The latest in a series of practice profiles looking at architects who have recently decided to go it alone
Where are you based:
The Biscuit Factory in Bermondsey, south London
Ben Edgley and Eoin O’Leary
Where have you come from?
We met at Coffey Architects where we were colleagues for five years. Ben then worked at Lipton Plant Architects and Eoin moved to Piercy & Co for short periods before establishing con|form architects together. We’ve had great experience working on award-winning projects throughout our careers and want this to continue.
What work do you have and what kind of projects are you looking for?
We completed our first project late in 2017, an extensive duplex flat refurbishment overlooking Paddington Basin. We have several other residential projects on site and at various stages, with two more completing within the next month.
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Along with these we have the exciting prospect of new-build homes in Suffolk, Dublin and New Zealand.
Whilst residential work forms a large part of our present workload, we also have several smaller public projects, including a school playground in Harringey and the extension and refurbishment of a fire station in Cambridgeshire. We would like to work on more public and cultural projects and have been entering competitions and submitting expressions of interest for any project which takes our fancy.
What are your ambitions?
In the next few years we hope to be undertaking cultural projects, galleries, libraries, and so on. This is where our interests lie and it offers us the opportunity to undertake beautifully crafted and considered projects, which is a continuation of our approach to residential work. New-build homes always offer exciting opportunities and we wish to carry on undertaking these.
We want to grow organically rather than expand too quickly and lose our design rigour and control. It is more important for us to get the right team members rather than be a particular size of practice.
We are working on a number of international projects and would like to continue doing this as it offers different working contexts, which we find exciting and challenging.
What are the biggest challenges facing yourself as a start-up and the profession generally?
The hardest challenge is generating work. Unlike many of our peers, we haven’t had many hand-me-down projects from our former practices or friends of friends and have had to work very hard to get our workload where it is. We are proud of what we have done so far.
There is a lack of the understanding of the value an architect brings to a housing project
The residential sector has many challenges, the main one being a lack of the understanding of the value an architect brings to a project, often meaning that lowest cost and lowest quality win.
In terms of expanding into other sectors, our route to do this is largely through competitions and expressions of interest. We find that public competitions can be successful when judged on design. However, decisions are usually based on ‘experience’ – again often at the cost of quality.
Which scheme has inspired you most?
The Bruder Klaus Field Chapel by Peter Zumthor
Our architecture always explores both context and form. Context is not just the physical surroundings but also the social, cultural and historical uniqueness of place. Context is engrained in every facet of Zumthor’s chapel, from the concept and form right through to procurement, construction and detailing. It is a masterclass in all the things we love about architecture.
How are you marketing yourselves?
We’ve recently updated our website, which is our main marketing tool and the way that people will find us and our work. We are also active on social media, which gets our work our to a wider audience and keeps people updated on what we are up to.
Crematorium proposals by con | form architects - model view