The AJ talks to Aleksandar Stojakovic, co-founder of emerging talent Studio 8FOLD, about how the coronavirus crisis prompted the practice to turn the idea of a design contest on its head
The firm has promised to give a free concept design to the winner of a competition aimed at opening up architecture to those ’who don’t have access to it’ by inviting potential clients to submit their briefs.
The successful client pitch will be judged by a panel which includes London School of Architecture (LSA) founder Will Hunter and former AJ editor Isabel Allen.
Founded in 2017 by LSA graduates, the London and Berlin-based practice said it was ’accepting pitches from the wild and fantastic to the environmentally sound’. It added that ’bonus points’ would go to those whose bids ’demonstrate a sustainable approach, nuanced interest in how we live at home, an intelligent new use of an old space or an entirely fresh look at the conventional, out-of-the-box idea’.
The deadline is 15 June. The winner will be announced on 29 June.
How have you as architects responded to the coronavirus crisis?
We had many of our projects go on hold simultaneously. We heard panic is for amateurs; so as professionals we focused on what we do best: design.
One of us is in London, the other Berlin, so as partners we’re used to working remotely. We’re both excited to use lockdown to connect to a larger, global audience.
We launched a competition for anyone, anywhere to send us their most creative brief. The winning entry will receive a free concept design. We’re particularly open to pitches that align with our values: sustainability, new models of living, and adaptive reuse.
The winner gets a full design concept and drawing set, 3D visualisations and a VR render. The top five briefs will receive a 60-minute consultation, followed up with ideas for next steps.
Who will select which briefs you pursue?
We graduated in the first cohort of the LSA, a school which taught us to be entrepreneurial. Our panel includes Will Hunter, founder of the LSA, Isabel Allen, former AJ editor and current editor of Citizen Magazine, Katherine Stadulka, director of sustainable finance at impact investor and advisory firm Systemiq, and Peter Buchanan, author of The Big Rethink alongside ourselves, the founders of Studio 8Fold.
In recent months, we’ve collaborated with economists, impact investors and entrepreneurs to use architectural thinking to engage in solving real-world problems. It’s crucial architecture isn’t in a silo. We like to use design thinking to tackle global issues; we hope devoting more time to doing so will be rewarding.
Who do you hope will enter?
Everyone is locked up at home. We welcome thoughts about long-put-off home-improvements and thoughts that have drifted to far-off speculative places. There could be companies re-evaluating how to work, who we could help.
The world changed overnight. Now is the time to think big. If you have a nascent idea, we’d love to try to use our design thinking to help a client achieve their goals, to make it into something valuable for them – and perhaps even the world.
Now is the time to rethink the world
Are you hopeful this will lead to paid for commissions or is the contest about more than that?
We won’t lie: commissions are accepted. But that’s not the only – or even main – reason to do this. Now is the time to rethink the world and we want to meet other people who want to do that too.
We also want to open up architecture to people who might not usually engage with it. The profession can seem a closed world, and we want to give a no-pressure opportunity to submit something – anything – and have a chat about it. It’s a chance for us all to learn.
Do you see the profession changing permanently after the crisis? And is there an opportunity for architects to halt their increasing marginalisation?
Yes and yes. The world’s systems are fragile. The pandemic is the most recent symbol, but will hardly be the last. Architecture – and broadly the design of the whole environment – must enable humanity to thrive.
Peter Buchanan taught us that design is the way that humans consciously participate in evolution. We must use design to integrate our settlements with natural and ecological systems, to comprehend the climate catastrophe and shape new ways of living that enable our survival.
There’s never been a more exciting and important time to be an architect
Architects have been marginalised for decades but they have incredible skills to synthesise complex forms of information to provide coherent, compelling visions; and – secondly – to lead multi-disciplinary teams to deliver change. There has never been a more exciting, urgent and important time to be an architect.
What are you doing as a practice that is different to ‘normal’ practice?
Our defining purpose is to create spaces and places that encourage equality and wellbeing, aligning social, environmental and capital goals through human-centered design.
Alongside more traditional work, we have been making prototypes of how cities can handle their waste to reduce environmental impact. This emerged from the LSA graduated project, became a campaign in the Evening Standard, and exhibitions at [London Design Festival] and [Seoul Biennale].
It has evolved into WasteData, which pushes for answers and looks for opportunities where others simply saw (literally) garbage. It’s crucial for us to take time to examine the systems we work within, developing our research and development and not just our own industry, to identify where we can have impact.
London is a smart city - Wastedata project
Would you still accept a small-scale domestic project? And what would be your ultimate ambition?
Absolutely. Even the smallest of projects offers the opportunity for creativity and getting to know new, interesting people. In the long term, we would like to be involved in projects with broader impact, serving more people, and to focus our energies on our home continent of Africa.
We want to make architecture available to those who don’t have access to it
We want to design for people and the planet. That means making architecture available to those who don’t have access to it; being serious about environmental issues; applying principles of human-centred design; and engaging with our colleagues across the world to deliver for this vision.
What advice would you give to students/anyone about to enter the profession?
Focus on the timeless principles of architecture. Master those and use them to tackle modern problems. Understand ecosystems, the importance of the seasons, and thermodynamics. Remain curious and open – even a little naivety can be good (sometimes).
Studio 8Fold’s Intergenerational housing proposal for rural Germany