Author Archives: Make Architects

Make Models: LSQ London

Client Linseed Assets
Dimensions 390mm(l) x 270mm(w) x 375mm(h)
Time to make 2 days
Materials Plastic tubes, copper colour paint
Model makers / designers Andrew Taylor, Dan Murray, Paul Miles and Mindseye

The project

The brief for the building in our LSQ London redevelopment was to create a new high-spec office and retail offer that captured the appeal of today’s West End while preserving the elegance and character of the original 1930s stone façade.

The office component of the project was aimed at re-defining this landmark building in Leicester Square as a desirable office destination with the reception, lobbies and office floorplate fit-out taking inspiration from the original features and fittings.

The retained façade allowed for an exceptionally generous ceiling height in the office entrance lobby which offered a unique opportunity to celebrate that height, with a sculptural lighting feature that could draw attention upward and mark the office entrance in a subtle, yet memorable way. The design of the feature references the cultural aspects of the West End in cinema, theatre and hotel lobby design.

The model

It can be hard to communicate lighting effects via sketches and renders, and it wasn’t until we made a working model of the installation that the wider design team started to understand its potential and the qualities of the light and materials. The model showed aspects that were otherwise difficult to simulate, like the warm molten-like glow of the metal catching adjacent lights, and the animation of the undulating form when the observer’s perspective shifts.

The model was at 1:1 scale based on an initial system of fibre optic splays from light projectors, each strand of which was to be threaded through an individual metal tube. The model replicates this with 5mm-diameter plastic tubes, sprayed with a metallic copper colour paint, at 30mm spacings. In total, the model used 27.5m of tubes. Fibre optics were considered as they allow the light source to be distant from where the output is observed, bringing maintenance benefits. The model represents about 1.2% of the overall area of the final installation.

The model allowed the client and design team to make informed decisions about the final scale, form and finish of the installation. Once Mindseye, a specialist lighting designer, joined the project, the system changed to LED with larger tubes with a longer, more uniform drop and increased spacing between the tubes.

The outcome

The final installation comprised 1,820 bronze anodised aluminium rods. It reads as an undulating canopy of delicate lights suspended across the ceiling void, above which the varying lengths of richly bronze-coloured tubes glimmer in shadow, exaggerating perspective and further accentuating the height of the space.

#makemodelmonday


 

 

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Reporting from Berlin

By Dimitris Grozopoulos, whose drawing ‘Scenarios for a post-crisis landscape’ won The Architecture Drawing Prize’s hand-drawn category.

Scenarios for a post-crisis landscape (c) Dimitris Grozopoulos

From the moment I received the email inviting me to the World Architecture Festival following my winning submission to the Architecture Drawing Prize, I was very excited and looked forward to travelling to Berlin!

Meeting the other two winners, Christopher Wijatno and Jerome Ng Xin Hao, as well as the competition jurors and organisers was a more than warm welcome to the city and particularly to the festival.

It was a huge and pleasant shock for me to be in between all these great people and architecture icons, watching them present their projects, discuss their ideas and debate the future of architecture.

During my interview with Make Architects representatives Kyly Bird and Liz Glassford, I remember Kyly asking me what I thought about the future of drawing. Though I’m not sure of my answer at that time, which I gave in front of a camera, I’ve been thinking of her question a lot since then.

Dimitris Grozopoulos being interviewed by Make

Trying to address this question now, I would like to reference the following story presented in AD magazine:
After his first meeting with Zaha Hadid at her studio in 1984, Lebbeus Woods described her drawing process as ‘a wringing of the extraordinary out of the mundane.’ He continued by saying that ‘Hadid has used drawing, to an unusual degree, as a means of visualising her architectural ideas.’

Especially in our post-digital age, when there is a huge variety of means and drawing techniques, one should always remember that no matter the new possibilities technological media offers, drawing should always be about radical ideas and concepts for an alternative approach to the world.

Reanimate modern ruins – Venice Architecture Biennale 2016 – Greek Pavilion (c) Dimitris Grozopoulos and Effie Kasimati

Events like WAF – with such a strong character, significant history, diverse programme and participation from all over the world – are the best opportunity for architects to not only promote their projects and schemes but also question and challenge their design approach every single year.

