To learn more about Chris' journey and WilkinsonEyre, visit the website HERE
I studied architecture first at the University of Nottingham and then the Royal College of Art, since then whilst I am principally an Architect I have expanded my skills through further training, qualifying as a Chartered Town Planner and studying Urban Design.
Currently, I am the Director of Mæ, which I set up in 2001 following qualification as an architect, but I am also a Diploma tutor at London Metropolitan University School of Architecture and actively involved in civic society through built environment policy work as a Mayor’s Design Advocate but in the past previously at CABE. I am also a housing developer and founder of MyHouse, a custom build developer.
In terms of how I got into the field, I always think back to times as a child when I’d sketch my neighbour's houses. One neighbour was an artist and bought me a book on perspective and it opened my eyes to the spatial dimension of architecture. I often think back to this as my career has developed, I’ve always drawn parallels between designing a city or an individual room finding common ground in spatial character at all scales.
Whilst studying I became engaged with the social and environmental concerns of architecture and these have been a central priority for Mæ through our work designing public housing and social infrastructure. Cities and neighbourhoods are about bringing people together, and I’m interested in how they can be inclusive, generous, promote equity and sustain life. Buildings can also deliver on these goals.
Architecture is a wonderfully diverse career, every day is different. One day I can be developing ideas about –and discussing– the expression, choice of materials and technical resolution of our buildings; the next the social demands of mixed-use places; the next how to solve the climate crisis or equally I might be thinking about the shape of a good business; approaches to successful collaboration or how to best to engage the communities we design for. I learn from history at the same time as thinking of the future.
Two of the major projects the team and I have worked on in the last few years are Brentford Lock West Phase II and Regent’s Park Housing.
‘RIBA National Award-winning Brentford Lock West Phase II’ - photography by Tim Crocker
Brentford Lock West is a large regeneration project on a former industrial site. The phase we worked on added 157 homes to the distinctive mixed-use masterplan, setting a new standard for quality housing within Brentford in west London.
Reflecting the site’s industrial past, we used distinctive saw-tooth roofs to mark the corners of the site while bringing light into upper floor homes. A simple, yet robust attitude was given to detailing; alongside an earthy materials palette to complement the historic setting.
Regent's Park Housing was a smaller scheme, providing 21 homes for Camden Council. Here we were able to utilise two small sites within an existing Regent’s Park Estate for the re-housing of residents whose homes were due for demolition in advance of HS2 works.
In this interview,
Alex Ely spoke more about his journey into architecture with Melissa Woolford, Founder and Director of MoA:
To find out more about their projects, visit Mae's website HERE
I have always been interested in the practical application of creative thinking as a way of solving real life situations. For as long as I can remember, my curiosity towards the arts has been constantly expanding. I grew up seeing my Mum work on so many interesting and creative projects at home, and I remember how passionate she was about them. She was the one who inspired me to have an appreciation and curiosity for the arts.
Throughout my childhood, I spent a lot of time going to after school clubs for something new and creative, because the one-hour art classes I had during the week at school were never enough. My weekends and school holidays were spent making doll houses out of cardboard boxes, because I was never happy with the ones from the stores. I remember breaking a few doll houses over the years trying to “renovate” them. I found great joy making these makeshift houses during my free time. I could easily spend hours cutting, gluing, and painting all these cardboard pieces. Despite the huge mess I would constantly make, my parents were always so supportive of my creativity.
I spent a few years studying abroad in Bangladesh in an English medium school where I attained the country’s highest mark in the GCE O-Level Art and Design examination. This was a pivotal moment for me, as it gave me the motivation and confidence to consider a career in architecture. A big part of why I went into architecture was when I realised the poverty and economic inequality in Bangladesh was most noticeable to me in the architecture. It made me realise how the practical application of creative thinking through architecture could possibly help improve the lives of so many people there.
My architectural training at the University of Westminster was great, and I was very passionate about the projects I worked on at university. These projects allowed me to gain valuable insights on social, political, and environmental issues and how they could potentially be tackled through architectural interventions. My ultimate objective was to have the ability to create positive change, on any scale. After university, my confidence in architects’ ability to build a better future only heightened.
Working at ArchitectureDoingPlace with principal architect David Ogunmuyiwa has made a huge difference for me. A British Nigerian architect, David is aware of the challenges many emerging creatives face today and he has actively expanded opportunities and collaborates with people who represent all of London’s backgrounds.
A true representation of how diverse the built environment industry is so important for the young persons of colours who are passionate about starting a career in the field and also those who are already in the industry. For me personally, I suffered from imposter syndrome very early on in my career, simply because I did not think I belonged in the industry. I was not exposed to many POC architects, and so I genuinely did not know about them.
Working for David has exposed and connected me to so many people from marginalised communities within the industry. I understand the importance of a community for an individual, but even more so for a POC in an industry like architecture and the built environment.
