900 House

Interior design ideas, plans, reviews, tips, tricks and much much more...

‘It didn’t matter if someone liked it or not’: six producing architects revisit their first commission

From a beach coffeehouse to a social housing ziggurat: this is where it all began for Norman Foster, Asif Khan and others

Norman Foster

Amenity core and fare terminal for Fred Olsen, Millwall docks, London, 1969 -7 0
I met Richard Rogers in the early 60 s at Yale School of Architecture in the US, where we were both studying for our master’s. We got on well and compounded pressures to flesh Team 4, with Wendy Cheeseman and her sister Georgie Walton, who was the only registered architect at the house. Wendy and I married and, after four years, we set up Foster Associate in her bedsit. It was 1967: there were no identifies and no projects.

A part-time architecture student worked with us. His father worked for a shipping company in Millwall piers in east London, called Fred Olsen. He knew it was looking to build an amenity centre for its personnel and I got an audience with the dock manager. I was 33.

Norman
Norman Foster at Millwall Docks:’ The dock manager had never met an architect before. He gave me three weeks to be accomplished with a proposal.’ Photograph: Michael Franke/ The Guardian

The facilities at the Port of London were shocking. Olsen was a progressive Norwegian company: it wanted to raise conditions for its employees. I arrived early and explored the site. The dock manager had never met an architect before. He showed me some existing designings. As the conversation went on, I began to raise questions- not just about the building, but about how the entire activity laboured. In the end, he agreed to give me three weeks to come up with a proposal.

Olsen’s ships combined trade with holiday sails, carrying passengers and freight in the same vessel. I experienced that a same programme could be used to bring dock workers and managers together under the same roof. I identified a restricted plan between two sheds on the waterfront. I made the dockers’ amenities on the first floor and places for administrative staff and management on the floor above.

A
A Foster sketch of his 1969 programme, depicted on a lamp-post for photographer Michael Franke

” You can’t introduced foul-mouthed dockers next to secretaries ,” was the immediate response. I had shaken everything up to such an extent that it was suggested I match Fred Olsen himself. I argued that if you want to raise standards in the workplace, you should go beyond providing showers and bathrooms, and start to overcome the ingrained prejudices between management and workforce. He agreed to the project and gave us one year to deliver it.

The building was challenging technologically as well as socially. At the time , no one in the UK had the knowhow to produce a glass wall with high-pitched thermal recital. At my own expense, I flew to Pittsburgh to obtain a start of labor pumps from a company that could build the glass. Inside, we initiated a gaming area on the first floor: there were ping-pong tables and dart committees. Upstairs, Olsen’s prowes collection was on the walls; this was revolutionary for an office building.

The Olsen building was visited by the computer company IBM, which commissioned us to build a temporary head office in Cosham, near Portsmouth. It is now grade II-listed. Today, a concrete wall is all that remains of the Olsen site. Revisiting the place brought back some remarkable remembrances. Olsen actually was a bastion of hope in a desert of industrial strife. Four years ago, my wife organised a bombshell party for my 80 th birthday and I discovered myself stand next to Fred Olsen. He said his only repent was that we didn’t structure more projects together.

I am still do versions of the same thing: improving parishes, whether I am designing for a Swiss hamlet or a disadvantaged parish in Odisha, India, as I am through my foot. That has remained a constant, since that very first commission.

Thomas Heatherwick

Harvey Nichols, London mode week window displays, 1997

Thomas
Thomas Heatherwick with the original supermarket representation, a’ ginormous polystyrene and aeroply arrangement ‘. Photograph: Michael Franke/ The Guardian

I met Terence Conran in my final time at the Royal College of Art, in 1994. He had come to give a talk and decided to buy a piece from my intend degree demonstrate- a gazebo made from birch ply- for his back garden. He then asked me to design an interior display for the Conran Shop, so I made a layered structure from a kilometre of cardboard that exposed hundreds of kitchen items. Mary Portas, who worked for Harvey Nichols at the time, considered it and asked if I could design a window display at the department store for London fashion week 1997. I was 27 and this was my firstly proper public project.

When you think of a window display, you automatically envisage: well, there is a window; what shall I apply behind it? But I’ve always experienced it interesting to try to take a step further back. I supposed perhaps I could do something more engaging, most dynamic. I didn’t want to draw something that was imprisoned behind glass, so focused instead on the masonry between the windows and came up with this ginormous polystyrene and aeroply organization that weaved between the windows and the building.