A huge thank you to the World Architecture Festival, Make Architects, Sir John Soane’s Museum and everyone involved. I hope to see you all in Amsterdam next year!

Berlin sketch diary pages (2017) (c) Dimitris Grozopoulos

Berlin winter colours

This post forms part of our series on The Architecture Drawing Prize: an open drawing competition curated by Make, WAF and Sir John Soane’s Museum to highlight the importance of drawing in architecture. The winning and shortlisted drawings will be exhibited at Sir John Soane’s Museum 21 February – 14 April 2018.

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Advocating Sustainable Facade Design

 

 

 

By Frank Filskow, Make Architects

 

The future

When we design buildings, we must consider the future, especially in terms of climate change. The best available climate modelling data predicts serious problems for Europe from the mid-2030s onwards, should we continue building simply on the basis of current passive energy conservation strategies. We can’t deny that we’re witnessing change all around us, and this will only worsen, given our growing elderly population and anticipated weather extremes.

Architects have a crucial responsibility to design sustainable, energy-efficient structures, and active measures are needed to ensure the buildings of the future are thoroughly low-carbon (and ideally carbon-neutral). As we move forward, we have to be brave and accept change, even leap into the unknown – an adventure, creatively speaking, in pursuit of reducing our carbon footprint.

Our love affair with glass

Reducing energy consumption starts with choosing the right materials for the right job. Back when energy was cheap and climate change wasn’t discussed much outside the classroom, the building industry seized upon glass as a primary facade material. For most of the latter part of the 20th century, fully glazed facades were the go-to solution. Simple, elegant and cost-effective, glass has been a mainstay of commercial construction for decades, even as awareness surrounding its inefficiency has grown.

This inefficiency inevitably comes down to the issue of solar gain. Full-height glazing lets in a substantial amount of light but also a great deal of heat, which then requires air-conditioning – itself a generator of heat – to solve the problem.

Back in the 1960s, things were very different. Buildings were poorly insulated, and while new fluorescent lighting had revolutionised the office environment, it was still quite inefficient. Most importantly, there were no computers. The main heat load of the typical 60s office environment was lighting and body heat. But ironically, the poor insulation meant that the heat gain roughly matched the heat loss through the facade. Even in the summer, simply opening windows and using fans was enough to deal with the solar gain.

A balance had been struck. A lot of heat was going in, and a lot of heat was going out. It wasn’t a particularly energy-efficient model, but it was robust.

The advent of the personal computer fundamentally changed the energy consumption of commercial buildings. The computers of the 80s and 90s produced more than twice the heat of the people using them. And while lighting technology became more efficient, offices became deeper in plan, putting huge pressure on the facade to bring in as much natural light as possible to keep the dependence on expensive lighting down.

The balance was tipping. Full-height glazing let in more light but also more heat, which then couldn’t escape. People looked to air-conditioning to get the heat out, which requires a significant amount of energy, and building roofs became covered in chiller units, which effectively pump heat into the atmosphere. It’s like lighting a fire to cool down – it doesn’t make sense.

The next generation

Thanks to LED lights, which are ten times more efficient than the lighting of the 60s, and modern laptops, which only use a fifth of the energy of early computers, we consume less energy inside our buildings these days. The sun is getting stronger, though, and proportionally the biggest issue we now face is solar gain.

Facade insulation and glass technology are effective measures for reducing solar gain, but these alone can only ever be part of the solution. The growing quality and affordability of LED lighting means we’re less dependent on external light sources, so windows today function as facilitators for wellbeing more than anything, cluing us into the weather and time of day, letting in natural light and shadows, and framing beautiful views for us to enjoy. We should take this moment as an opportunity to reassess the role glass has in office design – to rethink our relationship with windows and figure out how to design in their benefits and design out their downsides.

Make’s approach

At Make we’ve developed an ethos of prioritising the users of our buildings and their needs above all else. Applying this to office design while also honouring our commitment to sustainability has meant exploring alternatives to glazed facades. After all, loving natural light doesn’t mean shunning shade. Consider traditional Japanese houses or Roman temples like the Pantheon – their complex interplay of shadow is just as emotionally fulfilling as sunshine pouring in through a large glass atrium.

