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New Practices #75: ZS Architects

The latest in a series of practice profiles looking at architects who have recently decided to go it alone either through choice or circumstances

ZS Architects, East London

Founded: January 2011

Main people: Zoe Smith

Where have you come from? For the last 15 years, Zoe was co-director, and one of the founding members of, Block Architecture.

What work do you have and what kind of projects are you looking for? Varied which is the way I’d like to keep it. This keeps the design process diverse, individually tailored and interesting for me as a designer. The practice has just completed a large scale exhibition for [fashion designer] Hussein Chalayan at La Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris. This is a continuation of an ongoing collaborative working relationship with Chalayan that has developed over the last nine years, starting with the design of his flag-ship store in Tokyo in 2002. Other projects include a new build house in Hampstead which is about to start on site.

What are your ambitions? To keep the practice small and focused. The current climate requires adaptability and flexibility in working practices, and an attitude that is positive and creative about making opportunities, rather than accepting compromise. Having been a director of a larger practice, Block Architecture had eight employees at one stage, I’d like to explore other ways of collaborative working. My East London location on Vyner Street suits me on both a personal and business level, working in the midst of a hub of different creative disciplines.

The practice will challenge conventional practices in architecture, be critical of what is good and interesting design and strive to create spaces that are thought-provoking, relevant and engaging to the people that use and interact with them.

 How optimistic are you as a start-up practice?

I don’t see ZS Architects as a start-up practice but will continue some of the client relationships previously formed at Block. It is appropriate to remain as a small and manageable practice that can expand and contract to suit the projects that we take on. This can often be attractive to clients. I’ve a wide contact base of consultants in different fields, and this means that a larger team can be pulled together as and when required and in response to different project requirements.

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