Our guest this week is the architect Kirsten Lees, Managing Partner at Grimshaw Architects.
Kirsten was elected as the London studio’s first female Managing Partner in May 2018. In a somewhat unique arrangement Grimshaw’s Managing Partner is elected by the studio’s nine Partners for a three year term, renewable once, helping to balance renewal and stability in the practice’s senior leadership.
Kirsten was born in Scotland and studied architecture at the University of Glasgow before taking a year out to work in Spain. She later worked for the Practice Bach y Mora Arquitectos before returning to the UK to work for Michael Wilford and Associates, and then going on to join Grimshaw in 1997.
Grimshaw was founded in 1980 by Sir Nicholas Grimshaw and the practice has gone on to build a huge range of iconic buildings including the Eden Project, the National Space centre in Leicester and the former Eurostar Terminal at Waterloo in London. Indeed the practice maintains a strong reputation for its legacy of transport and infrastructure buildings.
As well as her Managing Partner role, Kirsten continues to work on a number of projects across the arts, sports and masterplanning – areas of work the practice are keen to expand on.
The practice has undergone a huge internationalisation – with projects and offices in New York, Doha, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Melbourne, Sydney and of course in London.
Our guest this week is the architect Jonathan Darke.
Jonathan was born to British Parents in Pennsylvania in the USA. His father’s work as a Civil Engineer led him and the family to move extensively throughout his childhood, living amongst other places in Iran and Pakistan.
Later, back in the UK, Jonathan studied architecture at the University of Brighton and then at London Metropolitan University.
During his 18 years at the practice he went on to become Managing Partner, before the then 25-strong practice merged in 2004 with the architecture practice TP Bennett to become their health and education team.
TP Bennett was founded in 1921 by Sir Thomas Bennett and is now one of the ten largest architecture practices in the UK. Sir Thomas rose to prominence for his work on the New Towns of Crawley and Stevenage, and later the vast Grade II listed Smithfield Market. But the practice’s more recent work includes a complete redesign of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s Guildhall North Wing for the City of London Corporation, as well as extensive renovation work on the iconic Sea Containers House on the River Thames.
Our guest this week is the architect Pooja Agrawal.
In 2017 Pooja co-founded the social enterprise Public Practice along with Finn Williams. Public Practice places architects and other built environment experts within local authorities on year-long placements – providing much needed skills and experience for the public sector.
In the 1970s almost half of all UK architects leaving university went on to work for the public sector. But throughout the 1980s Central Government effectively stifled Local Government’s ability to build, and that architectural expertise began to drain away. Today, the proportion of architects working for the public sector in London is, according to Public Practice, well under 1 per cent of the profession.
Perhaps Public Practice can make public service – and working for the public sector – an attractive option again for ambitious architects? The signs are positive: pioneering London Boroughs like Croydon, Barking and Dagenham and Harrow are starting to build again.
Pooja was born in Ohio in the United States before moving with her family back to their home Mumbai in India.
It was from Mumbai that she later moved to the UK to continue her education, studying for a degree in Architecture at the University of Cambridge before going on to do her MA at the Bartlett School of Architecture in London.
She went on to work for a number of practices that put public sector work front and centre. Working initially for Publica and then We Made That – where she worked on projects including the regeneration of Black Horse Lane in Walthamstow. Pooja currently works at the Regeneration Team at the Greater London Authority, and alongside Public Practice, has delivered regeneration projects in the North West of London and overseen strategic policy and programmes on small sites, culture, design quality and social integration.
Our guest this week is the architect Larry Malcic. Larry was born in St Louis in the American mid west. He later went on to study architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, being taught for a time by the hugely influential architect Louis Khan.
After University it was in St Louis that Larry started his own practice – just over the road from HOK the practice formed by George Hellmuth, Gyo Obata and George Kassabaum.
Alongside his practice, Larry taught for a time at Washington University in St Louis – teaching for a while alongside his good friend Neave Brown.
In 1988 Larry joined HOK – the office across the street – and then moved across the Atlantic to start HOK’s European practice, based in London.
Under his leadership the office has grown to over 130 people, partly growing organically and in 1995 by incorporating the practice Cecil Denny Highton.