We’ve come to the conclusion that designing more solid office buildings where windows are carefully placed only where they’re needed is our best bet for reducing heat waste while meeting users’ wellbeing needs. Simply raising windows off the floor by the height of a desk can reduce the air-conditioning load by 20% at peak summer times – think what else is possible if we couple strategies like this with higher ceilings and solar gain-reducing technology.

You can see this in action at our 5 Broadgate, our new headquarters for Swiss financial firm UBS in the City of London. The building – home to 10,000 staff – was designed with major carbon savings in mind. By starting with a solid block and carving light into it via carefully positioned atria, light shelves and lifts, we’ve created a facade that significantly minimises the energy needed for cooling and heating, all the while retaining a human scale and capturing amazing views and high levels of natural light. The building is rated BREEAM ‘Excellent’ – attaining one of the highest BREEAM scores ever awarded to a London office development – and functions at 50% higher efficiency than Building Regulations require.

5 Broadgate

Our recently completed office scheme at London Wall Place also used solidity at its starting point, eventually achieving an overall glass-to-solid ratio of 50%. This largely comes down to an orientation that optimises views and a vertical expression that layers stone and ceramic, materials that are important to the context of the site and its history. At St James’s Market, meanwhile, we opted for a horizontal expression in natural stone – again, a material that complements the local area. In this design, an over-sailing form provides natural shading to the south, and a carefully placed central skylight creates a dramatic atrium. As with the other examples, the glazing has been set at a height that maximises views, reduces solar gain and formally responds to its local streetscape.

London Wall Place

St James’s Market

Embracing a language of solidity

Reining in solar gain doesn’t have to mean resigning ourselves to dark, window-less offices. It’s all about revisiting our relationship with natural light and rewriting our design vocabulary into one that puts sustainability on par with wellbeing.

A key part of this is understanding that changing the way buildings work on such a fundamental level will change the way they look from the outside, with larger, more solid buildings the likely result. Judging architecture on the basis of crude aesthetics will always promote the familiar over the novel, but we need to fight that familiarity through education and encourage people to embrace these changes.

If we get it right, our children will thank us. If we aren’t careful, the future may not be the one we’re hoping for.

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Hand-Drawing, the Digital (and the Archive)

By Charles Hind, Chief Curator and H.J. Heinz Curator of Drawings, RIBA British Architectural Library

A couple of years ago, I was asked to give a talk to the Art Workers Guild on the subject Is hand drawing dead in the digital age. What was interesting was not so much what I had to say but the debate that followed. The general consensus was that the pendulum had swung too far away from hand-drawing in favour of the computer and that the balance needed to be redressed.

Serge Chremayeff (1900-96). Preliminary pencil sketch for the staircase in the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill on Sea, Sussex, 1934 (RIBA Collections)

A properly trained architect these days needs to master both skills. Some architects then present supported the view that you cannot really understand a space that you are designing if you do not link the vision in your head to your hand and via a pen, pencil or brush, transfer it onto paper. There was also agreement amongst the older architects present that it is sometimes embarrassing for a practice when a young project architect, faced with a question from a client, cannot quickly explain what is intended by means of a hasty sketch and needs to call in a senior colleague to do it instead. One major practice has introduced life classes!

The value of hand drawing as a topic regularly pops up in my world. Recently, for example, an architectural student complained to me that he had been criticised by one of his tutors for devoting too much time to hand drawing when he should be focused on his computer instead. Currently on display at the RIBA is a body of drawings by George Saumarez Smith that is centred around drawing as essential to the making of architecture (until 26th November).

George Saumarez Smith, ADAM Architecture, at work

Two very different types of contemporary drawing have just entered the RIBA Collections, both American. Steven Holl has presented a group of drawings for the new Maggie’s Centre that will open in Bart’s Hospital, London, next month. Holl works out all the significant aspects of a new design, its planning and appearance, in a sketchbook and on small sheets of paper before handing them over to colleagues in his office to work up digitally.

Steven Holl, Sketch for the new Maggie’s Centre, Bart’s Hospital, London (StevenHoll/RIBA Collections)

This is in a tradition that goes all the way back to the Renaissance. By contrast, David M Schwarz Architects and his client have given three very splendid presentation drawings, plan, elevation and section, of the Nancy Lee and Perry R Bass Performance Hall, Fort Worth, Texas.

