A Review of the Year 2020
2020 has for all of us been a challenging year, and for many it has been a year of great tragedy and loss. Despite the adversity, it was also a year which presented the world with an opportunity for change. Planes stopped, cars stopped, pollution cleared, parks filled, and people, despite being apart, grew closer. The will and ability of humankind to adapt has been a huge positive to be taken from what could otherwise have been even more testing times and, if embraced and remembered beyond the pandemic, it should lead to positive change for the benefit of generations to come.
We consider ourselves to have been very fortunate to have experienced a year where we have found the opportunity to grow. We have grown in number, grown in the diversity of our projects and grown the number of clients and collaborators we work with. But most importantly, despite us working in isolation for much of the year, our shared experience and our combined will to overcome has seen us grow even closer as a practice. It has also fostered the opportunity to find new ways of working with each other in the future, whilst also making us value and appreciate the importance of being together.
A growth in projects saw us increase in number to 37 people, with 10 people joining us in the first period of lockdown.
With the technology already in place we moved quickly and seamlessly to remote working within hours of government advice. In the summer we gave people the opportunity to return to see relatives in their home countries whilst continuing to work remotely and in the autumn we invested heavily in the technology that will allow us to adapt to the opportunities of new ways of working together in the future.
It was also a year in which we grew in our exposure. In June it was announced that we would feature in the Architecture Foundation’s book, New Architects 4, a major publication surveying the best British architectural practices established in the past ten years, whilst in September Ross Hutchinson and our Berlin Director Jörn Rabach were invited to speak on the subject of courage and resilience in practice as part of the Coaches On the Couch podcast series.
The year ended positively with David, Will, Chara and Maria all passing their Part III qualification in November and joining the register in December.
The year included a number of notable highlights. In January we were appointed by LABS on the refurbishment of Victoria House, a 300,000 square foot Grade II Listed building on Bloomsbury Square, with the first phase of workspace and lounges completing in November and the remaining two phases scheduled for completion early in the new year.
In February we were appointed by Spaceworks to design a new workplace building in Ealing, located between the two future Crossrail stations. Following 11 months of design development and consultation, we submitted a planning application earlier this month for a proposal comprising over 235,000 sq.ft of flexibly designed adaptable work space above a ground floor that will see publicly accessible spaces and significant enhancements to the public realm, including the creation of a new pedestrian journey that offers the opportunity to connect the Uxbridge Road to Walpole Park.
In August, we gained planning consent for Silk Park, a major mixed use regeneration project for St.George comprising 1,309 new homes, a supermarket and space for cafes, restaurants, community uses and a new public park in the London Borough of Barnet.
New appointments during the year related strongly to our core interest in regeneration, placemaking and sustainable urbanism and in the evolving opportunities of a car free society. In the UK, these included being appointed on the first phase of a major regeneration project of a former gas works site in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea by Ballymore; a residential scheme in Burnt Oak on the site of a car dealership; a proposal for 15 apartments on the site of a disused MOT garage in Stockwell; a terrace of six new build houses in Highgate on the car park of a pub and finally the development of a unique hotel and residential tower in Ilford.
In Germany, our Berlin office proudly secured its first appointment. Following an initial feasibility study, we have been asked by Trei Real Estate to proceed with the design of a new residential building in the heart of Kreuzberg. Our Berlin research project, Twelve Sites, continued but sadly the pandemic prevented us from holding our exhibition which we hope to reschedule later in 2021.
Despite all the restrictions we have used our best endeavours to make it a sociable year. We managed to fit in a hugely enjoyable summer party, albeit with us only being able to get together virtually. The day started with a practice run/jog/walk via Zoom and Strava and ended with home delivery dinner, evening games and conversation late into the night. The benefits of exercise and the importance of the practice’s wellbeing have continued with a series of weekly Zoom pilates classes. Our weekly ‘FNP’ Friday night drinks have seen us come together on screen over everything from Geo-tracker, to Name that Baby, Name that Building, Countdown, Top Books, Top Films, Top Christmas Films and finally the hugely popular and hotly contested Top 3 Christmas Songs. The year was capped off with a Christmas dinner courtesy of Hide and a Christmas Quiz courtesy of our FNP team.
We are looking optimistically into 2021, full of high hopes for an ease out of lockdown and the physical reunion of our practice, as well as for our current and new project opportunities in the UK and Germany in our very own European union. We also look forward to embracing the opportunity for change and adaptation and to see how this will define us as a world and as a practice in 2021 and in the years to come.
Finally, we would like to thank our amazing team for adjusting so well to the circumstances in which we found ourselves as well as a huge thank you to all of our Clients for their courage and commitment to continue with projects and to our Collaborators and Mentors for their support and unwavering spirit over the past year.
A big thank you to Darc Studio for the festive image of our recent planning application for CP House in Ealing.