HOK now has 24 studios across the US and Canada as well as offices in Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Mumbai, Dubai and of course London – making it comfortably one of the world’s ten largest architecture firms.
On the programme this week we speak to the architect Clare Richards.
Clare took an unusual route into architecture. Clare started her career as a researcher for BBC television before joining commercial broadcaster TV-am for its launch in 1983. TV-am was hugely influential as the UK’s first nationwide commercial breakfast television programme. It left a huge legacy on the UK media landscape. It’s bold ambition as a television programme was matched architecturally with an iconic modernist building designed by Sir Terry Farrell.
Following a successful television career as a documentary filmmaker, focusing on difficult social and societal problems, she took the bold decision to change direction – enrolling at the Bartlett School of Architecture in London.
She went on to develop her experience of working in collaboration with local communities. Indeed, in 2010 she won the RIBA President’s Medal for her dissertation Happy Communities.
Since qualifying as an architect in 2012 she has chosen an equally unusual path working on a range of projects, often in close collaboration with residents.
She recently founded ft’work, a not-for-profit company with an ambitious aim – to ensure that clear social principles underpin all new development and regeneration.
On the programme this week we speak to Chris Wilkinson and Jim Eyre, directors of WilkinsonEyre.
Chris founded Chris Wilkinson Architects in 1983 with Jim joining the practice – now WilkinsonEyre – in 1987. The practice now employs more than 200 people in London, Hong Kong and Sydney.
Chris originally studied architecture at the Regent Street Polytechnic – now part of the University of Westminster – before working for Denys Lasdun, Norman Foster, Michael Hopkins and Richard Rogers, before starting his own practice.
Jim studied at Liverpool University and at the Architectural Association before working at Hopkins Architects where the two met.
The practice has won numerous awards, including the RIBA Stirling Prize – two years running – in 2001 for the Magna Centre in Rotherham; and in 2002 for the Gateshead Millennium Bridge.
They won the RIBA’s International Lubetkin award for the Guangzhou International Finance Centre in China and continue to gain a significant amount of work from overseas.
The practice is currently on site overseeing the plans for the renovation of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s iconic Battersea Powers Station in London.
The London Festival of Architecture is now – by some margin – the world’s largest annual architecture festival – taking place each year throughout the month of June. This year we held over 530 separate events: including talks, architectural installations, exhibitions, film screenings, tours, Open Studios, debates, architectural bake offs and much, much more. All this helped the festival engage an audience of well over 600,000 people.
Our theme for this year’s festival was ‘identity’. The theme was picked up by many event organisers and allowed us to explore a range of cultural and political issues that relate both to our city and to architecture more broadly.
In this week’s podcast we announce the theme for the 2019 London Festival of Architecture. We’re also joined by Tamsie Thomson, Director of the LFA, who talks us through plans for next year’s festival. Listen now
On the programme this week we speak to Francesco Stassi and Alice Tasca, principals of Active Social Architecture in Kigali.
This week’s programme was recorded in Rwanda as part of a series of episodes we’re bringing you from East Africa to explore identity and architecture. Identity is the theme of this year’s London Festival of Architecture.
Active Social Architecture – or ASA studio was founded in 2012 by Nerea Amòros Elorduy and Tomà Berlanda following their extensive work on projects for PLAN INTERNATIONAL and UNICEF, but when the two moved on the firm was taken on by Francesco and Alice along with Zeno Riondato. Together they now lead the firm’s work on a range of projects from healthcare to schools and education facilities.
Alongside the practice Alice continues to teach at the Department of Architecture at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology, now part of the University of Rwanda. The University of Rwanda is still the only architecture school in the country.
This week’s episode was recorded in Nairobi as part of a series of episodes we’re bringing you from East Africa to explore identity and architecture. Identity is the theme of this year’s London Festival of Architecture.
Tom originally studied architecture at the University of Nairobi before working for Richard Hughes and Partners in Nairobi. He subsequently left Nairobi to take his Masters Degree at the Helsinki University of Technology – now Alvar Aalto University – then going on to complete his PhD in Olso.
He now leads the University of Nairobi’s school of Architecture, the oldest of just four universities teaching architecture in Kenya, where he’s taught for over 30 years. Listen now