Jeffrey Loman for David M Schwarz Architects, Section of the Bass Performance Hall, Fort Worth, Texas (David M Schwarz Architects/RIBA Collections)

Although largely traditional in style, the building is revolutionary in its use of technology to alter the configuration of the building to allow opera, theatre, ballet, musicals and symphony concerts to use the same auditorium but with the appropriate acoustic background and ceiling. The drawings, by Jeffrey Loman, are beautifully rendered and are very much in the 18th-19th century tradition.

So much for the practical and aesthetic qualities of hand-drawing. We must also consider the archival aspect of digital design, which is already proving vastly more complex and expensive a solution than was predicted. Like the RIBA’s Palladio drawings, which are already nearly 500 years old and are in great condition, these drawings by Holl and Loman will be around in another 500 years. The challenge is to find a way to make the digital as enduring as paper.

Andrea Palladio (1508-80). Sketch for the Palazzo Loggia, Brescia, with projects for palace facades and the nymphaeum, Villa Barbara, Maser, c.1554 (RIBA Collections)

Steven Holl’s drawings will be on display on the 1st floor landing of the RIBA at 66 Portland Place, London W1B 1AD from the 1st December – 23rd December.

This post forms part of our series on The Architecture Drawing Prize: an open drawing competition curated by Make, WAF and Sir John Soane’s Museum to highlight the importance of drawing in architecture. The winning and shortlisted drawings will be exhibited at the World Architecture Festival 15-17 November 2017.

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Drawing as an architect’s tool

by Laurie Chetwood

Many architects still use traditional drawing skills as a crucial part of the design development process: nothing beats sketching in real time to visualise and communicate ideas and concepts, whether to outline a vision or describe a detail.  Drawing allows unrestricted imagination of a space and the expression of a unique idea before the design process moves across to computer programmes for the technical design and delivery of a building.

Like most things, being successful at something comes from practice, and the inclination to practise usually comes from enjoying something in the first place.  Drawing as an architectural tool is no different. Drawing skills are available to anybody if they feel inclined to practise – it is the desire and confidence to pick up a pencil that can be missing.

When we have students on work experience placements in our Studio, one of the things they are often most nervous about is being asked to sketch an idea during a design workshop.  With encouragement and some practice, however, it is rewarding to see them realise both how valuable drawing is as a tool for conveying ideas, and how with practice they can develop their own individual drawing ‘handwriting’ as an invaluable auxiliary skill.

The ideas which come from these skills are a delineator and once in place – and with them confidence in the outcome – it is possible for a draughtsperson to use any of the tools at his or her disposal.  The choice of a particular drafting tool will depend on the intended outcome.

The natural skill of the architect who likes to draw can be enhanced in many ways, not least by using the latest technology.  A touch sensitive computerised screen can offer many advantages for architectural drawing including fast, easily produced images that can quickly be copied and distributed.  It is also possible to replicate most styles of drawing from a paintbrush to a 0.1mm ink pen.  There are thousands of colours, opacities and textures available and work can be repeated, layered and filed quickly and efficiently.

There are disadvantages though. The technology itself is an inhibiting factor – the super-smooth screen surface leads to a lack of control.  The formality of the process itself can inhibit and reduce confidence in the outcome.  In the end, there is no substitute for the informality and spontaneity of pen and ink or a soft pencil or chalks on paper.

This interview forms part of our series on The Architecture Drawing Prize: an open drawing competition curated by Make, WAF and Sir John Soane’s Museum to highlight the importance of drawing in architecture. 

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Don’t take a pop at POPS

 

 

 

By Ken Shuttleworth

 

There is a growing debate on the rise of privately owned public spaces (POPS) that I’ve been watching with interest.

It was once the sole concern of local authorities to design and maintain our public spaces, to consider how best to zone and shape them for the various needs of different users. But now, of course, the world is a very different place, and the lines between who owns and who creates what are increasingly blurred.

We can no longer rely solely on our acutely cash-strapped councils to give our towns and cities the spaces and places they need to encourage people to visit, to dwell. So, for some time developers have been the protagonists behind the majority of the new squares and parks and public areas in our towns and cities, harnessing the area next to their buildings as an extension of the scheme itself. It has become the norm to introduce art, high-quality paving and lighting to draw people in and provide a distinction between that area and another – essentially creating a doorstep that is as superb as the building itself.

