The latest in a series of practice profiles looking at those who have recently decided to go it alone
Practice name: WR-AP – Weston Rengifo Architects Practice
Based: Teddington, London
Founded: February 2018
Main people: Sean Weston and Max Rengifo
Where have you come from?
We met 15 years ago while we were both working at Aedas Studio. Before that Sean worked for Ashton Raggatt McDougall (ARM) in Melbourne, and following his time at Aedas Studio he was a director at Astudio where he lead mixed-use, commercial and education projects for the practice.
Max was a founding member of CPR arquitectos in the late 1990s in Caracas, Venezuela. After moving to London he joined Aedas Studio and subsequently worked as a director at Astudio for 11 years leading mixed-use, education, civic and residential projects.
What work do you have?
A well-balanced list of live projects and a healthy pipeline. These include residential and commercial projects, such as a large new built private residence in the Chiltern Valley and the refurbishment of a Grade I-listed office building in Richmond.
We’ve recently submitted an entry for an invited competition for a mixed-use building as part of the new neighbourhoods of East Wick and Sweetwater at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Our residential work comes mostly from existing contacts and friends. Our commercial work and some of the more speculative residential projects are the result of collaborations with a number of property management companies as well as small to medium-sized property owners looking for a fresh approach to ‘increase value by design’ for their assets.
WR-AP - AJ Crown Estate Future Retail competition entry - Crown Community Retail
We are also actively collaborating with other architectural practices in the form of competitions and bids, especially for public and institutional work. Recently we have been appointed to a couple of public-sector frameworks where we have applied under the micro SME banner; hopefully this will bring more opportunities for our studio in the near future.
We’ve experienced first-hand the benefits of co-working and of being in a co-working space
In the last six months we have experienced first-hand the benefits of co-working and how being located in a co-working space we have been able to find work opportunities but also meet people whose complementary skills have helped us to refine our offer in fields such as marketing, business planning and PR.
What are your ambitions?
We have set up WR-AP to drive quality on everything we do. With that in mind, we are adamant we want to create a studio whose size is determined by the work we want to do and not the other way around. We are well aware of the challenges this attitude might pose but we are great believers that our strong architectural ethos in hand with our well-informed commercial awareness will always find a way to meet the ambitions of projects/clients in both public and private sectors.
Having worked in central London for the last 15 years, the decision to be based in the outskirts was a personal choice – to be close to our families as well as to have access to an increasing market in the small-medium-scale projects in south-west London. However we are contemplating in the mid-future relocating to a more central location in order to attract more members and be close to friends and clients within the industry, in a more accessible postcode.
Our ambition for WR-AP is to create strong ties with clients and communities – at any scale – to realise their aspirations, here or abroad. We aim to attract members that will find resonance with our work ethos, studio culture and innovative thinking for years to come.
We are also looking to establish a presence in academia by getting more involved with universities and research work. Max has previously been a think tank leader at the London School of Architecture and currently lectures at Manchester Metropolitan University.
What are the biggest challenges facing yourself as a start-up and the profession generally?
To sustain the practice while developing a vision that will shape the future of the practice. One of the biggest challenges we are facing right now is the ability to demonstrate we have the capacity to deliver and the ability to comply with most of the evaluation criteria we find in the current procurement process for architectural services in the public sector.
To alleviate this issue we have begun to strike up alliances with other architectural practices where we offer a combined service to provide the security in numbers that many clients request.
Brexit uncertainty is having a further impact on the risk attitude for mid- and large- scale projects with clients
In addition, there is no doubt that Brexit uncertainty is having a further impact on the risk attitude for mid and large-scale projects with clients; which ultimately makes us less likely to secure a project of those scales. However we believe our lean, hands-on approach, combined with our experience and openness to tackle projects at any scale will help us to be resilient until the waters level to a more certain economic horizon.
WR-AP - Summersby Road scheme
How are you marketing yourselves?
We’ve engaged tried-and-tested marketing strategies, meeting people face to face. We’ve been fortunate to have friends within the industry who have been kind enough to introduce us to potential clients that they believe we can work alongside. It’s important to us that our clients understand our key principles and share in our core values, so recommendations from peers are always appreciated. We recently set-up our wr-ap Instagram account (wrap_arch) and we hope that this will help to build our social presence and assist with marketing us to a wider audience.
Website address www.wr-ap.com