for over 20 years! 

What is your USP?

We deliver bold and tailored interiors for cultured and modern clientele with a strong sense of style. We have a unique skillset in combining Ed’s creativity with my surveying qualifications. Especially having worked previously as a property developer, AOD understands intimately the needs of both the occupier and our developer clients.   

Attractive design and high security have got to work in harmony to meet the needs of the occupier.

In your opinion can high quality, attractive design and high security comfortably co-exist?

Absolutely! The two are completely interlinked! Many of our clients are security conscious, whether that be the High-net-worth individual, the corporate occupier or the private client looking for high quality accommodation for themselves or their child; attractive design and high security have got to work in harmony to meet the needs of the occupier. 

What is more important in an interior the designed look or its human use?

100% its human use, the designed look has got to radiate from that. At AOD our principal focus is on the occupier and ensuring the design is fit for them and their individual needs and requirements. We could design the most stunning space ever, but if it doesn’t work for the occupier, it won’t be successfully inhabited and therefore won’t be producing an income for the building owner/developer. 

...we can create a security space that is modern, intelligent and tactile like the buildings we occupy.

Do you think a sense of shelter is important in interior design, and could that concept be better incorporated into conventional security services?

Shelter in its most basic meaning is to provide us with safety, security and protection, however nowadays we think of this as a roof over our head and perhaps forget the true meaning of shelter as security. With an ever-changing landscape and requirements of individuals and corporate entities, shelter in both its built form and conventional security service are paramount to us all, and some more than others. The Danes and the Norwegians talk about 'Hygge' which is a word for cosiness and comfort leading to feelings of wellness and contentment. I think this concept could be carried through more into building design and security; providing well-being to all building occupiers today and avoid the possibly outmoded idea of security as a ‘barrier’ to entry; be that physical or human. Instead we can create a security space that is modern, intelligent and tactile like the buildings we occupy. In an age where we are connected 24/7 with ever-changing and highly sophisticated security threats, the sheltering 'roof over our head' needs to provide a safe zone, where the design and manned security is in harmony and allows us human occupiers to work, rest, play and simply be.

Do you feel that corporate building security conflicts with the atmosphere that you as designers want to create for your clients?

All too often security is a second thought in both design and architecture; we’ve all experienced the ominous security hut placed at the entrance to a building, or the unapproachable barrier of a security reception desk! Design and building security don’t need to conflict; we as designers should be working harmoniously with security providers to understand their needs and the wants of the occupier, in order to design around that. 

Can good design soften a security stance to make a visitor’s experience both safe and appreciative of the design? How?

Without a doubt, it’s important the designer understands the susceptible security points within a building and can then design around that. Can pinch points that permit subtle access control be created without compromise to the visitor or occupiers experiencing the building? Can the visitor’s flow into the building be separated from their flow out of it to help enhance security? The design is not just about interiors but a holistic approach to the entire place-making piece that involves security, landscapers, architects, interior designers and much more. 

Are there any projects that AOD would hold up as exemplary in meshing the design brief, and security needs?

Yes, though not a project that AOD worked on. But surely the best example of where latest security doctrine meets good design is the new US Embassy in Nine Elms? Fantastic architecture, great design and landscaping and flow that has security design at its heart. AOD were working for a number of weeks in the building opposite and while observing gained a real appreciation of the thought processes that had gone into the US Embassy building; its security needs, design approach and place-making working together.  

Manned security is often the first interaction that visitor or occupier has with a space. So it is important that the experience of greeting by the security officers is as good as the designed space that they enter.

Could manned security ever be designed out entirely, or do you think designing the human into invisibility defeats the object of good design? 

I don’t think manned security will ever be designed out entirely. Nor should it be. But I do think that the role of the manned security will become much more of a concierge and security combination. How we present the front of house is so crucial to the impression we want to project. We live, work and be in buildings that require a human touch. We all expect a high level of service and can learn lots from the hospitality sector, where personal service is so fundamental to the user’s experience. Manned security is often the first interaction that visitor or occupier has with a space. So it is important that the experience of greeting by the security officers is as good as the designed space that they enter. 

As a design firm have you noticed any emerging trends in the way buildings are secured, and do you think that is by design? 

Increasingly we are looking at the approach into a building and ensuring that the design can aid the manned security. Building owners tend to not want to employ multiple layers of security as it is an additional cost that must be borne. So the trend is to see how the design can work with one or two individual security personnel, ensuring that they can perform their role with the help of the building, particularly at the ‘front of house’ area. We’ve created exceptional lobbies and desks that are not compromised design and work with the building but equally ensuring unwanted visitors cannot by-pass the security personnel. 

Vigilance would like to thank Richard and his team for taking the time to share their expertise with us. AOD is a London based design house that delivers bold and tailored interiors for cultured and modern clientele with a strong sense of style. To read more or get in touch please email or visit

Vigilance work across public, private and commercial sectors. Please get in touch regarding your security requirements, including cyber security, so we can create a bespoke security package based on individual assessments of your needs. Call now on 020 3416 5340 or email 


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