Granary Square (c) Roger Marks

Developers naturally have deeper pockets, and if they choose to dip into those pockets to help create new spaces for the public to enjoy, then I’d suggest that is to be welcomed. An exemplar here is Argent’s King’s Cross scheme, which includes more than four acres of public realm that knit the scheme together – a crucial part of what makes it so successful. Argent deserves a lot of credit as a protagonist in this trend. Its work at Brindleyplace in Birmingham delivered a variety of public spaces that incorporated art and landscaping in a manner unseen in the city before – a crucial driver for regeneration that has stood the test of time. It’s this fruitful formula that has transformed King’s Cross.

It is a fresh look at the way we breathe life into spaces and draw people in. People want to work, live and stay in vibrant places that offer more than just a desk or a bed – hence the cultural shift that favours mixed-use developments and creates what the Future Spaces Foundation calls ‘vital cities’. Coupled with this is a step change in the spaces around the buildings too, spaces that – like King’s Cross – knit buildings and uses together and give a place personality.

Many view POPS with suspicion, typically due to concerns over access, freedom of movement and wider use of the space, which are all valid. POPS aren’t bound by ordinary bylaws, and as their number increases it’s important we establish a set of rules for their government rather than relying on each development team to set its own.

London mayor Sadiq Khan has promised to look at guidelines that will “maximise access and minimise restrictions,” which, in London at least, should help to eliminate some of the worries around how these spaces are managed.

London Wall Place

London Wall Place

Overall, though, I believe we as an industry have an opportunity to create spaces that, while privately owned, can contribute socially and economically to the city, whether the plot is sized in hectares or acres. Make’s Rathbone Square development for Great Portland Estates has a publicly accessible, privately maintained garden at its heart that will provide an oasis away from the hustle of Oxford Street. And at London Wall Place for Brookfield, more than half of the scheme is devoted to privately owned public space, giving people a chance to enjoy a part of town previously blocked by a dual carriageway.

Rathbone Square

These schemes may be significantly smaller than King’s Cross, but much like this exemplar, their public realm aspects are a vital component to their commercial and public success. If local authorities can no longer deliver these spaces, then the gauntlet is thrown for us to provide them. The precedent set at King’s Cross should be inspiration enough.

Originally posted on EG 30.10.17

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On Stefan Davidovici

Trevor Flynn, director of Drawing at Work and founder of Sketchmob, on his admiration for architect Stefan Davidovici

Stefan Davidovici is a visionary architectural draughtsman – consummately skilled, starkly singular in his vision and immensely prolific. His work centres on speculative architectural interventions on the Martian landscape, which he conceives using collages of NASA photographs, and a future-focused Milan.

Since 2013 our correspondence has included exchange visits and numerous Skype calls, one of which he conducted from his laptop in a pass in the Alps. His unshakable passion for drawing is matched only by his love of mountain climbing, as evidenced in the vertiginous views pictured in many of his fantasy structures.

Stefan teaches at the Fondazione dell’ Ordine degli Architetti in Milan, and organises Sketchmob gatherings in Milan and Genoa that attract large crowds. Our Skype conversations inevitably revolve around two questions: what is the pedagogy underlying what we do, and how does the act of drawing build our knowledge of the world? Despite all the conversations we’ve had, we’ve never fully drained these subjects.

Stefan has uprooted and resettled several times in different European cities, and his fictions often reflect the viewpoint of an outsider, relying on fragmented impressions in an attempt to make sense of the whole. The act of drawing, he says, “fruitfully excites your imagination in the way a book excites you more than a movie, forcing your mind to create a complete 3D model of a particular space out of the partial image the eyes meet.”

I founded Sketchmob in London in 2007. Our meetings eventually became a way to keep in touch with architectural clients and friends who’d lost their jobs in the economic crash. We sketch together in great locations and then have a beer (actually, several). To draw, you only need a piece of paper and a pencil, so it‘s easy to resource these big recreational gatherings, which over time mature into rich cultural exchanges as a group identity begins to form.

The growth of urban sketching through programmes like Sketchmob is evidence of new generations ‘discovering’ drawing anew. Stefan is part of the last generation of sketchers who cut their teeth on paper with thick trace and a razor blade for scratching out errors. He has embraced computerisation as a post-digital freehand artist, using photographic underlays as his blank canvas. This is a fascinating aspect of his work.

