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​Director reflects on 10 years of Living Architecture at AJ100 Club

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Mark Robinson, director of Living Architecture, recounts working with the likes of Peter Zumthor, MVRDV, FAT and John Pawson at Claridge’s event

Speaking at the AJ100 Breakfast Club at Claridge’s today (27 January), Robinson recounted his time at Living Architecture since it was founded in 2007.

The holiday home rental company has commissioned houses by the likes of Michael and Patty Hopkins, MVRDV, FAT and Grayson Perry and John Pawson.

Robinson recalled how the ethos of Living Architecture had not been fully realised when it was first founded, resulting in MVRDV founder Winy Maas telling his company to ‘grow some balls’. The architect had been working with Robinson on a house in Suffolk, which was never built but went on to become the Balancing Barn.

Describing Living Architecture’s subsequent evolution, he described working with director of FAT Architecture Charles Holland and Grayson Perry on a House for Essex as the ‘dream team’.

‘We had a ball on this. Let me say actually, by now we had grown more balls from what we do, from the original comment from the Dutch – and we just went all out on this building,’ he said. ‘Grayson and Charles didn’t need much encouragement.’

Robinson also discussed working with Peter Zumthor, who is designing his first permanent UK project in south Devon – Secular Retreat – a scheme profiled earlier this month in the AJ.

He described working with Zumthor on the house, which is Living Architecture’s longest project, as his ‘greatest challenge’. Despite rocky patches in their relationship, he added that the pair respect one another and referred to him as a ‘lovely guy’. 

Turning to other members of the construction team, Robinson highlighted one example of working with a contractor for John Pawson’s Life House in Wales, in which the contractor was not used to the architect’s ‘exacting standards’.

Robinson also talked about ‘Nimbyism’, and facing resistance from those living next to his projects. He showed the audience a photo of Nord Architecture’s Shingle House in Kent, which had been defaced with graffiti. 

We’re trying to create new ideas, new buildings within different environments

Referring to the incident, he said: ‘It exemplifies what we’re trying to do [at Living Architecture]. We’re trying to create new ideas, new buildings within different environments.’

Living Architecture seeks to change public perceptions of modern architecture by allowing the public to experience the work of great architects in a domestic setting.

Robinson previously managed and delivered the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion projects from their inception in 2000 through to 2006.

The breakfast, hosted by AJ managing editor Will Hurst and the final such event of the 2016/17 season, was sponsored by Aliva, Bespoke, Deltalight, Equitone, Graphisoft, Grohe, Hoare Lea, Miele, Schlüter Systems and Schüco.

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