I presented the idea to Mary, remembering she would say no. Everyone who understood the contrive thought it would be impossible to get the permissions. But Mary was up for it. I soon was revealed that, when you try to do something different, people want to be involved. We then had to find a way of elongating our minuscule budget to get this thing built. There was a team of us working for PS3 an hour( about PS5. 60 today) in a immense studio in east London, including a couple of stone carvers from St Paul’s cathedral and a DJ who stepped past and asked if he could help. It was 1997, so computer-aided pattern wasn’t really available. I must be given to engrave this incredibly complex form into a 1:20 representation that we then scaled up manually, applying gigantic expanses of diagram paper.

I knowledge a slight chill on regard the prototype again after 22 years. It was the first time I had done something so public- and there it was, suspended above people’s fronts on Knightsbridge. I was anxious, but in a good way: you should be scared, you should be worried. It was a great success, thank goodness- it won a D& AD[ Design and Art Direction] give that time. I recollect sitting on a bus like to hear beings wonder what it was about. For me, it didn’t matter when a person is would prefer it or not. It built the street more vivid and engaging.

Today, the authorities have 200 beings is currently working on my studio; we don’t improve things ourselves any more, but we still try to inspire curiosity in the public. The Harvey Nichols window display took a year from mind to installation. Right now, we are designing a brand-new terminal at Changi airport in Singapore that are able to take 10 years to complete. It involves billions of pounds of construction work and will endure for decades; but I feel the same strong sense of duty to the people who will experience it.

My first public commissioning instruct me the quality of just remaining guessing, like a long-distance runner. It is easy for special things not to happen, but, sometimes, some of them do. And in order for them to happen, it was necessary to introduced everything of yourself into them.

Kate Macintosh

Dawson’s Heights, Dulwich, London, 1972

Architect
Kate Macintosh at Dawson’s Heights:’ Getting started felt exhilarating and terrifying.’ Photograph: Michael Franke/ The Guardian

My father indicated I study architecture, which was a somewhat advanced stance for a soldier of his generation. After the second world war, he manager ministries and departments in a Scottish house organisation; he was committed to providing decent dwelling for everybody, a notion we shared.

I studied at Edinburgh School of Art from 1955 to 1961. I remember a lecturer taking me to one side and saying:” Young maids are not atrociously practical. Have you thought of doing something like interior design ?” I am a stubborn person and I remembered: I’ll murderou evidence you. Thereafter, I paid particular attention to how my propositions would be built.

After graduation, I acted abroad – first in Poland, then in various designers’ agencies in Sweden, Denmark and Finland. The whole feeling in Europe was one of optimism. When I came back, I have a job with Denys Lasdun, working on the National Theatre. After about a year, I appreciated that this huge project was going to take ages to get on site. I was the most junior member of the team and I are essential in order to get my boots grimy, sharpish, and take on a commission of my own.

A lot of female architects start by doing private mansions, but I heard it as much more challenging to design a community. I met there was huge pressure on London’s boroughs to provide house. In 1965, at the age of 27, I took a responsibility in the department of structure and scheduling at Southwark council and, to my prodigiou good fortune, I was immediately presented with this prodigious place in Dulwich: Dawson’s Hill.

There was a slightly tumultuous meeting where we had to present our strategies. There was one architect from Hong Kong who was proposing four tower blocks and another who was proposing a high-density, low-rise scheme. My design was two overwhelmed ziggurats. This was a response to the specific characteristics of the area- the stupendous positions to north and south and the extremely unstable ground ailments. At the boundaries, the ziggurats sink from their peak height of 12 storeys to four, reflecting the surrounding proportion of suburban villas.

Getting started felt exhilarating and scaring. When you are young, you feel you can take on the world. The house administrator of Southwark drew up the summary, but as far as I was concerned my purchasers were the person or persons on Southwark’s housing list: those in most urgent need of homes.

I designed a structure that enabled one-, two- and three-bedroom dwellings to share the same access. My theory was that a mix of different family sizes, living next door to one another, would have been able to more capacity to help each other out with babysitting or patronizing. All of the 296 maisonettes have a private balcony; in a number of cases, two. On site, I recollect practically losing a boot in the sticky London clay: a clerk of studies had to heave me out.

