The latest in a series of practice profiles looking at those who have recently decided to go it alone
Main people Wayne Head and Anca Mihalache
Based Barbican, London
Founded January 2015
Where have you come from?
BDP (both), Penoyre & Prasad (Wayne) and Prue Chiles (Anca).
What kind of projects are you looking for?
Public tenders valued between £1 million and £5 million. We are currently shortlisted for the Hull National Rescue Centre.
We are entering competitions, most recently the RIBA-organised competitions for Soar Island in Leicester and Preston Bus Station. We have also submitted a proposal for the Bangkok Fashion Hub. We are drawing up private residential schemes, including a large house sited in an orchard in rural Romania.
What are your ambitions?
We wish to be known as Modernists capable of returning to local influences. We wish to continue with an approach that deals with the essential and strives to make people happy. We believe in creative improvisation and staying on target. We like to work away from ‘systems architecture’ when we can.
What are the biggest challenges for a start-up?
We are used to recessions both in the 1990s and recently when we delivered a new Arts building in Norwich with a very low cost-per-square-metre budget. We now have metaphorical blood under our fingernails and concrete-clogged site boots. We are picking up signs that clients, both private and public, want to work with small practices, as they feel that there will be a greater sense of commitment to the project and key staff will not ‘move on’.
How did you win your first significant job?
We have two simultaneous first jobs: one is a summer house and gallery for [art publisher] Arnaud Desjardin on the Île de Ré salt flats in France. The project evolved as a friendly conversation post-primary school drop off! The other is a private school which seeks to bring Scandinavian methods to the heart of London.
What is your approach to winning clients?
We talk a lot about architecture and are well known for having very big ears and listening to clients. Our method of working is highly participatory, with clients, and specialists all contributing from the beginning of a project and throughout the design process. Our approach uses models and 1:1 scale drawn details.