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Interview: AJ Small Projects Awards winner Chris Dyson

‘It is really a great profession and there is always more to know’, says AJ Small Projects Awards winner Chris Dyson

When did you set up your practice?
I founded the practice in July 2004 after working with James Stirling and Michael Wilford for 12 years and for three with Terry Farrell. I cannot believe we are 10-years-old this year. I started out with a project in collaboration with Wilford for the Museum of Africa in South Africa. It made me think I can do this ‘running your own practice’ thing, so I walked the plank. In many respects, I could have done this earlier.

What does winning the AJ Small Projects Award mean for you and your practice?
It is very exciting and a springboard to more good things. It is great to be recognised within the profession for quality, and outside of it with clients. Without clients we have no wind in our sails, so it is great to see Derwent London on the panel.

Dyson

What did you think of the other finalists and who did you think would win?
Tough question - they are all so varied. I admire the poetry and economy of Taller Básico de Arquitectura’s Biokilab Laboratories and ZCD’s wonderful recycling of a 1960s house is very interesting. I believe in recycling good built fabric, or even enhancing poorly built fabric by giving it a facelift, as the Hackney Townhouse does. Surely it is more ecological to repair and maintain our existing buildings; and a little quirk along the way tells a story. Subtle architectural language derived from place, and linked to history, fascinate me as an architect.

Why is the AJ Small Projects Awards still relevant/important?
It is a wonderful prize as it places emphasis on the small practice. The small and medium enterprises are key to the UK economy and the future of our architectural heritage. So much emphasis is put on large practices, and a little more on the small is not a bad thing.

What projects are you working on?
Two projects for writers are nearing completion, one in Gloucestershire known as Gasworks and another house in Marlay, Ireland. These two projects use Cor-ten as an expression of the new against the foil of the old listed structures - a challenge for the planning departments involved. We are also involved in the public realm and Sclater Street cottages of the Bishopsgate Goodsyard, a streetscape project of trees, planting and new surfaces in Knightsbridge, and a small courtyard apartment building in Fashion Street, London. We have a small office in Bath run by Harry Whittaker, where we hope to pick up new work.

Sketch of Chris Dyson's Gasworks scheme

Sketch of Chris Dyson’s Gasworks scheme

What are your ambitions as a practice?
To build and learn more. It is really a great profession and there is always more to know. We have plans to grow senior staff responsibilities and roles. I have made the company into an LLP and so I expect to have partners in the future. I am lucky to have a really good team and hopefully we can win rewarding work for the practice as a result.

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