Today, there still seems to be a good community feel there. The residences are 30% leaseholder-owned and I would like it to stay at that grade. The center room remains car-free and it still feels very safe. I’ve been told by tenants that children from the circumventing field come there to play.

Dawson’s Heights is still the largest improving I’ve designed. It concluded in the mid-7 0s, before the introduction of right-to-buy. After 1979, local authorities were deprived of funding, including a restriction on their right to raise rents; this led to poor maintenance by Southwark during the 80 s. It is now owned by a large housing association, Southern Housing Group, which invests in its maintenance. Looking back, I feel immensely grateful that my vocation covered what was a golden age for the public sector.

Asif Khan

West Beach cafe, Littlehampton, 2008

Architect
Asif Khan at West Beach cafe:’ I take my minors there every year.’ Photograph: Michael Franke/ The Guardian

In my final year at architecture school, I accomplished a self-funded project in Brazil- a canopy paraphernalium I had designed and installed in a favela outside Recife- and was invited to give a short presentation about it at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. I introduced a lot of energy into that six-minute talk, because I was still a student and I was presenting alongside professionals. I felt: this might be my big break.

Afterwards, I got an email from person in the gathering who told me I must speak to Jane Wood, a property developer in Littlehampton, West Sussex. It was 2007 and she had just commissioned Thomas Heatherwick, a rising star, to design a cafe on the site of a fish and chipping kiosk on the seafront , now known as East Beach cafe. She was creating a real buzz about the town.

Jane and I emailed back and forth for a year; during that time, I became a father. It obliged me feel that anything was possible. When Heatherwick’s coffeehouse was nearing completion, Jane invited me to look at a brand-new place on the neighbouring west beach. She picked me up from the station wearing big sunglasses and driving a white-hot van full of cater paraphernalium. I had this idea that we were about to arrive at a remarkable location on an unspoilt beach backed by dunes. When I went out of the van, my dreams fell into a loophole. It was a grey, windy period and in front of me was a brick burger kiosk that hadn’t been used for six months. Jane said she wanted to replace it with something simple, like a beach shanty or a cabin that served fish and microchips and local ice-cream. I did some rapid growing up in those 30 minutes.

I went back with new ideas for a structure that opens up to take in the climate and closes down when states are hostile. I made portraits of agricultural organizations, doll’s houses, sash windows and the emblazon blue.

The day before the cafe opened, we set a dawn carve I had designed. Jane examined it and said:” It’s not right for this place. You can do this in Clerkenwell, but not in Littlehampton .” I was so upset, but it taught me one of the biggest readings of my career: shared responsibility you have to the people of a place.

After West Beach cafe, the financial crisis hit. I had to start again- to get out there and exhibit study, to look for opportunities and, where there weren’t any, to create them. I took on various fees to design experimental pavilions in Singapore, Russia and South Korea. That enabled me to grow the studio. Today, we are working on projections across the world: designing the new Museum of London; converting a Soviet cinema in Almaty, Kazakhstan, into a centre for contemporary culture; and intention 6.5 km of going directions and roads for Expo 2020 in Dubai. I want to keep this wander, so we are continually forced to rethink what is best for a plaza. I’ve attached myself to these residences just as I did in Littlehampton, where I take my kids each year: the coffeehouse continues unabated and it feels like home.

Mary Duggan

King’s Grove, Peckham, London, 2008

Architect
Mary Duggan at King’s Grove:’ I affection that it was a hidden space with a sense of history.’ Photograph: Michael Franke/ The Guardian

This was the first house by Duggan Morris Architects, work practices I founded in 2004, when I was 33, with my then spouse, Joe Morris. I had worked for Gollifer Langston Architects for five years, overseeing the build of seven institutions across north London, but you are never really in complete control of a pattern when you are working for a practice. I was determined to be independent, as was Joe.

