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Breaking news: FAT splits


Playful Postmodernist practice FAT has announced it is to split after 23 years

According to a statement released today, the practice’s three directors Sean Griffiths, Charles Holland and Sam Jacob will go their separate ways in the summer.

FAT, which stands for Fashion Architecture Taste, will officially wrap up its business following the completion of A House for Essex, designed for Living Architecture and the curation of A Clockwork Jerusalem at the British Pavilion as part of the 2014 Venice Biennale.

The writing appeared to be on the wall for the headline-grabbing practice late last year after it moved out of its Old Street home and into a studio below Jacob’s flat in north London.

The practice, which evolved out of a ‘collective’ of architects, artists and film-makers, in the mid 1990s is best known for its: Kessels Kramers offices in Amsterdam; The Blue House in Hackney, the BBC Drama Production Village, Cardiff for Igloo; Islington Square for Urban Splash and the Great Places Housing Group; The Villa in Rotterdam; and CIAC in Middlesbrough, as well as exhibitions at the Venice Biennale, the V&A and the Vienna Secession House.

The directors said they would ‘remain open to offers for a lucrative reunion in 20 years time’.

Speaking to the AJ, Sam Jacob said: ‘We feel like we’ve really completed the FAT project – a project that started out a long time ago and has really exceeded anything we could have imagined. [We have created] a string of, what we think, are unique buildings that really set out an agenda and contributed to the landscape of architecture in Britain and beyond.’

It’s not the last you’ll hear of any of us

‘[It’s] certainly the end of an era, [but] we’re going out with a real bang next summer.’

He added: ‘We’re all still young – in architecture terms anyway – and feel like we want to explore other ways of working. We will all let the dust settle a little – while of course concentrating on delivering our final projects. But I’m sure it’s not the last you’ll hear of any of us…’

The firm was recently named among a who’s who of architectural talent lined up to work on a massive £800 million regeneration programme in Sunderland for developer Igloo.

Tower of Fable by FAT Architecture with Grayson Perry

Source: Thomas Butler Tower of Fable by FAT with Grayson Perry

Industry reaction:

Chris Brown of Igloo: ‘A bit of rebirth can be good for architects. It stops them getting into ‘feed the machine’ mode and compromising design quality - though that was never likely to happen to FAT.

‘I wouldn’t be surprised to see their influence multiply in 2014 and beyond. A premature death is often good for long term fame. Like Elvis I expect to see multiple second comings.’

John Letherland, partner at Farrells: ‘We’ve worked with FAT as friends and architectural collaborators over many years and enjoyed the best of fun in the worst of times. Ironically our most recent work together at Mount Pleasant is just about to be opened.

They’ve a joy and exuberance for architecture that is almost of another era

‘Those guys have a joy and exuberance for architecture that is almost of another era and I enjoyed every minute of our work together. Sean, Charles and Sam are some of the nicest and most creative and people you could ever wish to know. Sad though I am to hear of their split, I am looking forward to the next chapter in their narrative.’

Will Alsop of ALL Design: ‘Sad. Change however is always good. Always challenging. New things always wake you up.’ 

Isabel Allen, former editor of the AJ: ‘You’ve got to hand it to FAT. Past masters at spinning a good yarn – verbally, visually and, of course, architecturally - they are possibly the only contemporary British practice to have mastered the tricky art of architectural wit.

‘Their decision to wind down the practice exemplifies their aptitude for strong stories and perfect timing. A House for Essex, designed with the artist Grayson Perry for the philosopher Alain de Botton, represents the ultimate culmination of the FAT phenomenon. It’s hard to imagine a triumvirate that could better encapsulate the blurring of boundaries between abstract theory and built form. I suspect it will go down in history as the quintessential art/architecture collaboration of our generation.

FAT will go down as the quintessential art/architecture collaboration of our generation

‘It is also, of course, the perfect punchline for a body of work that has been both deadly serious and one long joke.’

Daisy Froud of AOC: ‘[FAT] is one of the reasons I ended up working in architecture. I was totally disinterested in what architects did, having come from a family of three generations of them, and was working in environmental/arts activism type circles. And then I saw three things in the space of a couple of months in the late 1990s which made me stop and think: Archigram’s Pop-Up City, Madelon Vriesendorp’s Flagrant Delit, and - one dark rainy winter night -  a talk by FAT in Alan Baxter’s Cowcross St basement.  

‘It was Sam and Sean, talking to an audience of people who, with the exception of myself, all seemed to be very old, and they were knocking back white wine by the glass load, getting merrier and merrier, grinning away, like a cross between schoolboys and rock stars.  And I remember thinking, ‘This is really interesting. I didn’t realise architects did this.’ Not the getting pissed while lecturing thing. The intelligent spatial pranks.

‘The use of wit to question why things are the way they are. And then shortly afterwards I met Geoff, and then Tom and then Vincent, and the course of my career was set.  

‘[FAT] has been a strong presence, like slightly naughty - and often very kind -  architectural elder brothers, throughout the life of our practice.’ 

Je Ahn of Studio Weave: ‘Initially I felt sad about [the split], but soon realised that this could be the beginning of something exciting. Sam, Charles and Sean are all very interesting people and I’m sure they will continue to contribute great things to architecture. So, let’s not be sad about it.’



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