When you draw, you inhabit the space you are sketching. Through empathy you ‘feel’ and assess the scale, texture, proximity and vistas that pour out of your hand in a physiological circuit linking your mind’s eye to your pen. Drawing is a complex intellectual process that is both an act of cognition and an embodied experience where your hand ‘knows’ the moves it should make to capture momentary abstract glimpses projected from the unconscious to the conscious mind.

The generic, unfeeling quality of computer-generated images is nobody’s fault, especially not the computer’s; the computer cannot feel. Typically we use computer renderings as underlays for drawing on, once they have done the donkey work of setting the views up.

What Stefan’s drawings exemplify is a tension between the ‘knowing’ of a recognisable space and the not knowing of the space being assembled by the imagination. Add to this the sensation of drunken imbalance that accompanies the drawing experience, manifest in the frail exactitude of the human hand.

His extraordinary body of work – including his futuristic animated drawings, in dialogue with photos of Milan by Stefano Gusmeroli – can be found on YouTube, Facebook and his blog: the architecture draftsman.

This interview forms part of our series on The Architecture Drawing Prize: an open drawing competition curated by Make, WAF and Sir John Soane’s Museum to highlight the importance of drawing in architecture. 

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Lessons on future office design from Asia Pacific

By Ken Shuttleworth

I have been travelling through Asia Pacific again this summer, visiting our Hong Kong and Sydney studios and attending a whirlwind of meetings and tours across Hong Kong, China, Singapore and Australia.

It was, as always, fascinating and exciting. Some parts of this region have enormous vision and passion when it comes to their built environment, and you can see why their creative industries are flourishing and why the area attracts such a hotbed of talent.

That thought stayed with me as I spoke at a recent Cushman & Wakefield Insight breakfast in Sydney. It was great to be there – a genuine highlight of the trip. I discussed what we had learned at the British Council for Offices annual conference earlier this year and compared this with the market in Australia. It seems to me there is an interesting synergy between what I gleaned from the BCO and what I saw on my travels – that young talent and creativity are driving the development of the market and attracting more of the same. A cycle of creative demand, resolution and growth.

It’s clear that the ideals and trends of the millennial demographic – blurring the lines between work and home, finding community in new places, protecting our future – are infiltrating the way we design our office spaces, even for the most corporate of firms. The focus is now on flexibility and adaptability, on sustainability, on using technology to enable new methods of working, on community and amenities in the workplace.

London leads the world in many areas of workplace design, but when it comes to ‘agile working’ – a phrase that came up multiple times over the BCO conference and has become a buzzword in UK development circles – Australia is streets ahead of the UK. They put it down to being more ‘direct communicators’ (you can say that again!), but they also employ far greater levels of intelligence monitoring across their buildings.

Back in the day, agile working was known as ‘hot desking’, but technology has evolved (and so too the moniker) to enable this to be far more effective, with building systems in place that can track who is working, understand what they need and allocate space accordingly. This reduces desk numbers, makes the space more efficient and provides flexibility for future growth. Our 5 Broadgate development for UBS is the largest such scheme in London – agile working was a key factor in allowing the company to consolidate its London offices into one. But Australia is stealing a march on this. It’s a trend we should watch. There is a wealth of young, creative talent in that region of the world, and we should be looking and learning.

This idea of observation brings me to my last point: that of Brexit. Yes, all eyes of the world are on us, virtually everyone I met with queried or mentioned Brexit. It seems people are sceptical as to whether withdrawing from the EU is such a good idea. In this ‘local global’ world we live in, everyone has a stake or an investment in the UK, and the uncertainty around Brexit negotiations is having a concerning ripple effect.

In years to come we’ll be looking to our young, creative talents to help us navigate our place in the world. Let’s hope we leave them with the infrastructure to do it – both physically and metaphorically.

Originally posted on EG 14.09.2017

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The role of the concept sketch

Illustrated by the house at 6 Wood Lane

by Mike Russum, Director, Birds Portchmouth Russum Architects

Much has been written about the benefits of hand drawing and our practice has over the years developed a particular way working through drawing. We use hand drawings in many different ways; to evolve projects conceptually and for presentation purposes to inform and delight our clients and other audiences. Some of our drawings are simply for ourselves as a device to reflect on our work and play with ideas.

