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Architects are not prone to flights of fancy when it comes to choosing practice names.

Partners' surnames generally suffice. Sometimes even these are deemed to be a little too expressive and are reduced to an anonymous set of initials to form an unlikely acronym. So when a practice such as Block Architecture goes to the trouble of dreaming up a name, the first question has to be why?

Zoë Smith who, with her partner Graeme Williamson, established the practice in 1996 when they were appointed to design studios and exhibition space for graphic design company Tomato, explains:

'We wanted something really generic and easy to grasp. We liked 'block' because it's the most basic and simple thing.

'We didn't want to use our surnames, because the idea is that the thing will expand beyond the two partners.'

'Block' is suitably generic for a practice whose portfolio is deliberately diverse - including furniture, urban design projects and exhibitions, as well as conventional architecture. The name is also symbolic of the practice's coming of age. It used to be called 24/seven which, Williamson explains, 'started off as a bit of a joke - a reflection of the fact that we were doing obscene amounts of work. We're starting to take things a lot more seriously - in terms of our work, not ourselves, hopefully.'

Certainly, Block Architecture is growing up. Despite having just seven staff, it can now accurately describe itself as Anglo-American - Mark Cremer, its New York-based associate designer, came on board when Block won a major New York residential commission in 1999. The practice now has high-profile clients - current projects include a bar near Oxford Circus for the owners of London bars Cargo and Cantaloupe, and a major refurbishment for Oxford's Museum of Modern Art. Block is also beginning to give more established designers a run for their money. It won the commission for the Grand Central bar in Shoreditch after being invited to pitch against Future Systems and Thomas Heatherwick.

Grand Central is typical of Block's oeuvre in that it avoids bespoke components - bars, sinks and urinals are constructed from purpose-made plywood-backed perspex sheets (pictured) - and the design is highly site specific. 'The way we do our work is generally about taking snapshots of what's landed, ' says Williamson. 'It's not about what's in vogue or in magazines.' At Grand

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