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RIBA London Practice of the Month: Office S&M

Every month, RIBA London showcases a London practice. For September 2021, we spoke to Office S&M about clients: public and private, their creative process, favourite projects to work on and more!

31 August 2021

Established by Catrina Stewart and Hugh McEwen, Office S&M is an award-winning practice working with a 50/50 split of public and private clients.

They engage clients and users in a collaborative process, experimenting with colours and materials to deliver joyful and unexpected spaces and places.

They work across a range of typologies including individual homes, new-build housing, civic and public realm projects, and have worked with several developers to deliver from one-off houses to blocks of flats.

They bring their experience of delivering projects that bridge the private sector and public realm and their understanding of housing planning policy in London to design review panels, improving design quality through planning, all whilst working collaboratively with their clients, manufacturers, consultants, and other architectural firms.

They put people at the core of what they do, designing spaces that are inclusive to all and deliver social value, by championing community wealth building, diversity and social sustainability.

This month, RIBA London asked them a few questions about clients: public and private, their creative process, favourite projects to work on and more!

Office S&M Team

You characterise as a practice for working 50:50 split with private and public clients. What are the main differences between the two?

We bring the best of each sector to the other. Communication is key in our public work, and we find this brings benefits to our private clients. Meanwhile, our focus on delivery, developed for private clients, gives confidence to our public clients.

Office S&M on working with public clients: Councils
Office S&M on working with Developers

Your work is incredibly eye-catching, colourful and fun! Do your designs and creative process get significantly impacted depending on the client (private or public)?

Not at all, we work with clients who are looking to create personal, characterful and expressive spaces. With our public clients, this can be to represent the communities in which we work, and with our private clients, this is to tailor a space to their needs.

Chipstead Way entrance © Office S&M

What would your ideal client be?

We love working with clients that bridge the public and private realm since this really fits with our approach. We’d love to work with more developers who are committed to improving the boroughs in which they work, and schools that recognise the role that design has in delivering the best educational environments that will benefit generations to come.

What is your favourite type of project to work on and why?

We’re always excited about the next project. Our favourite projects are ones where we collaborate with a team of like-minded people in the client and consultant teams. We’re doing more collaborative work with larger architectural practices, where we can bring a nimble approach as a small practice, but with a wealth of experience in certain areas.

Nag's Head Market internal perspective © Office S&M

What benefits have you experienced from becoming a RIBA Chartered Practice?

We think the RIBA has an important role to play in setting the benchmark for quality across the profession, and so we’re always keen to engage in and follow new advice and standards that the RIBA is championing. The institution is a fantastic resource, and we personally use the Advice Line as a shortcut to exceptional, and free, professional advice on HR, legal matters, and planning.

What is your advice to future architecture generations?

Make sure you are doing work that drives you and which you feel passionate about. We often reflect on our time at university where we really discovered what we were excited by, and our practice ethos is rooted in that.

To find out more about Office S&M, visit their website or follow them on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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