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Responding to change

MacCormac Jamieson Prichard @ 30

MacCormac Jamieson Prichard has evolved, in some ways unpredictably, during 30 years of practice, starting with traditionally constructed and deliberately domestic housing in the public sector in the 1970s, then graduating in the 1980s into higher education with some very site specific and complex projects, principally for Oxford and Cambridge colleges.

In the past decade, the portfolio and the constructional language has developed and varied with public and commercial buildings, flagship buildings such as Cable and Wireless and the BBC, exhibitions and collaborations with artists.

Masterplanning and housing continue to be fundamental strands of the practice's work with schemes from MJP masterplans in Ballymun, Dublin, Coventry and for Cambridge University.

Two projects which signalled a new direction in the practice's work were the Jubilee Line station at Southwark and the Wellcome Wing of the Science Museum. The immediate message might have appeared to be a change of technology from masonry to glass and steel but, at a more fundamental level, these projects explore the possibilities of inverting the solid materiality usually characteristic of our work to explore transparency, translucency, reflection, colour and spatial ambiguity in an architecture of space and light.

This move has been partly provoked by interest in artists like Yves Klein, Anish Kapoor, Dan Graham, and James Turrell and collaborations with artists such as David Ward, Martin Richman, Tony Cooper, Alberto Duman, and with the glass artist Alex Beleschenko. This is not a change of direction for the practice, but an additional architectural territory to be explored in appropriate projects.

Exhibition designs at Sir John Soanes' Museum, at Tate Britain and Tate Modern have also explored combinations of colour and light working with the colourist Jocasta Innes and lighting consultant Rogier van der Heide. The project for extending the facilities at St John's College, Oxford, sets out to explore the psychology of enclosure - another Soanian exercise.

The practice's experience of gaining planning consents in sensitive historic sites such as Walkergate in Durham continues to be an important factor in the kind of work commissioned and means that the design of commercial buildings always has obligations of an historic and placemaking kind. Office projects in Hackney (Clifton Street), Victoria Street and Paternoster required highly specific responses to their surroundings, as did the most unexpected and uncharacteristic project, Tesco's supermarket in Ludlow. Boathouse 6, in Portsmouth dockyard is another intervention in an historic context, a new interior which takes advantage of bomb damage to juxtapose exhibition areas and a cinema with a partly ruined Piranesian toplit shell.

The major project in the office is now the Broadcasting House redevelopment, which brings together various strands in the evolution of the practice's ideas and strategies.

Gaining planning consent in this context was perhaps the most difficult negotiation of its kind that the practice has undertaken and required a very specific response to Broadcasting House and All Souls. The scheme also makes a commitment to locality of the kind which we first proposed in our Spitalfields masterplan (1987), with public spaces penetrating the site, animated by shops and cafes.

Internally it continues ideas which originated in the competition for Robinson College, Cambridge, and the residential building at Worcester College, Oxford, where circulation was conceived as social space. In the BBC project, the primary circulation is also conceived as social space and a kind of marketplace where ideas can be exchanged.

The project involves major collaborations with artists whose work will be integral to the conception of the building, and the cyclorama like glass facade behind the church offers the opportunity to create night-time variations in qualities of transparency, translucency and opacity.

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