Before King’s Grove, Joe and I had renewed three houses and managed to accrue enough coin to invest in this project- something most inventors simply wouldn’t be able to do now.( Our first property rate merely PS60, 000.) We were friends with an designer who had bought a small plot and got a planning application for it, but then decided he didn’t want to develop the site. He sold it to us for PS125, 000 and we self-assured a self-build mortgage. It was an interesting site reached via a long lane and sliced between 10 terraced back gardens. The previous build- a plaster mould workshop- had been bulldozed. Initially, it would have been a Victorian laundry or milk parlour. I enjoyed that it was a hidden space with a sense of history.

Most designers have an idea of what their own residence will look like. I was no different: a light-pink fairytale building surrounded by beautiful gardens. But from our first stay, I realised this wasn’t the place for that. I required the house to retain the examination and feel of the site. It was surrounded by brick walls and consumed by vegetation, so we designed a house in a same brick. I’ve learned to cartel those first instincts.

The design process was quite easy, because we knew what we wanted; after all, we were also ” the customers “. I think this aspect of the project has had the greatest resonance in my precede career: the fact that I was also the investor, the risk-taker, the brief-writer and, ultimately, the decision-maker. As such, I am now enabled to empathise with clients.

We designed the seat with two supposes in brain: lives in it as a generous two-bed and, down the line, to develop it for sale, or convert it if we wanted to expand our clas.( Our daughter was born in the house .) We used inexpensive brick and spent a bit more money on joinery. The kitchen, which fits into a niche in the wall, is made from oak and stainless steel. There is a roof light in the centre of the house, while the figurehead and back doors open up to a south-facing courtyard and a north-facing terrace.

When Joe and I separated in 2016, Duggan Morris demerged and we had to sell the house. A friend bought it and extended an invitation over several times, but I made up apologies. I exactly didn’t want to go back. Then the house was sold again, to a purchaser, who commissioned me in late 2018 to blueprint a studio in the plot. Of course, I had to go back, even if they are I knew the room intimately.

It wasn’t easy because, under different circumstances, I would still be living in King’s Grove. In fact, I might be building an extension for myself now. But it was great to see it in really good condition. It is the sort of house in which the details don’t tire, because it’s made from very honest cloths: brick, glass and oak. I went this strong sense that I had designed something that have been able to stand the test of time.

David Chipperfield

Private residence , Richmond, London, 1990

Architect
David Chipperfield at the dwelling of photographer Nick Knight:’ The whole street lobbied against it, writing to Prince Charles to try to have it stopped.’ Photograph: Michael Franke/ The Guardian

In 1990, when I was in my mid-3 0s and still quite inexperienced, I was approached by the fashion photographer Nick Knight and his wife, Charlotte, to expand their London home. They is now in a postwar home that Nick’s father had built. Nick missed a studio upstairs and more cavity for his young family. At the time, I had a small office of four or five people and we were working with the designer Issey Miyake on a number of store interiors in Japan. This was my firstly building.

I was elicited about everything I was seeing in Japan at the time: they tend to treat the garden-variety as part of the house. Most of Nick’s neighbours wasted a lot of money on their facades; we did the opposite. We concentrated on how the house and garden could connect. We made a large concrete chassis that extended out from the side of the house, which had the consequences of the partly enclosing a courtyard garden. It too meant that the reces of the living room could be opened up, without a supporting editorial, framing a position into the garden, creating an outside cavity that may seem like an indoor one.

We discontinued up with a fight on our hands. The whole street lobbied against it, writing to Prince Charles to try to have it stopped. The people across the road saved their screens drawn for a couple of years in rally. It was an introduction to conservative English taste, which was quite shocking. It wasn’t that the house was too big; it was that the front didn’t look like the other rooms in the street. That was the worst part of the process for me. Once we started to build, it was easy by comparison.

Designing and build lives for parties is a delicate process, which is why I merely take on one or two at a time. Success depends much needed on how you develop a practice of being personal and professional: that relationship is critical.

This was the first time I had a center theme to my work- the idea of creating an expansive scene in a suburban street- and it is a strategy I’ve lived by since. The residence has been part of Nick and Charlotte’s life for 30 times and I think it has helped them formulate a work-life balance. Nick’s work is incredibly intense and demanding, yet he is dedicated to his family. I like to think the house has played a role.

* If you would like a comment on this section to be considered for inclusion on Weekend magazine’s words page in magazine, please email weekend @theguardian. com, including your name and address( not for book ).

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

900 House © 2017 - Interior design ideas, plans, reviews, tips, tricks and much much more...