Last summer in the midst of the pandemic, I cofounded an initiative with Rim Kalsoum and Zahra Mansoor, called Muslim Women in Architecture (MWA). The co-founders and I met at the University of Westminster, and after years of talking about how there is a lack of representation in the industry, this initiative was formed. We created our own space to celebrate Muslim women who are currently in the architecture industry, in hopes to inspire others, but also provide these women a safe space to open up. MWA kicked off with a series of online events for London Festival of Architecture (LFA) 2020, on the theme of safe spaces. The response was incredible, and our online community has been growing very quickly. We had Muslim women joining our events from the UAE, Pakistan, Lebanon, South Africa, Canada, and America. We unpacked a lot through these events, and have had some fruitful discussions as a result.
MWA has many more interesting events and collaborative work lined up for the months to come. I hope MWA continues to grow this incredible online community we have formed, that actively expands opportunities and connects people within the architecture industry. Ultimately, I hope MWA has the ability to inspire more young women to realise why they should go into architecture one day.
Muslim Women in Architecture (MWA)
This Space is Ours - London Festival of Architecture 2020
You can find out more about ArchitectureDoingPlace by visiting their website here.
From Richard Holland ARB RIBA RIAI:
There was no epiphany, just a wonderful, meandering journey. It was people, not buildings, who inspired me, and I was fortunate to meet some amazing individuals along the way; in particular Edwin Rowse, who gave me my first job in Toronto, and Christophe Egret whose mentorship built up my confidence as a designer. But mostly my ex-classmate and now business partner Jonathan Harvey who convinced me to risk it all and start our amazing studio, Holland Harvey.
From Jonathan Harvey ARB RIBA RIAI:
I was drawn to architecture from before I can remember. My earliest memory, aged 10, was at an open day for my prospective secondary school where I saw an architectural model on display produced by a student - I was captivated! Since then, it has shaped every decision I have made, studying at Sheffield where Holland Harvey was conceived, before moving to London to complete my studies at the Bartlett. I think I was always enticed by the chance to be creative and socially focused, whilst also entrepreneurial, that really attracted me to the profession.
Our practice was borne out of a mutual respect for each other’s work, and an alignment of our values. We were both interested in how architecture could have a social impact, and in fact an early iteration of our practice was an organisation seeking to match architects with third sector clients, to pledge 1% of their annual billable hours to good causes - we recently trialled this within our own company, designing and delivering a homeless shelter for charity Shelter from the Storm.
As Holland Harvey we are constantly aware of our place in society, and seeking ways to have a positive impact either through supporting social enterprises or via educational programmes at local schools, or the University of the Creative Arts.
As a studio, our work is heavily focused on hospitality and we enjoy that it is so publicly accessible. It quite often forms the backdrop for people’s experiences of the city – meeting friends, family events, nights outs – our work becomes the setting to their memories and hopefully leaves a positive, lasting impression. Our private work is equally as intimate – asking somebody to invest their life savings in your ideas is a responsibility we take very seriously and it is wonderful to think of families growing up in the spaces that were once scribbles in a sketchpad!
These are the themes that fascinate and motivate our whole team and we hope that our work communicates these values.
You can find out more about Richard and Jonathan's work on their website here.
For most of my early childhood I had no awareness of architecture as a formal construct. I was one of six children with academic parents, so at that time my only sense of ‘art’ was a cluster of curvy red blobs adorning the cover of countless books titled - Haemoglobin. However, it was their love for movies that would give me my earliest creative influence; mid-century cinema.
As early as age 12 I had developed an obsession with space. I would constantly rearrange my room in an effort to either avoid the sunlight or bask in it at different times of the year. In hindsight these were my earliest explorations of space and light.
In high school I delved deep into painting and art history. Once I discovered Rembrandt and later Edward Hopper, I started to make the connections between my personal spatial explorations and different artistic expressions. I could see links everywhere; I was fascinated by their relationships to each other. From Rembrandt’s influence on The Godfather to Mondrian and Yves Saint Laurent. It became an obsession.
Choosing to study architecture was easy. I knew I would get bored if I had stuck with my plans to go to law school and I did not have the confidence to attempt a career in any of the arts at that time. So, when I discovered architecture as a programme, it naively felt like the easiest fit for me. In the first few weeks of architecture school, I stumbled upon a large black book with the inscription: PIANO. As I quickly realised that it was not a music catalogue, I had paged into it and came across a curved timber structure on the coast of New Caledonia that succinctly defined notions of space and light that resonated deeply with me. I felt a strong sense of affirmation and on the right path.
