Wallpaper|January 2021
The world is changing, architecture is adapting, and a new wave of young practices in London is emerging. They’re armed with bold ideas, digital tools, new studio set-ups and innovative design approaches. In our Next Generation series, we hail this nexus of exciting studios in the UK capital, the first ten of which, featured in the next pages, are just the beginning. More will be presented online throughout the year – next stop the USA


Tara Gbolade

Gbolade Design Studio

When architect Tara Gbolade set up her studio in Lambeth in south London in 2018, she wanted it to make a difference. Focusing her practice around a ‘design-led, sustainable, innovative and commercially-minded’ approach was just the beginning. Fresh ideas, dynamism and specialist skills ensure that Gbolade Design Studio’s work really stands out. The studio’s ambitions sound simple but are anything but. ‘We aim at making everyday places for people extraordinary,’ she explains.

Since its foundation, the young studio has earned awards and scooped competition wins. The secret, says Gbolade, is being specific in choosing clients that align with their ethos. ‘We are a small core team of five and work collaboratively with other practices and individuals, which means we are able to expand and contract our capacity as needed. We can offer the best value to our clients, while keeping the practice nimble and responsive to societal changes.’

The studio’s current work includes a complex of more than 40 residences in Littlehampton in West Sussex, designed to put sustainability principles (socioeconomic and environmental) and public green space at its heart; the ‘r-Home’, a model two-storey home, for innovative self builders, housing associations and local authorities, that could help meet the UK housing market’s need, as well as achieve high Passivhaus standards; and Tripos Pavilion, a community-minded block for students in Cambridge, currently in design development.

Alongside creating her own designs, as a certified Passivhaus designer, Gbolade helps develop sustainability strategies for local authorities and currently leads the Harlow & Gilston Garden Town scheme.

The studio has also launched the Architects’ App, a library of case studies and advice for professionals in all stages of their career. ‘I’m most excited about the app’s ‘Sustainability’ section, which includes webinars and podcasts, information on energy efficiency and much more,’ she says.

The architect has also partnered up with like-minded individuals to form the Paradigm Network, ‘after noticing a distinct lack of diversity in architecture’, she says. ‘Forty percent of Londoners are from a BAME background, yet only 1.2 percent of the built environment is reflective of this number.’ This professional network aims to foster Black and Asian representation, running workshops, events and networking opportunities. Bridging a desire to lead change with action and pragmatic designs and architecture, there is no doubt that this emerging studio is one to watch.


Steve Wilkinson, Theo Molloy and Chloë Leen Pup Architects

2012 was a key year for Steve Wilkinson, Theo Molloy and Chloë Leen. The London Olympics not only turned the global spotlight on the city, but also marked the trio’s first collaboration, a series of pavilions commissioned by the Greater London Authority for the Games. The architects, who’ve previously worked at practices such as Sam Jacob, Ash Sakula and Grimshaw, formally joined forces in 2017, forming Pup Architects, a community-oriented studio based in Clapton, east London.

The interaction of people and architecture, and the sense of community that this brings, are key to the team’s approach. ‘Our projects are usually both pragmatic and playful,’ they explain. ‘We are concerned with how people interpret and use a space. We approach every project differently and treat it as an opportunity to create something unique. The use and combinations of materials is fundamental to this at many levels, from playing with architectural language to how materials make a space feel. Sustainability is another key consideration, which often helps to define material choices – thinking about how to be resourceful, efficient and purposeful. It’s a good constraint to drive innovative solutions.’

Their first work as Pup was H-VAC, an experimental temporary structure that won the inaugural Antepavilion competition in 2017, while recent work includes an elegant, crisp refurbishment of Surrey Docks Farm. ‘It is our largest completed project to date, and it demonstrates a lot of our values of working with communities in a public setting,’ they say. ‘It will be great to see the development’s impact over the coming years.’

The studio is constantly developing ways for architecture to create a dialogue and support the local community, while respecting the natural environment as well as the multi-layered existing context. This is currently dominating their attention as they work on a new community centre, constructed from hempcrete and timber, which forms part of a masterplan to revive Cody Dock in Newham.

Achieving their goals also takes the right client. ‘In the UK, there is still quite a lot of conservatism around architecture and what it should be,’ they say. ‘If you look to other countries, architecture often has a much greater plurality. Clients can be very risk-averse here, and this diminishes opportunities for young talented studios with a diversity of approaches, who are often overlooked in favour of established practices. And there is still a real disparity when it comes to representation of minorities and women in the field.’



Benni Allan EBBA Architects

Benni Allan’s EBBA Architects oozes style, enthusiasm and a refreshing attitude towards interdisciplinarity and innovation. ‘At the forefront of the studio’s work is a focus on making spaces that reflect a particular poetic and material ambition that can carry meaning and can have a direct emotional effect on the user,’ says Allan, who, prior to founding his independent office, was an architect with Niall McLaughlin.

The studio is exploring the potential of digital spaces, and it launched a virtual art space together with curator Jenn Ellis in the summer of 2020, during the UK’s strict first lockdown. AORA was conceived as a digital space to promote mental serenity and wellbeing, mixing design, sound and art. Drawing on research conducted during the design of a children’s nursery, Allan and his team developed an understanding of the value of discovery in architecture. This led to ideas of distinct digital spaces that support ‘meditative practices and improve wellbeing’.

‘Art, architecture and music have proven health benefits, including alleviating pain,improving wellbeing and shortening recovery periods,’ say Allan and Ellis of their project. The second AORA exhibition, ‘A Hurrian Meditation’, focuses on traditions of storytelling and includes ancient and contemporary works that come from a range of global locations, from Rome and the Cyclades to Singapore and India. The show runs until 31 December.

‘We believe agency and diversity in architecture need to be supported in order to create a fairer, more sustainable future,’ he says. ‘These issues are at the top of our agenda and we believe design can be a solution, through better housing, more accessible, safe public spaces, and inspiring and enlightening schools, all of which need to address issues of quality and environmental impact.’

And there’s plenty more to come in the near future from the studio based in Hackney, east London. Work is starting on its first public commission, a construction skills centre, for the London Legacy Development Corporation; private residential and warehouse renovations are ongoing; and a number of multi-unit housing schemes are currently in development. Which all makes 2021 an exciting year to look forward to at this fast-emerging architecture firm.;


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