From the ephemeral to the permanent, a London based firm is exploring the means and meaning of architecture in projects both public and private.
Having designed a pavilion for a three-day event and a memorial required to stand for at least 200 years, Kevin Carmody and Andrew Groarke have wrestled with that most slippery of human constraints: time. Confronting such extremes on the scale of project life spans has underlined for the London-based architects the need to find appropriate solutions to questions of materials, construction, iconography, and context. So for the 72-hour-long installation they built at the 2010 Milan Furniture Fair, they used 12,000 red threads lit from above, emphasizing the ephemeral nature of the piece. But for the 7 July Memorial in London’s Hyde Park (honoring the 52 people killed in the terrorist bombings in the city’s subway system in 2005), they created a small forest of 52 stainless-steel columns that projects an image of strength and permanence.
“We’re interested in the friction that’s generated from working on very different kinds of assignments — from pop-ups to memorials,” says Carmody. “Ultimately, though, each project comes down to a series of value judgments,” adds Groarke, referring to decisions affecting the type and cost of materials, the construction process, spatial relationships, and other aspects of design. For example, the architects decided they would use only “borrowed” materials for a dining pavilion in London that would stay up for just three weeks. So instead of creating waste in the form of elements used once then discarded, they designed a structure made with standard scaffolding poles that can be used again and again. “Buildings need to respond to their particular circumstances,” states Carmody. “They have responsibilities to the site, the brief, the users, and the larger context.”
Carmody and Groarke met while working at David Chipperfield Architects. They served on a team designing a studio complex for the artist Antony Gormley, a project that provided spaces for drawing, painting, sculpting, welding, casting, and photography. “It taught us the importance of using light and space in very particular ways,” explains Groarke. It also brought them in close collaboration with Gormley, a leading figure in contemporary British art. “We realized that working with an artist isn’t about making architecture more like art; it’s about making architecture that’s driven by a series of ideas,” says Carmody. “It’s about researching the limits and goals of architecture,” says Groarke. “The architect’s contract is different from the artist’s contract,” adds Groarke, explaining how architects must respond to a client’s needs and to a broad range of concerns — from the environment to the social context.
Talking about an underground spa they designed in Ireland — a project in which an ethereal light washes surfaces both solid and liquid — the two men explain that they’re not interested in details for details’ sake. Rather, they try to focus on the larger spatial and functional issues. They also want to take intimate and everyday moments in a project and make them memorable — a countertop in a kitchen, let’s say, or the sequence of moving from swimming pool to changing room.
The firm is busy with projects such as a temporary performance space in Germany’s Ruhr valley; a house in Norfolk, U.K.; and a festival center in Sheffield. “We’re interested in balancing opposing forces,” says Carmody, “public and private, temporary and permanent, but always maintaining a connection with craft.”
LOCATION: London, England
DESIGN STAFF: 8
PRINCIPALS: Andrew Groarke (left), Kevin Carmody
EDUCATION: Groarke — University of Sheffield, M.A., 1996; University of Sheffield, B.A., 1993. Carmody — Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, B.Arch., 1997; Bachelor of Applied Science, Canberra University, 1995
WORK HISTORY: Groarke — Haworth Tompkins, London, 2002–2005; David Chipperfield Architects, London, 1998–2002. Carmody — Hamilton Associates, London, 2005–2006; David Chipperfield Architects, London, 2000–05; Metier 3 Architects, Australia, 1997–99
KEY COMPLETED PROJECTS: Studio East Dining, London, 2010; Regents Place Pavilion, London, 2010; Brioni/Wallpaper Pavilion for the Milan Furniture Fair, Milan, 2010; 7 July Memorial, London, 2009;
Underground Spa, Ireland, 2008
KEY CURRENT PROJECTS: Drawing Fashion exhibition at the Design Museum London, 2010; Bistrotheque restaurant, London, 2010; PEER Gallery, London, 2011; High House, Norfolk, UK, 2012; Sheffield Festival Centre, Sheffield, UK, 2013
WEB SITE: www.carmodygroarke.com