4 London Architects talk us through their Favourite Design Projects
London is a city that many look to as a source of inspiration for innovative design and unique ideas. From the architects behind the geometric masterpieces that make up the city skyline to the graffiti artists who have left their mark on the alleys of Shoreditch, London is a hub for some of the world’s most creative thinkers. To get some insight into what goes on inside those creative minds, we spoke to some of London’s top designers about their favourite design projects.
Simon Mitchell and Torquil McIntosh, The Sybarite
A sybarite refers to a person with a fondness for luxury and indulgence, which is exactly what The Sybarite Architects Design Studio is all about. Sybarite co-founders Torquil McIntosh and Simon Mitchell describe themselves as being polar opposites in their aesthetic and styles, but explain that this juxtaposition makes their approach unique and complementary.
With over 600 projects across the world and longstanding clients—some of whom they have worked with for over 13 years—it was difficult for the duo to choose their favourite project in London. But in the end, they decided it had to be Japanese soba noodle restaurant, Yen.
“They wanted a space that respected Japanese materiality, design cues and construction techniques with a clean, contemporary feel to reflect the food and its London locale. We used Japanese bamboo forests as our inspiration. In contrast to the geometry of the wood is the delicacy of paper used for the Japanese-inspired Goutenjou (coffered) ceiling and the metallic hand-painted wallpaper in the private dining room,” they explain.
The real showstopper at Yen wasn’t actually part of the original brief. “We added a floating timber staircase that connects the entrance to the main dining floor below. At the base of the stairs, a white cobbled garden feature includes a 6-metre tall bamboo sculptural centrepiece allowing diners to step off the busy street into an all-encompassing Japanese experience."
Nathalie Rozencwajg, NAME Architecture
NAME Architecture is an international architectural practice founded by award-winning architect Nathalie Rozencwajg. Born in Luxembourg, raised in Brussels, and having spent years studying and working in London, Paris, Beijing, Athens, and Mecca, Rozencwaig’s keen eye and use of advanced modes of design and production has helped her become a leader in the design world. Named one of The Guardian’s “10 Women in Architecture to Watch”, Rozencwajg is also a lecturer and an outspoken voice on issues facing women in architecture.
“Every space has a story and a soul,” says Rozencwaig. She tells us that her favourite local project to date is The Town Hall Hotel. A Grade-II listed building, the former town hall in Hackney was constructed in 1910 and has since been turned into a luxury hotel. “I loved working with an existing listed building and creating a dialogue by designing its very contemporary extension—a landmark of contemporary London architecture,” she adds.
The challenge that her team faced involved seamlessly bringing together two different eras whilst still respecting the key features of each. “There is a clear distinction, but also a dialogue between Old and New--this is a feature of our unique touch. Taking inspiration from existing features, we reinterpreted them in a contemporary design. For example, existing art-deco ventilation grills became the basis of a pattern book that developed into cladding materials, radiator encasings or new ventilation outlets. We elegantly blended existing spaces with new insertions by using a similar range of materials and details but designed in a contemporary way."
Alex Michaelis, Michaelis Boyd
Though he made headlines designing a subterranean home for his family in Notting Hill, Alex Michaelis is largely known as a champion of sustainable architecture and green living. Along with founding partner Tim Boyd, Alex runs the architecture firm Michaelis Boyd, which pushes the boundary to create playful designs that are full of character. Together with their team of experts, they have transformed a London church into the critically acclaimed Cantonese restaurant Duddell’s, and turned a derelict farm into celebrity hotspot hotel Soho Farmhouse.
When asked about some recent standout projects in the capital, he mentions Andrew Wong’s new restaurant Kym’s in the Bloomberg Arcade “The brief for Kym’s was to create a vibrant and timeless space inspired by traditional Chinese motifs reinterpreted in a contemporary way, reflecting the restaurant’s modern setting and Chef Wong’s creative culinary flair. A semi-circular sunken bar is covered in reclaimed turquoise roof tiles and positioned beneath a cherry blossom tree. The copper bar top reflects the weeping pink blossom overhead,” describes Michaelis.
Another noteworthy venture for the firm was Mexican taqueria Casa Pastor at Coal Drops Yard in King’s Cross. “For Casa Pastor, it was important to pay homage to the vibrancy of Mexico, incorporating powerful architectural and design elements to create truly authentic dining experiences. The restaurant features five-metre high ceilings, eye-catching antique patterned cement tiles, Mexican murals and motifs, and custom-designed hanging basket lighting: a nod to Mexican woven basket lights."
Benni Allan, EBBA Architects
Born and raised in Spain, London-based director of EBBA ARCHITECTS, Benni Allan, is no stranger to using innovative techniques and a collaborative approach when it comes to his projects. “Within the studio, we are continually trying to find new [methods] of using materials in unique ways. We seek processes and finishes that can react to different qualities of light and forms by providing visual interest within the economy of means available. When a budget is somewhat restricted, we try to think of how we can introduce small details and features that will enhance the overall quality of the space… Regardless of the size and budget, we are always interested in trying to find the essence of what the project wants to be.” he explains.
Allan’s skills were put to the test last summer with a project in Deptford called Stockton, which entailed turning a relaxed coffee shop into a cocktail bar come nightfall. Allan tells us about how they used the existing stone floor as a palette of inspiration, how they experimented with ancient Indian and Chinese plaster, and how they purposely left the steel tables bare in order to feature the workmanship of local metalworkers.
“From the start we understood the project as part of a long process, that would develop over time as it was used and occupied. It’s interesting to see how people have become more interested in spaces that have a raw and rich material quality that they can engage with, touch, and sense the processes involved in the making of them. Even more significantly, the reason we enjoy the project so much is the energy that the bar has brought to Deptford, and that's all down to the motivation of the client.”
Words by Ina Yulo
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