I completed my Master of Architecture at the University of Cape Town and worked for SAOTA, a bespoke firm that designs high end houses all over the world. My focus was always on large spaces in the public realm that served many people and I was lucky to be part of the team that put together one of their first large buildings, Kingstower in Lagos. About two years later I joined dhk Architects and quickly rose to the helm of my own design team where our focus was on creating spatial dynamics that find references in different forms of art and culture. In six years I had led two award-winning projects that were heavily inspired by art and film influences (Sable Park office complex and Axis apartment block). I have always been fascinated by how people engage in the public realm and how the spaces we create govern the way we interact and celebrate our diversity. In 2019, I relocated to London to work for David Adjaye, entering an interesting world of cultural spaces.
Throughout my career, I had always wanted to start a publication that celebrates the relationship between the three art forms that have governed my life. In 2015 I founded BeFront Magazine which is a platform that explores classic and contemporary cultures in art, architecture and film.
Henry spoke more about his journey with Melissa Woolford, Founder and Director of MoA
It was only really when I went to architecture school that I realised how much I was interested in how buildings and spaces worked together and how people can be encouraged to use them, to feel safe, to interact and to have fun as a result of the choices that designers and others make in the design and in how they are managed. I really enjoyed the real world projects on actual sites and sometimes working with existing communities to make better places. I loved how we could work together to plan change, to organise groups and to hear such a broad range of people involved in the built environment in one way or another.
After an interesting year out in a practice in Bristol where I worked on historic buildings I decided that for my part 2 I was interested in pursuing masterplanning and urban design (neither of which were part of my course to any extent) and with a couple of fellow students we went through the relevant books in the university library, examined real places and developed a regeneration masterplan for a part of Plymouth, including a town centre, that had been annexed after the war to form part of the dockyard. The three of us each designed a specific building, mine was a library, and worked collaboratively on a masterplan using the books and our real world investigations to guide us. I am not sure that the university quite knew what to make of it and whilst it might seem very much like something out of my day to day life now it wasn’t what people normally presented for their thesis project on that architecture course then. However, it was well received and we were nominated by the school for the RIBA Silver medal.
With this now developing interest in urban design I wondered if anyone would give me a job doing such things and I managed to get an interview with a practice in London called Tibbalds Monro. I presented the collaborative masterplan pointing out which of the drawings done by the three of us were mine even though it was quite hard to tell them apart and I was offered a job. That was in 1996 and I am now approaching my 24th year at ‘Tibbalds’ and am still as excited and fascinated by how we make places and how what we do benefits people as ever. I love working with communities, designers, planners, specialists, making a difference and shaping the environment for public good. Roll on the next 24 years!
Bourne Estate, Camden. Other project team members: Matthew Lloyd Architects, Campbell Reith, Dally Henderson, TEP for LB Camden
Manydown Garden Town Masterplan, Hampshire. Other project team members: TEP, Systra, Campbell Reith CGMS
Leales Yard SPD, Guernsey. Other project team members: Aspinal Verdi, BBUK, Expedition engineering and Momentum for Development and Planning Authority States of Guernsey
To find out more about Tibbalds, visit their website HERE
which prompted me to order a Richard Rogers monograph, opening my eyes to the world of modern architecture.
The book also featured Creek Vean in Cornwall, a house designed by Team Four for Su Brumwell’s parents (Richard Rogers’ then in-laws). I wrote to the owners asking if I could visit to write an essay on the design for my Duke of Edinburgh Award. Amazingly they said yes, and I remember being blown away by the spatial arrangements, daylight and sequence of spaces. The visit cemented for me that I could marry my love for design and technology in architecture.
I studied architecture at the University of Bath which combined architecture and engineering for the first year. I found it so exciting to be able to focus all my efforts into something I was passionate about.
After spending a decade each at Foster & Partners and Make, I knew I wanted to create my own model for architecture practice. Inspired by other creative industries, I set up Fathom as a core team of talented architects working with a collaborative network of specialists which push the boundaries of traditional design disciplines.
Justin's interview by Melissa Woolford, Founder and Director of MoA
I grew up surrounded by drawing and painting materials and old cameras. My father had been a draftsperson in Wiltshire, where he grew up. He went on to study Town Planning, and he was also a keen photographer. I filled much of my time as a child with drawing, painting and eventually photography. Those early years were also spent in a house under renovation. Watching our family home being stripped back to its guts, and then being reconfigured, was my first exposure to the idea of architecture.
Witnessing the impact of mental illness within my own family as a young person also started me thinking about the importance of the built environment to human beings: it forms the backdrop to our lives, it’s where we make our memories, build our dreams. I was fascinated by the human mind and its interaction with the built environment, and wanted to be part of the process of making it better and of creating special moments for people.
In parallel, a fascination with maths led me to begin my studies in architectural engineering at Westminster and began my working life in structural engineering, doing calculations on art-based projects and house renovations. This was how I spent much of my Part 1 experience. I am still fascinated by geometry and the interface of architecture and engineering, and this skill set still informs my work as a designer.
