Don't Move, Improve! winners' breakfast talk round-up

Friday 11 March 2016

The winners of the Don’t Move, Improve! competition gathered at the NLA last week to show off how their schemes fulfilled the visions of both their clients and the architects themselves.

London Festival of Architecture director and Don’t Move, Improve! 2016 jury member Tamsie Thomson said it was exciting that the award, now in its sixth year, had the greatest number of entries this time, with 80 submissions. ‘Previously we’ve seen a lot of this stuff being done by builders and being done under D&B contracts. The fact that people are actually wanting to commission people and to do something that is special, that has that kind of magic and wonder to it, I think is really exciting. And the three winning schemes show what you can do and what you can add to a project if you do involve a designer and don’t just go down the standard route.’

Third place winner Henri Bredenkamp, Studio 30 Architects talked through his Shepherd’s Bush Extension project, a refurbishment of a house and loft conversion. The terraced house backs onto Wendell Park on a curve in the road meaning it is ‘splayed’ with a narrower front, but, problematically, few parallel walls. The scheme doubled the size of the kitchen, keeping the spaces within open and flexible, while the loft includes a his and hers dressing area and main bedroom space maximizes views out across the park, with extensive glazing and aluminium frames. ‘We were quite lucky to get away with it and actually have quite a progressive planning officer’, said Bredenkamp, who documented all the poor examples of schemes locally which did comply with permitted development rights. Working with the clients – one an engineer, another an interior designer – was ‘really rewarding’ given their ‘shared passion’. ‘I was probably a bit of a facilitator to them’, said Bredenkamp.

Second place winner David Kohn of David Kohn Architects spoke about his extension of a house in Tufnell Park for a shoe designer, his wife and three boys under the age 10. They started by talking about what was special about the house, with its Victorian red brick frontage and detailing, formal front and informal back, on a street owned originally by the Mercer’s Guild. ‘Our thought was that we would turn the house into what is sometimes called amongst architects a Janus building.’ Janus looks both ways, so it is all about arrival, departure and experiences with two dimensions, said Kohn. The architects were keen to involve the children and in one meeting with them there was a joke that the building looked a little like a fox. ‘It became something that everyone ran with and in the end was one of the key stories about the project’, said Kohn, with the ‘eye’ window being one particular fox-like feature. By bringing the red brick to the back of the property, said Kohn, they were saying the building now looks both ways, addressing the garden as much as it does the street, with a bold use of colour throughout.

Finally the DMI winner this year, Taro Tsuruta of Tsuruta Architects talked through his conversion for a DJ client of a two-storey house in Lewisham, whose initial ‘banality’ he became fond of. ‘I am interested in personal memories associated with places and spaces rather than collective memory of architectural or historic value’, he said. This memory is expressed in various places in the low-cost but highly crafted building, including through the trace of a large crack in the house, retained window panes being as a screen and, in the children’s bedroom, the retained skim coat of plaster, ‘so the hands of the workman can be traced as a memory of the construction process.’

‘It’s fair to say this house blew the judges away, it certainly did me’, said Thomson. ‘The level of detail, the level of rigour within it, but it still had that joy – the moment with the little shutters, the views, the way that the connections have been made. It had a level of perfection that really took it way above everything else we saw. When we came to do the judging it was an absolute done deal.’

By David Taylor, Editor, NLQ

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