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RIBA London practice of the month: Architects in Practice

Every month, RIBA London showcases a London practice. For December 2020, we spoke to Ian Givin, founder of Architects in Practice, about using AI in their design process, the impact of using augmented reality in their relationship with their clients, and their upcoming projects.

01 December 2020

Architects in Practice is a London based RIBA Chartered Practice, creating ambitious, playful and environmentally conscious buildings. As a young practice, their work is diverse, progressive and constantly evolving. Specialising in residential, education and community led regeneration, they love their work, have fun doing it and are proud of what they do.

RIBA London asked them a few questions around technology trends, augmented reality and their upcoming projects.

Ian Givin, Architects in Practice founder.

You use both physical models and AI in your design process. Which of these is more effective at communicating projects to clients?

Our design approach is to use physical models from the outset to convey the qualities of the project that other methods cannot. We find them to be an effective tool to communicate ideas in an informal manner, whether with clients, planning authorities or project teams.

Our creativity is not limited to traditional analogue processes, but we harness the latest technology to create immersive experiences using virtual and augmented reality as a way of developing and communicating our designs.

The process alone often brings out new design ideas for discussion, and we encourage all projects to be developed in this way, from feasibility to delivery. We find this approach encourages collaboration throughout: something we believe benefits the project as a whole.

Do you think the use of augmented reality has a big impact on your relationship with the client?

Yes: not only the client, but also with the wider project team.

With the use of cutting edge virtual tools such as VR and AR, we're able to delve into fully immersive environments to explore every area and aspect of a project. We find this to be an immensely powerful tool: one that can provide a deeper understanding of the project and can offer greater efficiency with decision making.

Using real time visualisation, we're able to gain consensus and move forward quickly with important design decisions.

Gatehouse School, 1:200 study model © Architects in Practice

What’s the most exciting project you’ve got coming up and why?

Having gone on hold earlier this year due to the pandemic, we are now looking forward to continuing with our Chimney Terrace project. This is our first venture into modular Cross Laminated Timber (CLT), which is something we’re very keen to push with our other projects. Working closely with the structural engineers and fabricators on the journey so far has been very educational, and it has been exciting to witness how our BIM protocols have evolved and are now fully integrated into our wider daily workflow.

While we may be newly formed, we see our ambition as our core strength, and we seek to continue to push the boundaries with what a young practice can achieve when working collaboratively with specialist teams.

What is your advice to future architecture generations?

It seems to us that the future of the architectural profession is at something of a crossroads as we head into the 2020s. As an increasing number of projects become ever larger, they also become ever more complex. One of the great attractions of being an architect has always been the need to have an overview of an entire project: an understanding as to how all the disparate bits fit together, from works below ground to the choice of windows, and from the selection of the cladding to the choice of ironmongery.

On smaller projects this requirement still holds true. However, what architects of the next generations will need to assess and consider is whether the same can be said on the increasing prevalence of much larger schemes.

Should we become more specialist in our approach, offering an enhanced range of services on a more limited area of the build (in much the way that a façade specialist does) or should we continue to offer the considered overview, as the voice of reason, balancing cost and buildability against aesthetics and client expectations.

Such actions may see the profession splinter into more specifically planning and technical roles and our advice would be to prepare for significant changes over the coming years.

Chimney Terrace, street view elevation © Architects in Practice

What do you think is the most important issue for architects to focus on right now, and what are you doing as a practice to tackle it?

We believe that the single most important aspect within our industry and profession is that of the environment. If what we build now adversely affects the aspirations and opportunities of future generations, then why are we building it that way?

More than 40% of all greenhouse gases are generated by the built environment, and everyday issues such as embodied energy, reconsidering the use of common construction materials (cement/concrete) and choices relating to heating and powering a development are as relevant as large scale infrastructure issues such as should we still be constructing new airports and building motorways?

So while we haven’t as yet had the opportunity to be involved in the design of an airport, the approach to all our building projects is very much focused on sustainability, reusability and inclusivity as fully integrated aspects of everything we do.

Where do you look for inspiration?

The simple answer is everywhere!

From building visits to hosting forums, and from aerial views of a city seen at night to the experiences of our daily commute, good architecture to us is about the inclusion and combination of all these things: the built form, the spaces between and the people using both.

In more prosaic terms we are huge fans of the architecture of Peter Zumthor. His ability to create places and spaces that are simultaneously monumental and subtle, serious and playful and of a locality yet internationally regarded is truly inspirational.

To find out more about Architects in Practice, visit their website or follow them on Instagram and LinkedIn.

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