At the same time I had a growing love of the camera, exploring cities and looking at the world through a lens. I volunteered as a photographer with local theatre companies and through this discovered the world of site-specific theatre, in which performance and the city intersect. A common theme of the two is narrative. I went on to do my Part 2 at the Architectural Association (AA) in Pascal Schoning’s Cinematic Architecture unit. There I studied filmmakers such as Antonioni, Tarkovsky, Kieślowski, Chris Marker, as well as contemporary figures doing interesting things with film such as Bjork. I began to explore narrative and the human experience of cities and architecture in moving images.
At Studio Aki, we do small scale community and installation projects with sister organisation theatre collective Appropri8, as well as residential projects. These are opportunities to work in detail with materials and incredible crafts people, such as Roles Broderick, with whom we worked on ‘The Green House’. Working on such a range of projects has been exhilarating and has exposed me to the incredible range and scope of architecture practice.
The strand which continues to unify my practice is around film, narrative and performance. I have subsequently trained as an actor at Central St Martins, Drama Centre and have worked with female led theatre companies, exploring women’s experiences of the city and conflict zones in film and as a performer. Today I make films as a way of exploring, and researching the built environment and the issues around it, and use theatre and performance as ways of articulating the human stories found in cities. This aspect of people focused, narrative driven work, informs my practice and is the core of what I do today.
More recently I have become involved in activism and advocacy around the practice of architecture, again using my tools as a filmmaker.
This has taken me on an international journey. In 2017 I filmed and directed She Draws: She Builds, which explores 15 women’s lives as architects. My current project is XXAOC (female architects of colour), which includes a film that I set out to make because their, and our, voices are often missing from the conversation around contemporary architecture and from architectural histories. Filmed largely at the Roca Gallery, London, the journey of making this film has been incredible. It started out as a call out to the Twittersphere, asking ‘Whose Stories should I be telling?’ The response was amazing and has led to finding out about many historical figures I had not known existed and then the privilege of interviewing people such as Elsie Owusu and Dr Sharon Egretta Sutton, only the 12th African American Woman to register as an architect in the US, and the first to become a full professor of Architecture in America. The intention for the wider XXAOC project is that it become an online resource for anyone interested in the topic.
This is not a journey I intended to start out on but the slow realisation of the lack of equity in accessing the profession has made me want to engage in the conversation about why and find ways to improve it. It was a shock to look around one day and realise that I was surrounded by so few others who looked like me. This is something which must change.
The Hundred Trail
Collaboration with Tyler Hayhurst. Shortlisted for the Becontree Corner Plots competition by RIBA
XXAOC - female architects of colour
Sarah's recent project on finding and telling the stories of female architects of colour.
a realisation of how architecture can have a positive impact on society. I think this realisation in the first few years of studying is something that has really stuck with me to this day.
Graduating following my Part I studies into a recession was a challenging experience and I started looking at alternative careers as it had been a number of months without a successful job application. This included an eye-opening interview with the army at Cardiff barracks which re-energised me to look for employment at an architecture company. Shortly after I received a call and a job offer from Archadia and jumped at the chance.
I had found a really good fit in Archadia; a practice that focuses on the end user and adds social value to its schemes. I really enjoyed my Part I there and was delighted when they made me an offer to come back after my Part II studies. The Part II course at Cardiff is a year long and this time flew by so before I knew it I was back in London in practice working towards the Part III.
Once I had started the journey to become an architect I was determined to complete my studies and gain the experience to become fully qualified. The biggest feeling on completing the Part III interview was relief and a real sense of achievement. After seven years of studying I was enjoying the day to day life of the practice which was becoming increasingly interesting due to the way in which the practice was taking shape at that time.
After becoming an architect, I haven’t looked back and couldn’t recommend anything more enjoyable than the daily rollercoaster of being an architect! There have been numerous changes at the practice and on becoming a Director 5 years ago this has thrust me into a different world of the business side of architecture which is really enjoyable. The latest chapter is a merger with Oxford based Architecture, Town Planning & Urban Design Practice, West Waddy. The merger has just gone through as I write this and I am now looking forward to an exciting new challenge with WWA!
To use a cliché everyday is different and presents a new challenge with new problems to solve and I think this variety is the most interesting aspect of the job and is what keeps me continuing on my architectural journey.
Castlemaine Court is a new-build scheme of one and two-bed flats providing multi-generational affordable housing.
Progress Mews with Kingston Churches Housing Association
Each dwelling has been designed to London Design Guide standards and HCA Housing Quality Indicators.
In this interview, Mark spoke about positive impact of architecture and his journey into architecture.
Interviewed by Melissa Woolford, Founder and Director of MoA, recorded 2020.
You can find out more about WWA's work by visiting their website HERE.
Stories & Inspirations
MoA invited architects to talk about their stories and inspirations in their journey into architecture.