The concept diagram is the starting point for developing our design approach.  We prepare analytical sketches investigating the parameters and the opportunities of each project. Critically these are not driven by aesthetic preconceptions about achieving an architectural style. The intention instead is to unearth objective clues that can lead to delivering optimal as well as interesting architecture.  Collectively we appraise and debate these initial ideas – a process that transcends into a magical carpet ride, with playful hand-drawn sketches emerging that help further refine the brief, set out strategic solutions and which often trump earlier proposals.

This process leads to a series of concept sketches / diagrams that distil our vision and objectives for the design.  Sometimes we pursue a single ‘ideal or pure’ direction or more commonly a hybrid solution which embraces a number of possibly competing ideas but also address the implications. A robust concept sketch becomes the touchstone for the design development – and it may even become a motif that informs the detailing of the constructed project.

Click to enlarge

This is illustrated in our most recently completed work – the award winning house at 6 Wood Lane. Here the concept sketches were developed initially from analytical investigations into:

  • Elevating living areas above sleeping areas to benefit from views and greater daylight
  • Accommodating off road parking space but reclaiming lost floor area above the cars
  • Optimising sun penetration into this house as well as the neighbours’ houses
  • Considering appropriate construction methods; both in situ and prefabricated

These led to sketches suggesting an orthogonal base to accommodate rectangular beds and the cantilevering elliptical form above for the open plan upper living element. This singular iconic form echoes the individuality of the existing villas that line the southern edge of Wood Lane.  Further sketches considered the cost and fabrication benefits of a traditional orthogonal ground retaining masonry base and the lightweight timber prefabricated barrel vaulted monocoque shell for the extraordinary elliptical living area element above.

These concepts were well established before the outline plans and elevations were developed and became the touchstone for the design development and detail enrichment thereafter.  Indeed the elliptical plan shape has informed many of the elements within the house including the dining and coffee table and an elliptical peep aperture in the boundary fence to the public footpath from the Underground station. A concept can thus vary in its scale throughout any given project giving it, we hope, a sense of cohesiveness , rigour and richness of detail.




This article forms part of our series on The Architecture Drawing Prize: an open drawing competition curated by Make, WAF and Sir John Soane’s Museum to highlight the importance of drawing in architecture. The article originally appeared in The Architectural Review.

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Make Models: An urban rail station

Client Confidential
Scale 1:100
Dimensions 300mm(l) x 50mm(w) x 200mm(h)
Time to make 3 days
Materials White ColorFabb PLA filament, clear ColorFabb XT filament
Model makers Paul Miles and modelshop work experience student Stephen Ward

Ready for transport

We were excited to take part recently in a competition to design an urban rail station in a global city. Whilst we unfortunately didn’t end up winning, we’d still love to share a bit about the model with you.

This 1:100 sectional model was constructed to show how the station’s two raised levels – the walkway and train platform – are positioned over a stretch of busy road. It also demonstrates how planting can be used along the perimeter of both levels, as well as the ground plane. The model, which was completed in three days, had to be small enough for hand luggage and robust enough to survive travelling to the other side of the world, where we presented it to our client.

A great sum of parts

To make the model travel-proof, we decided to 3D-print it, as 3D-printed items tend to be sturdier than acrylic parts. Rather than print it as a single piece though, we split the main body into about 20 smaller components, which meant we could orientate each item to be printed in a direction that would allow for the best surface finish.

We produced the parts overnight on our ten Ultimaker 2 Extended+ printers, using white ColorFabb PLA filament for the main body. The tessellated, gently undulating roof was printed with clear ColorFabb XT filament. The generally high ‘tolerance’, or ability to fit with other components, of 3D-printed parts means we were able to quickly assemble all of the components with minimal finishing needed.

Final touches

Meanwhile, the balustrades and platform doors were laser-cut to achieve a finer level of detail. To give a sense of scale and animation, we printed cars and a train on our Formlabs Form 2 SLA 3D resin printer and sprayed them silver. Finally, we used a mix of different-sized white trees from the London-based model-making shop 4D Modelshop to illustrate the planting possibilities.

#makemodelmonday

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