The latest in a series of practice profiles looking at architects who have recently decided to go it alone either through choice or redundancy
Founded: Early 2009
Main people: Jef Smith (pictured) with collaborators Tim Carlyle, Tobias Boshoff, and Pierre-Luigi Del Renzio
Where have you come from? After graduating from Edinburgh University, Jef worked at Harper Mackay, Munkenbeck & Marshall, and Jestico + Whiles. Tim and Jef teach third-year architecture students at the University of Kent.
What work do you have? A new-build house in the south of France designed with Jef’s partner Vicky Thornton, which has led to more work in the region. Our main focus has been in education, recently completing the new foyer and forecourt to Kent School of Architecture, as well as more new build houses and domestic refurbishment and interiors. Our hopes when we started were to continue working in housing but patience here has become an enforced necessity, if not a virtue…. Latterly hotels which we are investigating as feasibility studies on two sites around London and with our third year students’ autumn term project in Broadstairs.
What are your ambitions? About 10 people would allow us a horizontal structure. For bigger projects the idea is to collaborate with larger offices.For bigger projects the idea is to collaborate with larger offices, which we have had some success with already, and it will become a more common working model of architectural practice. Being in Clerkenwell allows us to pool resources with other offices – it’s still the best area in London for a critical mass of architects. We want to build our reputation on delivering carefully crafted buildings that become uplifting places in which to be.
How optimistic are you? In our current economic climate ‘surviving is thriving’ as I like to say, to cheer myself up. It is essential, though, to remain positive and for a small office getting just one or two jobs of sufficient size can change things very quickly. Client preferences, of course, depend on the particular client and project, but for a smaller practice the advantages of nimbleness and personal engagement must be matched with ability to deliver, demonstrating sufficient resources and expertise.